We Are Four Trainees at Shearman & Sterling LLP. Ask Us Anything!

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Jaysen

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    Hi All,

    I’m delighted to introduce four trainees at Shearman & Sterling LLP who will be running this Ask me Anything thread from today until Friday 18 November 2022.

    A big welcome to @lucyfoulkes, @NatashaRarity, @matthewadesina and @Zara.Khanche to the TCLA forums. We are really glad to have you here.


    How does it work?​

    We know that not everyone is lucky enough to have connections in the legal space. The purpose of this thread is to give you the chance to ask any questions you have to those who have been through the process and have begun their training contract.

    Simply post any questions you have in this thread.

    The trainees will be responding at their convenience over the course of the week, so don’t worry if you don’t hear back straight away. Please see below to learn more about the trainees and the types of areas they can help with, ranging from standing out in your applications to commercial awareness and working in the finance department.


    Open Day & Vacation Scheme​

    Finally, a big thank you to @Paul - Shearman & Sterling for helping to put this all together. For those of you who are interested in applying to Shearman & Sterling LLP, please note that applications to the open day close this Sunday 20 November 2022, while applications to the Spring and Summer vacation scheme close on 15 January 2023.

    Apply to the Open Day

    Apply to the Vacation Scheme
     

    AvniD

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    Welcome to TCLA @lucyfoulkes, @NatashaRarity, @matthewadesina and @Zara.Khanche! 😊

    Thank you for telling us more about your background- you all bring such different experiences to the table and I'm sure this will help you give the community here at TCLA some really valuable insight for breaking into and working in commercial law.

    Looking forward to seeing more of your posts and am especially curious about your non-law backgrounds and how they contributed to your motivation to work in commercial law, your career changes and international secondments!
     

    Jaysen

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    Meet the Trainees​

    Learn more about each of the trainees below and the areas they are best suited to help with below:

    @lucyfoulkes

    My name is Lucy Foulkes and I’m a trainee solicitor at Shearman & Sterling, currently sitting with the Finance department.

    I am originally from Cardiff, Wales. I studied Economics, History, Religious Studies and English Literature as my A-Levels and I ultimately decided to study Law at university because it is both vocational and rooted in the humanities. I studied at Oxford University where I became actively involved in the student Law society, where I was first exposed to a plethora of law firms holding presentations in order to encourage applications to their firm. I went to a Shearman & Sterling presentation on the myths of US law firms and also an open day at the firm. At these events, I met trainees at the firm who gave me constructive application tips and insight into what life as a trainee solicitor is like. I applied to the firm and secured a vacation scheme which was ultimately cancelled due to the pandemic and converted into a series of assessments and interviews, upon which I secured a training contract. I then completed the LPC at the University of Law in London, which leads to me today; I am now training with the firm, specifically, the Finance department as of now.

    I hope to help others in their training contract applications by answering any questions, however, I believe I will be best able to answer questions on:
    • Commercial awareness
    • Work in the Finance department
    • Interviews and assessments
    • The LPC
    • Life as a trainee
    @NatashaRarity

    I graduated in 2017 with a Classics degree and then spent two years as a teacher in a secondary school before I decided to change careers. I studied the GDL and LPC at the University of Law in Moorgate, and started my training contract with Shearman & Sterling in August 2021. My first six months was spent in Abu Dhabi with the Project Development & Finance team, then I came back to the London office for my second seat in Mergers & Acquisitions. I’m now on a client secondment focusing on in-house M&A legal work. My seats so far have all been transactional, so I’m happy to answer any questions on transactional work or on what it’s like being a trainee from a non-legal university background.

    @matthewadesina

    Hello! My name is Matthew and I am a first seat trainee in the Project Development and Finance practice group. I am currently on an international secondment in the Abu Dhabi Office. I studied Classics at university, graduating in 2019, and worked as a paralegal before starting my TC. Ask me anything from how to improve your written applications to managing the transition from university to the professional world, and everything in between!

    @Zara.Khanche

    Hello TCLA Community!

    My name is Zara and I am currently sat in the Project Development and Finance team in Shearman & Sterling's London office.

