Name: Robert Coward
Firm: McDermott Will & Emery
Position: Trainee solicitor
University: University of Leeds
Hobbies: Football, travelling, film
Current department: Energy Advisory
Number of TC applications made and interviews attended: 20/5
Why did you decide to train as a solicitor?
A large part of my university degree focused on legal/political theory, and I found examining concepts such as the rule of law fascinating. I thought that a career in law would offer me the opportunity to learn more about these concepts, and apply them in practice.
I felt that a career as a solicitor would offer better practical and commercial experience than working as a barrister, and I also liked the idea of a larger working environment.
What were the biggest challenges you faced when trying to secure a training contract?
The application process was fairly long and arduous and often felt like a test of perseverance more than anything else. I started the GDL without a training contract, and it could be dispiriting to realise just how many good candidates were competing for so few jobs.
What was the toughest training contract interview question you were asked (at any firm) and how did you answer?
“Why do you want to be a solicitor?” It is such an important question, but I often found it was difficult to answer without sounding trite and clichéd. I think the key is to be honest and genuine and demonstrate a reasoned thought process, showing considerations of both why law as opposed to any other potential careers and also why a solicitor and not a barrister.
Tell us a bit about the type of work handled by the department you’re in at the moment…
The Energy Advisory department covers a wide range of commodities, trading arrangements and counterparties and work I have been involved in includes the sale and purchase of energy assets, drafting and amending trading documentation and undertaking research into recent regulatory changes. I am currently on a short term secondment to the commodities team at a major investment bank, which has been a fantastic experience.
What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job?
The work is very varied and there is a relatively quick turnover of projects, which keeps things fresh and interesting.
What about your job didn’t you expect before you started?
I have been surprised by the amount of autonomy I have been given. Partners and associates are quite happy for trainees to take control of work streams, and there is a lot of opportunity to be hands on in deals.
Who’s the most recent email in your inbox from, and what’s it about?
An invitation to a meeting to discuss a new project. The project description seems to be a bit of a scramble of, as yet, meaningless acronyms, but (hopefully) all will become clear on Friday.
Where’s the best place to go to get your office’s gossip?
The Magpie after work on Fridays.
Describe your training partner in three words.
Approachable, supportive, funny.
Tell us two truths and one lie about yourself (in any order).
- I was a child model for Adams.
- I was born completely deaf.
- I once told Phil Neville that my favourite player was his brother, Gary.
If you had not decided to become a lawyer, what career would you have chosen?
At school, I had always liked the idea of being a journalist, although I was put off by tales of market saturation and worsening conditions in the industry. Unfortunately my complete lack of talent hampered my childhood dream of being a professional footballer.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career in law?
On applications and at assessment days/interviews, it is important to demonstrate good social skills as well as academic ability.