I started my training contract at Herbert Smith Freehills in March 2011 after completing my LPC at BPP. I spent my first two seats in Real Estate and Corporate (in the Technology, Media and Telecoms team). I then moved into the Dispute Resolution Division and spent six months in the London team, followed by six months in Hong Kong. I thoroughly enjoyed my training contract and found it difficult to decide where to qualify, but ultimately chose the Dispute Resolution Division.
Outside of 'the work' I enjoy getting involved in other parts of the firm, including various graduate recruitment initiatives. I also sit on the Committee of our Women Lawyers Network, which is one of a number of networks which help support the firm's over-arching gender diversity initiatives. The objectives of the Women Lawyers Network include supporting the careers and professional development of women lawyers, together with providing networking opportunities and access to role models. For example, the Network has set up an informal internal mentoring programme and organises a number of events throughout the year. We are often joined by guest speakers (such as Bryony Gordon, Mariella Frostrup and Dame Stephanie Shirley), and these events are always an extremely enjoyable way to get to know colleagues and clients.
One of the best things about working in a firm like Herbert Smith Freehills is the breadth of opportunities that are on offer. Some of these are what you would expect from a large, international law firm (for example, client and international secondments), whilst others are more unpredictable (last year I took a self-defence class in the office for six weeks). I think that it is important to be open to all opportunities throughout your career, particularly those which surprise you.
A number of my career highlights have come from things that I would not have predicted. For example, when I started at Herbert Smith Freehills I had no interest in international secondments and thought I was going to be a corporate lawyer. As it happens, a secondment to Hong Kong turned out to be one of the highlights of my training contract and I ended up in the Dispute Resolution Division.
I was expected to hit the ground running from day one, and quickly discovered that being an in-house legal counsel is a very different job to being an associate in a City law firm. The demands are different (for example, I was responsible for a greater number and broader range of matters than I was used to in private practice) and your clients tend to be colleagues elsewhere in the business who look to you to perform the role of a 'trusted adviser'.
Whilst this was a big change from what I was used to, and at times I felt out of my comfort zone, it was a wonderful experience. I learnt a lot and made some great friends and contacts along the way.
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