    I would say I took the scenic route to law, first studying History at UCL and then completing the GDL and LPC, whilst also working as a Commercial, IP, Tech & Data Protection paralegal. During my studies, I applied to a handful of law firm open days, one of which was at Shearman & Sterling. Shortly after visiting the firm, I applied for the Vacation Scheme where I eventually sat in both International Arbitration and Antitrust. My first thought was that I would be able to reach my full potential at a firm that was able to advise in the most challenging jurisdictions but internally, had the supportive and inclusive network I was looking for to be able to bring my 'whole' self to work. I'm now in my first seat as a trainee and have had a healthy dose of experience in the energy innovation and oil and gas sphere, as well as fantastic exposure to novel pro bono opportunities and a thorough training programme.

    Although the list is non-exhaustive, I can assist you with questions in relation to:
    • What the Vacation Scheme at Shearman & Sterling entails and my experience more generally;
    • How to stand out on applications;
    • Interview or Networking tips and techniques;
    • Useful resources to help you get started (and keep going); and
    • The Corporate Social Responsibility / Pro Bono and D&I initiatives the firm has on offer.
    Feel free to ask away and I really look forward to interacting with you all.
     

    futuretraineeme

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    Hello all, thanks for starting this thread! I have a VS coming up with Shearman, and I was wondering whether you’d be able to shed some insight on how you found your experience on the scheme (for those that did it) and also how you found the assessments towards the end?

    It would also be great to hear about your day to day at the firm and how you’ve found your TC so far? Thank you 😊
     
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    Kiru666

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    Oct 6, 2022
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    Hi Lucy, Natasha, Matthew and Zara!

    Hope you're all well, thank you guys for taking the time to answer our questions. I'm quite interested in projects work and I can see that some of you have completed (or are still completing) your seats in Project Finance so I had a few questions in relation to your experiences there. (1) From your experiences or knowledge, what is different about the Project Development and Finance seat compared to typical M&A or Finance? (2) Were your working hours more inconsistent (like typically in corporate) or more steady (more so like litigation)? And finally, (3) is there anything which is different or special about Shearman & Sterling's projects practice or more generally about the firm's training approach?

    Apologies for the long list, thank you in advance for your responses!

    Best,

    Kiru
     

    Zara.Khanche

    Standard Member
    Trainee
    Nov 10, 2022
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    Hello all, thanks for starting this thread! I have a VS coming up with Shearman, and I was wondering whether you’d be able to shed some insight on how you found your experience on the scheme (for those that did it) and also how you found the assessments towards the end?

    It would also be great to hear about your day to day at the firm and how you’ve found your TC so far? Thank you 😊
    Hello and congrats on securing a Vacation Scheme with us.

    In terms of my VS, I spent time working with both the Antitrust and International Arbitration teams. The work ranged from investigating bond price fixing cartel investigations to reviewing arbitral decisions in relation to corruption. We also completed a live pro bono project, which showed the firm's commitment towards giving back to the community. The firm also hosted plenty of talks and training sessions to get you up to speed on life at Shearman & Sterling.

    I learnt a great deal during the VS and had a lot of fun too, with dinner at the Duck & Waffle, a cooking competition with a private chef and a healthy dose of Shearman's famous chocolate cookies.

    My VS top tips would be:
    • Don't be afraid to ask questions – it's better to understand a task and be inquisitive, than to suffer in silence.
    • Always be proactive - it's the best way to learn and your enthusiasm will shine through.
    • As well as working individually, teamwork is equally important.
    • People are very receptive to sharing their experiences and having an informal chat with you, so feel free to ask one of the trainees to grab a coffee when you both have a moment. It's a great way to build your network.
    In terms of the assessments, I completed an interview, group exercise and written exercise. I didn't feel like the interviewers were ever trying to catch me out, but instead wanted to get to know my personality and interests. If you ever feel stuck or aren't too sure on what the answer is, don't feel like you have to rush into an answer, take a deep breath and take time to consider your response.

    As for my day-to-day experience as a trainee, the work is really exciting and you are actively encouraged to get involved on the first draft of letters, memos, client responses etc. The selling points for me include hands-on-training and a mentorship scheme (so you have a Trainee buddy before you start your TC and an Associate buddy once the TC begins). Having a close-knit trainee intake also helps, as often you can bounce ideas off one another.

