Jonny Smith, Dentons

Name: Jonny Smith

Firm: Dentons

Position: Trainee solicitor

Degree: Law

University: Durham (St Mary’s College)

Hobbies: Playing rugby, watching football, visiting London museums/attractions

Current department: Banking and finance (Asset Finance)

Number of TC applications made and interviews attended: 25/10 (including vac scheme applications)

Why did you decide to train as a solicitor?

I enjoyed studying law as an academic subject at university, but I always preferred answering the problem-solving exam questions instead of the theoretical essays. I was keen to apply legal knowledge in a more practical context, gaining exposure to business and assisting clients in completing their transactions or resolving their disputes.

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

Standing out from the crowd is challenging when the “standard” applicant has excellent grades and is involved in plenty of extra-curricular activities. It was also difficult to try and get a real sense of what the law firms were like, not just what it says on the graduate recruitment brochure! (I recommend talking to trainees at law fairs to gain this insight)

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

The Dentons case study was daunting as you had to assimilate a lot of information in a short period of time and then present your analysis of the situation to two partners for ten minutes. I actually surprised myself with my level of “commercial awareness” (most of which was just common sense applied to a business context). I managed to pick out the salient points from the large amount of information on offer and then present my views in a structured (and hopefully persuasive) manner.

Or alternatively, ”What was the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?”, which I answered less effectively!

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

Jonny Smith
Jonny Smith, Dentons

My banking group (one of three) handles asset finance, project finance, export credit and trade finance work. I’m sitting in the asset finance team where I am mainly involved in leasing aircraft or secured lending for the purchase of aircraft. I’m also currently working on a ship reflagging.

What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job?

In my current seat, completing a transaction is very rewarding after all the work that has gone into it. It is usually the trainee’s job to manage the transaction, this involves being in frequent contact with the client, foreign counsel and the lawyers on the other side of the deal.

I enjoy drafting documents and I have been given the opportunity to draft everything from a one-page power of attorney to a more substantial loan pre-payment agreement.

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

The importance of people skills and the enjoyable atmosphere in the office. 

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

An email asking if any trainees are available to bolster the numbers at the softball match tonight – I didn’t realise we had a softball team! I’ve played rugby for the firm which was good fun, so I’ll be bringing my kit in for the next softball match.

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

When the trainees meet up in the staff restaurant for lunch, we have one insider in almost every department.

Describe your training partner in three words.

Good-humoured, responsive and straight-talking.

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

  • I used to work for a magician
  • I’ve broken my wrist five times
  • I can sing the French national anthem.

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

Journalist – the 140 characters on twitter aren’t nearly enough to do justice to my opinions on sport and politics!

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

Do your research and try to work out what firms would suit you well.

Try not to get disheartened if you’re unsuccessful in some applications. There are a lot of excellent candidates and, especially in an interview or assessment centre, it may just not happen for you on the day.