Name: David Elikwu
Role: Legal apprentice
Firm: Mayer Brown
Where are you from? Nigeria
School/sixth form: St Mary Magdalene Academy
What A levels did you do? IB, Higher level: English, Economics, Psychology Standard level: Biology, Mandarin, Maths studies
Hobbies: American football, reading, writing
How did you find out about the articled apprenticeship and why did you choose to do one?
I found out about the articled apprenticeship the day after the initial press release because I generally keep abreast of legal developments. The scheme was well designed but from speaking to the graduate recruitment team it was indicated that there was also a substantial level of flexibility within the program. A career in law had always been my goal and the apprenticeship scheme seemed like a great development, allowing me to receive the standard qualifications, whilst gaining valuable experience at a firm I had already earmarked as somewhere I would want to train. I think it was a balance of all of these factors that interested me.
What was the application and interview process like?
I was initially daunted by the application process because of the size of the firm and quality of applicants that were likely to apply, but in practice things generally proceeded smoothly. There was a clearly defined process from the outset, so you always knew what the next step would be.
The interview process similarly sounded intimidating at first but both the phone and final interviews went well. I appreciated how easy it was to talk to the interviewers, as well as the candor of graduate recruiters when they provided feedback.
Due to the quality of competing candidates, we actually ended up having two final interviews, and perhaps unsurprisingly, the second grilling was the more difficult. The interviewers were more senior and they scrutinised your responses more.
How far into the articled apprenticeship are you now? Did you get much choice about what departments you work in?
I am currently three months in, and working in the Legal Information Centre. There is not much choice in your first two seats as they have to be in business services, but overall I think there is still a great deal of flexibility, especially after the initial 12-18 months. I’m sure choices will still depend on the demand from practices, but that is a staple factor among most firms, as far as I know. From what I can see, the graduate team is very dedicated to making sure preferences can be accommodated among apprentices and trainees so I doubt this will be much of an obstacle.
What a typical working day like? What sort of tasks do you find yourself being given?
In the information centre, the bulk of work revolves around research tasks, finding cases, books, articles and appropriate documents. We receive requests from all practices within the firm and also from abroad, so my workload can vary wildly. In a typical day, I have a few procedural tasks that I take care of at certain times, sending bulletins to certain fee-earners regarding the latest news in their field.
Journals, papers and a myriad subscriptions come in, which need to be circulated to different lawyers and then organised when they are returned. Requests come in throughout the day and can vary from: “Where is this book?” to “Can you please do a credit check and find the company tree for this subsidiary in Tajikistan?”
Beyond this I have also had the opportunity to help practices with other requests. This again can vary from helping to draft finance contracts, reviewing construction contracts, drafting letters and memos to court bundling for litigation cases.
What do you enjoy the most?
I enjoy the variety of work, as well as some of the more challenging research tasks. Someone can ask for a Hong Kong companies litigation history in a particular court for the last 3 years, and even when you come up with nothing after 5 hours, it’s still satisfying to know you’ve used a variety of methods and resources you had never heard of a few months ago.
Give us some examples of interesting things that you’ve worked on, and what you learned
I learnt about the real nature of settlement agreements after spending a week bundling feverishly for a trial, only for the parties to settle half an hour before I planned to set off for my first day in construction court.
There was also an afternoon where I needed to draft a subordinated credit accession deed five minutes after hearing of one for the first time, from which I learned the importance of making friends and the value of having colleagues that can take the time to guide you through things.
Of perhaps equal importance was the day I learned that sometimes there are no answers, after spending eight hours tracking down a corporate litigation case from 2011 only to discover that it had never proceeded beyond the initial court filing and so such records had never existed.
What do you find the most difficult part of the job is?
The most difficult part of my current job would probably be getting questions for which there are no answers, or where you just do not have the resources to find what people need. This can be rather disappointing, as you never know there are no answers until you have spent considerable time on the issue.
What’s the supervision like? Who gives you most of your work?
Supervision is great, and in many ways one of my favourite parts of the job would be the collegial nature of both my team and the firm as a whole. The work can come from anywhere in the firm, with various degrees of difficulty but there is always someone I can turn to for help when necessary.
What are your long-term goals?
My long term goal would be to have a substantial and enjoyable legal career, eventually making partner and building a solid network of friends and colleagues along the way.