    Hope that helps and happy to grab a coffee when you join us on the VS - best of luck!!
     

    Zara.Khanche

    Standard Member
    Trainee
    Nov 10, 2022
    6
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    Hi Lucy, Natasha, Matthew and Zara!

    Hope you're all well, thank you guys for taking the time to answer our questions. I'm quite interested in projects work and I can see that some of you have completed (or are still completing) your seats in Project Finance so I had a few questions in relation to your experiences there. (1) From your experiences or knowledge, what is different about the Project Development and Finance seat compared to typical M&A or Finance? (2) Were your working hours more inconsistent (like typically in corporate) or more steady (more so like litigation)? And finally, (3) is there anything which is different or special about Shearman & Sterling's projects practice or more generally about the firm's training approach?

    Apologies for the long list, thank you in advance for your responses!

    Best,

    Kiru

    Hi Kiru,

    Great questions, taking them in turn:

    From your experiences or knowledge, what is different about the Project Development and Finance (PDF) seat compared to typical M&A or Finance?
    • PDF involves the development and long-term financing of infrastructure and industrial projects.​
    • Compared to the fast turnaround of most regular financings (which typically take a few months), the average turnaround of a project financing is five years, particularly for large-scale infrastructure projects which can span decades. So, in a Finance or M&A seat you may get to see a deal all the way through, whereas in PDF the timescale of projects is longer.​
    • Regular financing is also based on the finances of the sponsors, whereas project financing is based on the future cash flows of the project, from which financing will be repaid. Projects also have a tangible end-product in the form of infrastructure projects, which in many cases help countries drive economic growth.​
    • On the Project "development" side the work generally entails drafting and negotiating commercial contracts, for example supply contracts or project offtake agreements. This contractual matrix determines how the project will be structured and will be the subject of the finance.​
    • In terms of M&A, when conducting due diligence, an M&A lawyer may review a company's business and operations to achieve a picture of its health. Project finance due diligence adds to that analysis to determine the different project risks and recommendations to mitigate risks for banks or sponsors. On the Project development side, due diligence is carried out on the Project's suite of commercial contracts, again looking for any issues.​
    • So, whilst M&A and Finance are closely linked to PDF from a transactional standpoint, there are certainly nuances, in particular in terms of the types of industries we serve. At Shearman, the key industries for PDF work include the following:​
    1. oil, gas and LNG (LNG stands for liquefied natural gas which is cooled to -161C, where it can be transferred as a non-corrosive liquid)​
    2. Petrochemicals i.e. chemical products​
    3. Power i.e. renewable power, non-renewable and nuclear energy​
    4. Infrastructure – i.e. building projects such as railways, stadiums or roads etc.​
    • We also often cross-sell between our M&A, PDF and Finance teams and work together on projects to utilise each team's expertise.​
    Were your working hours more inconsistent (like typically in corporate) or more steady (more so like litigation)?
    • In any firm, work will always come in ebbs and flows but my experience so far has been more steady. The work is generally done during normal working hours, although you may have to work a little longer during the busier periods for example during a closing. If you are ever feeling overwhelmed, the Partners encourage an open door policy so you will always be supported by a well-resourced team.​
    Is there anything which is different or special about Shearman & Sterling's projects practice or more generally about the firm's training approach?
    • The special factor for me about our Projects team is that some of the work we are involved in such as building solar power projects in more remote areas will help provide electricity for hospitals, schools and so on.​
    • In terms of training, we have a catalogue of training courses and bootcamps to get stuck in, so you really are learning whilst you're earning.​
     
    Hi Lucy, Natasha, Matthew and Zara!

    Thank you so much for offering your time to answer questions on here!

    I will be joining Shearman & Sterling in December for their Winter VS. I was wondering if you have any advice on preparing for the assessments at the end of it. This is my first VS and therefore I'm quite nervous - any tips would be really helpful, especially for the written exercise!

    Thank you!
     
