Holly McCann, Herbert Smith Freehills

Name: Holly McCann

Firm: Herbert Smith Freehills

Position: Trainee solicitor

Degree: History

University: Cambridge

Hobbies: Travelling, baking and pilates

Current department: Disputes (Dubai international secondment)

Number of TC applications made and interviews attended: 3/1

Why did you decide to train as a solicitor?

I knew from a young age that I wanted to pursue a career in law, largely because my areas of strength at school and university lent themselves well to this. Above all else, I really wanted a challenging, stimulating career which requires a combination of technical knowledge and good people skills. Various work placements with local law firms, and subsequently the vacation scheme at HSF, confirmed that this was the path for me.

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

There are so many law firms out there, and knowing where to apply was definitely a challenge. It is clear to me now that the different firms have differing strengths and personalities, however as a prospective applicant it was very hard to determine which firm was right for me. I think this is especially difficult for applicants coming from a non-law background, but the best way to get round it is to do as much research as possible and to apply for vacation schemes so you get a feel for the environment at the firms in which you’re interested.

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

“What is your USP?”

This question really threw me as it wasn’t something I had thought about before the interview, and I pretty much bumbled through it. In hindsight, given how competitive training contract applications are, it’s really key to have something that makes you stand out, and to sell yourself to the interviewers.

Interestingly, I was also asked this question in a qualification interview and I found it much easier to answer, as I had more experience to draw from and greater confidence talking about myself.

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

I am currently working in the Disputes team in our Dubai office. We handle general commercial disputes, which can involve anything from shareholder disputes to employment issues to claims under construction contracts. We work with a huge variety of clients, most of whom are international in nature, across a range of sectors. In particular, I have worked on matters for banking clients as well as energy, construction and insurance.

What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job?

I particularly enjoy the opportunity to work with a variety of different people almost daily. A really good aspect of the training contract is that you get to know colleagues from across different areas of the firm, which means you are able to build a broad internal network. In the disputes team, I particularly enjoy getting to be involved in case strategy and researching clients’ complex legal issues.

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

I didn’t expect the material we covered on the LPC to be quite so important. I remember a lot of people telling me that a large part of the training contract would be about learning on the job, but my LPC notes have proved to be extremely useful.

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

From my supervisor, asking me to prepare a note of advice on certain aspects of the UAE Civil Code.

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

The canteen. Or Benugos on the fifth floor. Or Skype.

Describe your training partner in three words.

Approachable, enthusiastic and interested.

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

  • I trekked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.
  • I’ve been known to (accidentally) come to work in my slippers
  • I have appalling geography skills

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

Probably something economics-related.

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

First of all, do as much research as you can into the different firms you are considering, and also into the different areas of law. It’s always good to have an idea of what type of lawyer you want to be (while keeping an open mind).

Secondly, be honest when asked why you want to pursue a career in law rather than saying what you think the interviewer or person reading your application wants to hear. It’s important to stand out!