Name: Robert Colvin
Position: Trainee Solicitor
Degree: BA Leadership Development – Intercultural Studies
University: Rocky Mountain College, Canada
Hobbies: morning raves, open water swimming, mature cheddar
Current department: Finance – Structured and Debt Markets
Number of TC applications made and interviews attended: 20/6
Why did you decide to train as a solicitor?
My degree allowed me to study in some pretty turbulent parts of the world, including South Sudan, where access to justice is rare and the rule of law, a foreign concept. I began to see how when laws were enforced, the poor were protected from violence. It was a no brainer for me. I am now seriously privileged to work for a firm that contributes over 43,000 pro bono hours a year and sees its social responsibility not as burden, but an intricate part of its working culture.
What were the biggest challenges you faced when trying to secure a training contract?
It was a challenge to not give up. So it’s important to persevere. At the time I was making applications, a friend who had just qualified at a City firm told me not to worry and that “the right firm will find you”. At the time I thought, “that’s easy for you to say”. In hindsight he was right. Every part of the application process felt different here. Weirdly, I really enjoyed my interviews at Freshfields.
What was the toughest training contract interview question you were asked (at any firm) and how did you answer?
“You are on a train with a client (who happens to be female). There is one seat left. Do you give it to her?” Another no brainer. “Yes” I answered. That particular lawyer proceeded to suggest that I would do so only because my manners were rooted in the belief that men were stronger than women. Ultimately he wanted to back me into a corner. Fair enough, he had every right to. But I left the interview questioning whether I wanted to work for him. In my experience there were two kinds of interviewer; those who wanted to squeeze you and those who wanted to draw the best out in you. Who would you want to work for?
Tell us a bit about the type of work handled by the department you’re in at the moment…
Our Structured and Debt Markets team covers a range of work including securitisation, debt capital and high end complex structured products. I have recently come back from a short secondment to a bank where we completed a series of transactions to restructure its intragroup funding arrangements. I had a great time and feel very fortunate to have had that kind of experience in my first seat.
What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job?
Learning. I am constantly being asked questions for which I do not know the answer. This means I am rarely in my comfort zone and am frequently having to delve into areas that are foreign to me. But after a while the unfamiliar becomes familiar; you grow in confidence as you whittle out your own little area of expertise within any given transaction; you appreciate the commercial significance of what you are doing—and that’s when it starts to get quite fun.
What about your job didn’t you expect before you started?
I didn’t expect that training would play such a central role. We have, what feels like, a fairly continuous flow of team specific training sessions. Some of these are specific to deals recently completed by the team and others are more generally pitched to train you on the kind of work undertaken by a certain subgroup. I also didn’t expect to eat so many rocky bars (which come in their bucket loads with each training session).
Who’s the most recent email in your inbox from, and what’s it about?
It’s a handover email from the trainee I will be taking over from when I change seats in a weeks’ time. I am just about to move into one of our Dispute Resolution teams. At the start of the seat we have a training day in Brussels which I’m pretty excited about.
Where’s the best place to go to get your office’s gossip?
The loading bay in the basement. What a hot spot.
Describe your training partner in three words.
Savvy. Hilarious. Patient.
Tell us two truths and one lie about yourself (in any order).
1) I was stung by a scorpion while living with an unreached tribe.
2) I set up a Christmas tree delivery business.
3) I am a fruitarian.
If you had not decided to become a lawyer, what career would you have chosen?
I have a couple of friends who have set up street food companies. Sometimes I get career envy when I see them spinning out fire bread from a wood burning oven rammed into an old Italian truck.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career in law?
Persevere. The right firm will find you… grrr.