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    NatashaS98

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    Hi @lucyfoulkes @NatashaRarity @matthewadesina @Zara.Khanche

    A warm welcome to TCLA! The advice and conversation on the thread so far has been fantastic and really insightful. It's great to see that there have already been some questions asked and answered on the thread today.

    I am sure that the TCLA community will hugely benefit from your contributions on the forum. Looking forward to continue seeing posts from our members! 🙂
     
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    shazida26

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    Hi @lucyfoulkes @NatashaRarity @mattewadesina @Zara.Khanche thank you all so much for making the time to respond to our questions, I am slightly hesitant to apply to Shearman as I don't come from a Russell group/ Oxbridge background. I have tried to make up for this by working at The Serious Fraud Office as a Paralegal, and now presently at the Financial Conduct Authority (I will be promoted to associate in January in Authorisations, working in Banking, Payments and Insurance.

    I wanted to ask for your opinions, as to whether you have personally seen any trainees who have come from similar backgrounds to myself? I also would appreciate any tips/guidance you have as to how to pitch myself, as I do struggle in seeing how my history can be of use to Shearman.

    I also wanted to ask as to how the CSR/Pro Bono opportunities are like at Shearman? is there a required amount of time/ hours that you are expected to reach or is it flexible to your own preference?

    my final question would be how you have felt during your TC, what was it that made you realise Shearman was the firm to train at? (did they have something that you noticed not many other firms have/do?)

    final final question! is there any social/team building events to help you settle in?

    many thanks in advance!

    Shaz
     
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    matthewadesina

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    Nov 10, 2022
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    Hi @lucyfoulkes @NatashaRarity @mattewadesina @Zara.Khanche thank you all so much for making the time to respond to our questions, I am slightly hesitant to apply to Shearman as I don't come from a Russell group/ Oxbridge background. I have tried to make up for this by working at The Serious Fraud Office as a Paralegal, and now presently at the Financial Conduct Authority (I will be promoted to associate in January in Authorisations, working in Banking, Payments and Insurance.

    I wanted to ask for your opinions, as to whether you have personally seen any trainees who have come from similar backgrounds to myself? I also would appreciate any tips/guidance you have as to how to pitch myself, as I do struggle in seeing how my history can be of use to Shearman.

    I also wanted to ask as to how the CSR/Pro Bono opportunities are like at Shearman? is there a required amount of time/ hours that you are expected to reach or is it flexible to your own preference?

    my final question would be how you have felt during your TC, what was it that made you realise Shearman was the firm to train at? (did they have something that you noticed not many other firms have/do?)

    final final question! is there any social/team building events to help you settle in?

    many thanks in advance!

    Shaz
    Hi Shaz,

    Thank you for your question. There are several trainees in my cohort who have paralegal experience, myself included. All legal experience is good experience, and you even have experience that is more directly related to Shearman's work than mine - I worked in a personal injury and medical negligence practice! It is all about identifying the skills you have acquired in your work experience and how you can apply these to the role of a trainee solicitor at Shearman. Graduate Recruitment has developed a very useful resource here which shows the most typical trainee tasks. Reflect on the work you have done in your own experience and how that can helpfully translate into the role of a trainee solicitor.

    You needn't worry about the university you went to - as long as you meet the required A-Level and degree standards, you should make no hesitation in applying, especially with your work experience.

    Regarding your question on pro bono, if trainees have a particular area of interest, our pro bono team can find something that works for them, whether that be an interest in animal welfare or supporting migrant children with their leave to remain cases. The firm has also partnered with the National Centre for Domestic Violence to support domestic abuse survivors with their court applications. From a CSR perspective, the London office hosted an Art Exhibition and a Games Night last month to raise money for charity. We also participate in programmes that upskill the financial literacy of school children and invite the children into our offices, where they design and sell items to raise money for charity and engage in a dragon's den style presentation. There is no official target for pro bono hours, although as a team our hours have been traditionally very high – it helps that we have projects both on a flexible and more long-term basis, so it's very easy to fit our pro bono/CSR commitments in.

