Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer trainee solicitor Richard Harmer warns wannabe lawyers not to underestimate people skills
Position: Second year Trainee Solicitor
Universities: King’s College London
GDL or LPC: LPC at BPP Holborn
Hobbies: Skiing, swimming, Italian
Department: Restructuring & Insolvency
Why did you decide to train as a solicitor? Becoming a solicitor appealed to me as I wanted an intellectually challenging job which offered different experiences on a daily basis. This, coupled with the opportunity to work with high profile names in the world of business and the chance to develop my commercial awareness, made it an obvious choice.
Why did you choose your firm? I first came across Freshfields on a Streetlaw project while at university. The people from the firm seemed down to earth which made me apply for a vacation scheme. After spending three weeks with the firm it was clear this was somewhere I would enjoy to do my training as the clients and work were second to none with a real international feel but the culture was welcoming and relatively informal.
What has been the highlight of your training contract so far? Finding out I am going on secondment to our Amsterdam office for 6 months was a recent highlight. Being sent to Greece on short notice to interview clients was an experience which offered a lot of client contact and responsibility. I’ve also recently enjoyed working on high profile insolvency jobs including the administration of Clinton Cards.
What does your typical day involve? I’m not sure there is a typical day. Yes, I’m often doing similar tasks such as reviewing documents, emailing clients, research, drafting and attending training sessions but I honestly find most days are unpredictable as you never know what could happen on a transaction next.
Tell us a bit about the type of work handled by your department? The restructuring side of our team deals with companies in financial distress by helping them avoid going into a formal insolvency process. Our insolvency practice advises in situations where the company is going through the insolvency process whether that be liquidation, receivership or administration. The team acts for a wide range of stakeholders including companies, lenders, officeholders or counterparties.
What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job? As a trainee you get to meet clients less often so this is always an experience you should take as it can be really enjoyable. Working on deals which are on the front page of the FT is exciting.
What is the biggest misconception of the legal profession? That it is anything remotely like it is portrayed in the media for example the television series Suits. It’s not quite as fast-paced and no where nearly as cut throat.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career in law? Keep an open mind and do your research into what the job involves. Remember it’s nothing like it appears in the media! Work hard on your degree but also make sure you have other achievements to show for your time at university.
What are the biggest pitfalls students should try to avoid when pursuing a legal career? Underestimating the importance of people skills. There are lots of talented students each year applying for training contracts many with undistinguishable academic records. Students need to stand out by doing things outside of their degree if they want to secure a training contract or pupillage. When it comes to applications my advice would be that it’s quality not quantity.
What were the biggest challenges you faced when trying to secure a training contract? Aside from finding the hours it takes to complete the application forms, I found it challenging to know what sets aside one firm from another without having experienced a firm and this made it difficult to know where to apply.
How is law in practice different from studying law? When you are studying law it is all about remembering the case names and black letter law. In practice it is about understanding a client’s needs and situation and then providing succinct, relevant and practical advice.
What are the common attributes of successful candidates? Strong analytical skills and a focus on attention to detail.