Sarah Gallagher, Slaughter and May

Sarah Gallagher, Slaughter and MayName: Sarah Gallagher

Firm: Slaughter and May

Position: Trainee solicitor

Degree: Law and French

University: Trinity College, Dublin

Hobbies: Running, dance, reading, travel and skiing

Current department: Corporate

Number of TC applications made and interviews attended: 15/9

Why did you decide to train as a solicitor?

Although it was my week shadowing a barrister aged 16 that sparked my interest in law as a career, by my final year of studying law at university I had decided that the solicitor route was a better fit for me. I was attracted to the problem-solving aspect of the role, and keen to work as part of a team on a wide variety of matters. Having spent years working part-time in a clothes shop, the client service aspect also appealed to me.

What were the biggest challenges you faced when trying to secure a training contract?

It took me a while to hone my CV and applications – my number one tip is to ask a friend to review these for you. In my case, the friend I chose is both wonderfully intelligent and brutally honest, which helped immensely.

What was the toughest training contract interview question you were asked (at any firm) and how did you answer?

In my first interview, a partner challenged my inclusion of dance as one of my hobbies, and said that he could not quite envisage a “hip-hop lawyer”. I reacted by glaring at him and questioning why he valued physical activities such as rugby over more traditionally female activities such as dance, particularly as I was a member of a dance team preparing for intervarsities at that time. In hindsight, I let myself get dragged into the “bad cop” routine – while it is important to show that you can stand up for yourself when challenged, do ensure that you maintain your composure!

Tell us a bit about the type of work handled by the department you’re in at the moment…

The corporate department that I am in at the moment primarily focuses on M&A deals. However, I have been involved in a wide variety of tasks – including working on a prospectus relating to a $2bn acquisition, drafting slides on recent governance updates for a board presentation and researching a discrete query relating to data protection.

What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job?

I really enjoy the challenge of working on a wide variety of matters, alongside people who are leaders in their fields. It can feel slightly overwhelming to be thrown into a transaction, but it makes my job more interesting and means that no day is exactly the same.

What about your job didn’t you expect before you started? 

I did not expect to learn so much just by virtue of sharing an office with a partner or an associate. This provides trainees with a great opportunity to learn about all the matters they are involved in. Not only are you likely to develop a good working relationship with someone much more senior within the department, you also learn so much just from observing them interacting with clients, colleagues and external lawyers.

Who’s the most recent email in your inbox from, and what’s it about?

An email from HR asking me to join a lunch that they are holding for students participating in our Winter Workshop.

Where’s the best place to go to get your office’s gossip?

Probably the canteen – the best thing about beginning a training contract at the same time as approximately thirty five other trainees is that there will always be someone from your intake to gossip with over lunch!

Describe your training partner in three words.

Efficient, social and sharp

Tell us two truths and one lie about yourself (in any order).

  • I bungee-jumped in Bratislava
  • I ran the Dublin marathon
  • I climbed Ben Nevis

If you had not decided to become a lawyer, what career would you have chosen?

Possibly a teacher or a lecturer, as I am overly fond of the sound of my own voice…

What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career in law?

Given the competitive nature of the market, it is very important to try aim for at least a high 2.1 in your university degree. In addition, work experience is a really useful way to prove that you have properly considered pursuing a career in law. If you manage to tick these boxes, your next priority should be preparing for interviews.

Ultimately, calm confidence and an ability to defend your arguments is what will make you stand out from all the other students who also have a solid academic record and employment history.

My hip-hop story aside, I think you should try to be yourself, or at least a slightly more polished version of yourself! The best firms are not looking to hire robots – they want hard-working individuals who have the ability to distinguish themselves from the crowd and build strong working relationships with their colleagues and clients.