Name: Kamakshi Venkataramanan
Firm: Covington & Burling
Position: Trainee solicitor
Degree: Law LLB (Honours)
University: University of Warwick
Hobbies: Travel, food, film, reading, watching tennis, cycling and leisure
Current department: Employment
Number of TC applications made and interviews attended: 5/3
Why did you decide to train as a solicitor?
I studied law at university and spent all three summers interning either at law firms or at legal departments of multi-national companies (gaining contentious and non-contentious experience). I was never drawn towards criminal or public sector legal practice – I enjoyed the type, pace and challenges of work in private practice, particularly with respect to transactional work, so training as a solicitor was a natural fit.
What were the biggest challenges you faced when trying to secure a training contract?
Preparing for commercial awareness case studies or demonstrating ‘commercial awareness’: Commercial awareness case studies are quite technical, and can be challenging if, like me, you have not completed the LPC at the time of your interview. It is also important to tackle them well, so the recommendation with these questions is practice, practice and more practice!
Example commercial awareness case studies/model answers can be found online or in guidance books. As for demonstrating ‘commercial awareness’, lots of firms ask for this but there is no conclusive guidance on what this actually entails. I made a habit of keeping abreast of business and financial developments by reading specialist publications (the FT is a font of knowledge!) on an every-day basis. This helped me feel comfortable with technical business jargon and improved my ability to discuss financial stories and their implications for the legal world in interview-type situations.
What was the toughest training contract interview question you were asked (at any firm) and how did you answer?
“Describe a time when you broke a strict rule or law, why/how did you deal with it”.
This one was tough, because I haven’t really broken the law! Also, in an interview situation, you want to appear largely straight-laced and professional, but this type of question forces you to display your unconventional side, which is challenging but helps to connect with your interviewers and show that you have a well-rounded personality.
I spoke about partaking in my University’s “jailbreak” excursion for charity, where the task was to try and travel as far as possible without using any money. Our group managed to hitchhike all the way past the UK border (eventually ending up near Krakow, Poland) by persuading people to give us rides or talking our way onto buses, trains and ferries without valid tickets, all the while hoping to avoid being caught. While this did involve several laws being broken along the way, it was for a good cause. It also taught me how to stay calm and work with other people to achieve a common goal, despite having limited resources at our disposal. Overall, it was a valuable team building experience (although not one to repeat!)
Tell us a bit about the type of work handled by the department you’re in at the moment…
I am currently a trainee in the employment practice group.
The kind of work we do is a broad mix of small and substantive pieces of work for major clients, work assisting the corporate practice with huge mergers and acquisitions transactions and pro bono work. The work covers a range of topics, from the integration/transfer of employees, to data privacy rules for employees across jurisdictions, to whistle-blower protections, and sexual harassment and discrimination investigations.
Personally, I like the relatability of the work in this practice group. Whether working on advising an employer on the termination of employees, or on matters relating to employee discrimination, hiring policies or maternity/paternity issues, as an employee myself I could experience these things and so I can relate to the concerns at hand, which makes for very thought-provoking work.
What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job?
Advising high net-worth and big name clients that I grew up hearing about – from massive tech giants to power-house pharma companies involved in the latest forms of medical innovation. Covington’s expertise, particularly in technology and life sciences, underlines the wide reach of the firm and makes the work feel particularly glamorous!
What about your job didn’t you expect before you started?
I’d have to say, the people around me. The calibre and versatility of my peers and colleagues here at Covington never fails to amaze. Prior to joining the firm, I knew about Covington’s impressive reputation, and as part of a small intake of trainees, I was excited but prepared for plenty of responsibility.
However, what I did not know was how (intimidatingly!) intelligent, engaging and interesting people in the firm are. Aside from being fantastic and hardworking lawyers – I’m yet to meet a one-dimensional person – if one has climbed Machu Picchu or wrestled with orangutans in Borneo, others have represented Great Britain in professional tennis, speak five or more languages with ease, have PhDs and have lived in a myriad of different countries around the world.
There is no ‘type’ – Covington’s lawyers are drawn from all sorts of different paths and backgrounds, which is why they make for such interesting company. Looking around, it is tough not to develop a complex sometimes!
Who’s the most recent email in your inbox from, and what’s it about?
An e-mail invite to a pro bono awards dinner – all lawyers at Covington who perform over 50 hours of pro bono work a year get invited to an annual dinner event to reward their efforts. It is usually a good night with a three course meal to start us off and plenty of refreshments flowing through the night!
Where’s the best place to go to get your office’s gossip?
Other trainees of course!
Describe your training partner in three words.
Experienced, approachable and encouraging
Tell us two truths and one lie about yourself (in any order)
- I have lived in three different countries
- I have the longest name at the firm
- I once spent an entire night sleeping on the floor of Athens airport while inter-railing around Europe with friends
If you had not decided to become a lawyer, what career would you have chosen?
What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career in law?
Make sure you try and accumulate as much work experience as possible, either as a paralegal or by working in law-related summer jobs and vacation schemes. Also, do the proper research, speak to as many sources as possible and apply only to firms where you think you will fit in culturally. A legal career is a long road, picking the right firm for your personality is much more important than money or prestige. On a lighter note – be prepared to work hard, show enthusiasm and enjoy it!