    I have had a very positive experience during my TC so far. Even though I started abroad, the firm made sure I was able to settle in quickly and I felt very welcome. I have had a wide range of work from drafting contracts to conducting research on legal frameworks in different jurisdictions. The firm has been recruiting trainees for over twenty years and so knows how to get the best out of trainees and enable them to perform the best they can. Furthermore, as an applicant I could tell how much focus the firm places on recruitment of trainees. The Graduate Recruitment blog has an abundance of resources that can help applicants every step of the way, and the time that has been taken to produce these resources is indicative of the value that the firm places on getting trainee recruitment and training as right as it possibly can.

    To answer your last question, there are formal socials and more informal social events that happen, dependent on the team. As a cohort, however, the firm hosted a welcome event with refreshments for all the trainees during our induction, and people from all over the firm came to introduce themselves and help us settle in.

    Hope this helps!

    Matthew
     

    futureldntrainee

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    @matthewadesina To secure your international secondment, was it a system where you submitted your preferences and were assigned a suitable secondment or did you need to do some groundwork on your initiative by making connections with the relevant partners?

    And how have you found it so far? Has it been a difficult adjustment moving to a new country in terms of working culture, moving expenses and not being qualified in the UAE?

    Thank you!
     

    lucyfoulkes

    New Member
    Trainee
    Nov 10, 2022
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    Hi Lucy, Natasha, Matthew and Zara!

    Thank you so much for offering your time to answer questions on here!

    I will be joining Shearman & Sterling in December for their Winter VS. I was wondering if you have any advice on preparing for the assessments at the end of it. This is my first VS and therefore I'm quite nervous - any tips would be really helpful, especially for the written exercise!

    Thank you!
    Hi,

    I hope you are well. Congrats on securing a place on the vacation scheme!

    In terms of preparation for the written exercise, while you cannot prepare for what exactly the written task will be on, I would advise you to think about the different forms you could be asked to write in and research examples of what these should look like and how they should be structured (for example, letters, memos, research notes, etc.)

    Some important things to keep in mind when it comes to actually writing:
    1. Structure - your ideas should be organised in a clear and logical manner; using different headings and sub-headings is a great way to do this
    2. Formatting - ensure the document is properly and uniformly formatted in terms of font, justification, etc.
    3. Spelling and grammar should be perfect
    4. Language - don't feel the need to use excessively formal language; it is often more effective to use simpler language to convey your points in the most intelligible way
    5. Time management - think about your strengths and how long you typically take to read vs write, you wouldn't want to spend too much time reading the brief that you cannot make all of the points you wanted to
    Thank you for writing in and good luck!

    Lucy
     
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    futuretraineeme

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    Hello and congrats on securing a Vacation Scheme with us.

    In terms of my VS, I spent time working with both the Antitrust and International Arbitration teams. The work ranged from investigating bond price fixing cartel investigations to reviewing arbitral decisions in relation to corruption. We also completed a live pro bono project, which showed the firm's commitment towards giving back to the community. The firm also hosted plenty of talks and training sessions to get you up to speed on life at Shearman & Sterling.

    I learnt a great deal during the VS and had a lot of fun too, with dinner at the Duck & Waffle, a cooking competition with a private chef and a healthy dose of Shearman's famous chocolate cookies.

    My VS top tips would be:
    • Don't be afraid to ask questions – it's better to understand a task and be inquisitive, than to suffer in silence.
    • Always be proactive - it's the best way to learn and your enthusiasm will shine through.
    • As well as working individually, teamwork is equally important.
    • People are very receptive to sharing their experiences and having an informal chat with you, so feel free to ask one of the trainees to grab a coffee when you both have a moment. It's a great way to build your network.
    In terms of the assessments, I completed an interview, group exercise and written exercise. I didn't feel like the interviewers were ever trying to catch me out, but instead wanted to get to know my personality and interests. If you ever feel stuck or aren't too sure on what the answer is, don't feel like you have to rush into an answer, take a deep breath and take time to consider your response.

    As for my day-to-day experience as a trainee, the work is really exciting and you are actively encouraged to get involved on the first draft of letters, memos, client responses etc. The selling points for me include hands-on-training and a mentorship scheme (so you have a Trainee buddy before you start your TC and an Associate buddy once the TC begins). Having a close-knit trainee intake also helps, as often you can bounce ideas off one another.

