Sam Meiklejohn, Cleary Gottlieb

Name: Sam Meiklejohn

Firm: Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton

Position: Trainee solicitor

Degree: History

University: University of Leeds

Hobbies: Football, tennis, whiskey collecting

Current department: Capital Markets

Number of TC applications made and interviews attended: 30/8 (including vacation schemes)

Why did you decide to train as a solicitor?

Coming from a small island such as Jersey, your role models tend to be those closest to you. My dad is a lawyer back in Jersey, and so seeing how much he enjoyed his job inspired me to pursue the same.  Once I started researching the different types of law firm at university, I became more attracted to the faster-paced corporate work (particularly in London) than the private client work that is very prevalent in Jersey.

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

Certainly the competition. In today’s market, every applicant has a good (if not outstanding) academic record, and so differentiating yourself in other ways is a big challenge. It’s an enjoyable challenge, however, and causes you to take up different interests and join a number of different societies in order to build up your wider profile and application.

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

Have you ever failed at anything and why?” I remember I was very close to answering, “Well, I almost failed my driving test” (For those wondering, I stalled twice, which turns out isn’t reason enough for failure. Thank goodness), but thought better of it at the last minute.  Eventually I mentioned that I had just scraped through a module in my first year of university and that, whilst not strictly a failure, felt like it due to the high standards that I try and set for myself. 

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

Capital markets work revolves predominantly around the debt and equity markets.  Often, we act for companies who need to raise cash, either by issuing new shares on public markets (for the first time – an IPO – or a release of further shares that are already listed) or by issuing debt (often in the form of bonds) on public markets or to private investors. We also act for the banks on similar transactions. 

The difference in specific tasks and roles is often very different for the bank’s counsel and for the company’s counsel on a particular transaction.  Broadly speaking, the company’s counsel is focused on the company-specific disclosure, and must make sure that anything that is published about the company is factually accurate, and certainly not misleading to investors in any way. The bank’s counsel is often focused more on the mechanics of the securities in question. 

Sam Meiklejohn, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton
Sam Meiklejohn, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton

What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job?

The most enjoyable aspect of my job is the exposure that you get to so many different industries. Acting for large corporate clients often brings you into contact with industries such as mining, oil & gas, entertainment, financial, automobile and even governmental to name but a few. I remember after working at Cleary for one month, I actually held down a conversation in a bar with a lady about the diamond industry.  Take note, gents.

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

That’s a tough question. City law firms these days make no secret of the fact that the hours are tough at times, and so I can’t say that long days have come as a surprise. Likewise, Cleary advertises in our recruitment brochure that trainees can expect a high level of responsibility, so in that sense the level of work I have been doing has not been unexpected. 

Generally, I think that there is so much information out there available to potential applicants published by such a variety of law firms, it is possible to build up fairly accurate expectations of what the job entails before you join.

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

Without breaching any confidentiality agreements (of course), the most recent email in my inbox is from the Irish Stock Exchange. Often our clients list their debt securities on the Global Exchange Market of the ISE due to the lesser regulatory requirements and less burdensome continuing obligations (there are also various tax reasons too) compared to, say, the Main Market of the London Stock Exchange, and so one of my roles is to liaise with the ISE to make sure that the document that is presented to investors is not misleading, and contains accurate financial disclosure about the company issuing the securities and any of its affiliates who may be guarantors.

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

I’d like to think I’m up there.

Describe your training partner in three words.

Affable, supportive, practical.

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

1. I have played football at international level

2. I got to the X-Factor “Boot-Camp” stage in 2006 (narrowly missing out on the next round at Simon Cowell’s house in Barbados)

3. I once queued up outside Waterstones for the final Harry Potter book dressed as a Stormtrooper. 

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

Discounting any inferences that may be drawn from items (1), (2) and, if any, (3) above, I would have enjoyed being involved in either the entertainment industry or the sports industry in some capacity. For example, I am fascinated by the idea of being an agent for celebrities or sports stars. Maybe one day….

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

As I say above, these days everybody has a good academic record. So, make the most of your time at university by joining societies, taking part in events, and building up your non-academic profile as much as possible. Given how diverse our corporate clients are, it makes sense for the lawyers to be diverse too.