Lawyer 2B launches some quick-fire questions at Macfarlanes trainee Stephanie Lim
Name: Stephanie Lim
Firm: Macfarlanes LLP
Position: Trainee solicitor
University: University of Leeds
Hobbies: Cooking, travelling, reading history books and playing video games
Current department: Private client
Number of TC applications made and interviews attended: 20/11
Why did you decide to train as a solicitor?
I was always interested in a career in law but decided to do to English as my undergrad and see if I still felt the same after graduation.
On nearing the end of my degree I realised that I was still very much interested in law. I wanted a career that was intellectually challenging and varied, but that was still fundamentally focused on people and client relations. A law firm’s product is its people and their expertise, which is a more personal business model than most other industries.
What were the biggest challenges you faced when trying to secure a training contract?
I think the sheer amount of choice can be overwhelming. I was certain I wanted to be a solicitor rather than a barrister but even then the choices are huge. Narrowing down the location, practice area and the type of firm I preferred took a long time, and I attended different events and read all of the literature I could.
This investment also played out in the applications themselves. I think the hardest part is the initial application, as so many firms receive hundreds of applications a year and you must somehow make yours stand out. I took a lot of time and care with my applications and treated the process of applying as another university module, so to speak. Most of my friends were not applying for training contracts at that time and they were amazed at how much of my time and effort I was devoting to the process.
What was the toughest training contract interview question you were asked (at any firm) and how did you answer?
I was once asked what my friends would say about me, which threw me slightly. I like to think my friends would obviously say nice things about me, but trying to give an answer that somehow related to how great a lawyer I could be was pretty challenging. It was also one of the first interviews I ever did so my answer was pretty shaky. I think I told the interviewer that my friends would say I was hardworking and loyal but it certainly wasn’t the most polished of answers.
Tell us a bit about the type of work handled by the department you’re in at the moment…
I am in the private client department and we handle a huge variety of work. In any given day I may draft a will, draw up a summary of someone’s assets, review a complex trust structure and draft a detailed research note on a very specific area of law for a client or for a seminar. No task is the same because every client is different.
What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job?
Being a trainee means you use almost every aspect of your academic training – research, interpretation, expression and interpersonal skills. It’s very rewarding to use the skills acquired in university and in training to find solutions for clients.
There is a lot of black letter law in my current department, with the extra challenge of giving the client viable and time critical advice. Our clients don’t need abstract legal concepts recited to them, they want commercially sound and thoughtful advice in an approachable format. Rather than lawyers being a necessary evil, it feels like our clients genuinely value what we do for them and appreciate our hard work. It’s always rewarding when a client says thank you and it emphasises that your work does make a difference.
You are also encouraged to keep learning and improving throughout your entire career and you have to keep abreast of changes in legislation and policy that can substantially affect your practice and your clients. In this way our job is actually rather more exciting than a lot of other careers, because there will always be something new to learn, regardless of how long you have been practising.
What about your job didn’t you expect before you started?
I didn’t realise how much responsibility I would have. I think part of me assumed that trainees are mostly there to observe and assist but in reality we play a pivotal role. I have run my own files, communicated directly with many of the clients I have worked for and drafted more documents than I ever thought I would.
Who’s the most recent email in your inbox from, and what’s it about?
An email from the vacation scheme student who has been sitting with me for the last week. She sent me her completed research note on the statutory residence test and I was very impressed with the quality of her work.
Where’s the best place to go to get your office’s gossip?
Undoubtedly Café 5, our office cafeteria. Fish and chips Friday is a particularly good day for Thursday night drinks gossip.
Describe your training partner in three words.
Approachable. Committed. Well-groomed
Tell us two truths and one lie about yourself (in any order).
- I spent one summer working in the reptile house at the Singapore Zoo.
- I won $300 at blackjack in Las Vegas.
- I swung on a rope over the Zambezi river.
If you had not decided to become a lawyer, what career would you have chosen?
I would probably have gone for a job in the civil service, although my knowledge of civil service careers is fairly limited! I also considered journalism but quickly ruled that out because I was too nice.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career in law?
Don’t be afraid to pursue non-law extra-curricular activities if it’s what you enjoy. Not everyone needs to win a debating competition to get a training contract and people enjoy hearing about interesting hobbies and travel experiences. Do activities because you enjoy them, not just because you think they will further your applications.