    Hope that helps and happy to grab a coffee when you join us on the VS - best of luck!!
    Hi Zara, thank you so much for your response! How did you decide which seats you wanted to sit in for your vacation scheme?

    It would be great to grab a coffee on the spring VS, I’ll make sure to get in touch! 😊
     
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    Zara.Khanche

    Standard Member
    Trainee
    Nov 10, 2022
    6
    22
    Hi Zara, thank you so much for your response! How did you decide which seats you wanted to sit in for your vacation scheme?

    It would be great to grab a coffee on the spring VS, I’ll make sure to get in touch! 😊

    Grad Rec sent a list of departments, and I ranked them in terms of my preferences. It's definitely a personal decision, so I would pick the ones you are most interested in. If you're still unsure, you could pick one transactional seat and one advisory seat so that you can compare which work you prefer.

    All the best,

    Zara
     

    matthewadesina

    New Member
    Trainee
    Nov 10, 2022
    2
    7
    @matthewadesina To secure your international secondment, was it a system where you submitted your preferences and were assigned a suitable secondment or did you need to do some groundwork on your initiative by making connections with the relevant partners?

    And how have you found it so far? Has it been a difficult adjustment moving to a new country in terms of working culture, moving expenses and not being qualified in the UAE?

    Thank you!
    Hi,

    For this secondment, we all got sent an email offering us the opportunity to go - it was done on first come, first served basis and I was the quickest.

    It has been great so far - it's not really a case of not being qualified in the UAE as I am still a trainee in any event and have not qualified anywhere. The firm does a lot to make sure the transition is as smooth as possible, covering accommodation expenses and providing a living allowance in addition to your normal salary. The culture is also great out here - as it is a smaller office it is a very close-knit team. I recommend!

    Matthew
     

    Zara.Khanche

    Standard Member
    Trainee
    Nov 10, 2022
    6
    22
    Hi guys, how did you develop a strong answer for the typical 'why commercial law' question that is asked in both applications and interviews?
    My first bit of advice would be to make sure you understand your genuine reasons for wanting to enter the world of commercial law. Too often, candidates reel off a scripted answer and say what they believe the interviewer wants to hear (not realising that the interviewer has probably heard/read that answer 100 times before).

    To start I would take a pen and paper and write down 3-4 authentic reasons about what appeals to you about a commercial law career. You can ask yourself the following prompts to help you to think creatively:
    • How did you first learn about a career in commercial law and what made you interested to learn more;
    • What motivates you to become a commercial lawyer;
    • How have you tried to gain more exposure to a career in commercial law;
    • What skills have you developed that you believe would transfer well into commercial law; and importantly
    • Why specifically commercial law rather than other areas of law.
    Once you have jotted down your thoughts, you can start to build a story of what brought you to commercial law, how your skills align with the demands of the job and how you can contribute to the industry. By brainstorming first, it is much easier to personalise your path to law and your final answer will be much more believable to an interviewer.

    For Applications, where the wordcount is tight it may be helpful to use the STAR technique to get started. What was the Situation that brought you to commercial law? Were you involved in any Task that developed your commercial/legal skillset? What Action did you take that consolidated your interest in commercial law? And what was the end Result or, on Reflection, what did you learn about commercial law that motivated you to choose it as a career? If you do use the STAR technique, make sure you read over your answer so that it flows well and isn't too formulaic.

    For Interviews, try not to just read your application answer, as it's in written form, so it will sound different when spoken aloud. To show your passion for commercial law, try to build a story about your journey and don't be afraid to add in your personality/character too, because whilst the interviewer wants to see genuine reasons for joining the industry, they are also checking that you are someone they could share a room with. Also, preparation prevents poor performance, so practice in the mirror or to a friend/family member and ask them for their feedback.

    Finally, stay on track. If you are being asked why commercial law, stick to the question asked. Try not to go on a tangent about what a commercial lawyer does or answer too generically about why law and not specifically commercial law. Stick to what your motivations are and remember the impact of selling your own story.

    Ultimately, be true to yourself, sometimes your most honest experiences are the ones that graduate recruitment can connect with the most.

    All the best,

    Zara
     
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