James Holland, Gowling WLG

Name: James Holland

Firm: Gowling WLG

Position: Trainee solicitor

Degree: History

University: Warwick

Hobbies: Ice hockey, sleeping, eating

Current department: Employment and pensions

Number of TC applications made and interviews attended: 10/5

Why did you decide to train as a solicitor?

There were a few different reasons – Suits, The Good Wife, and Boston Legal being the main ones. I also enjoy solving problems and working as part of a team, and I’ve always loved a good debate, so I thought training as a solicitor would be a good fit for me.

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

Trying to balance applications and interviews with the final year of my degree. It really is a lot of work, especially when combined with the extracurriculars that are needed to make you stand out!

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

A partner asked me a series of in-depth questions about China’s development in the twentieth century because I had done a module in Chinese history at university. Once I realised that interviewers often don’t expect you to know the answer to the question, but just want to see how you react under pressure, that type of question became a lot easier.

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

In the department I’m in, we split our six months between the employment and pensions teams, which are brought together by our combined human resources team. Both teams have a good mix between litigation, transactional, and advisory work, acting mostly for employers and trustees respectively. It’s a really good mix of work, meaning no two days are the same.

What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job?

It’s hugely fulfilling to complete a job successfully for a client, and getting results from all the hard work you’ve put in – whether it be completing a corporate deal, providing a client with a piece of advice to help them solve a problem, or, in particular, being successful in litigation.

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

I didn’t expect the office to be so social and friendly. We’re mostly open-plan, and there’s no sense of hierarchy at all. It’s a really nice atmosphere in which to work. It also makes it a lot easier to ask questions and get guidance, which is great because you really do get a lot of responsibility from day one.

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

From a senior associate who I’ve been working with on a case, forwarding on the judgment from the judge in the employment tribunal and telling the team that we were successful in defending the claim.

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

The pub with the trainees! As a group, we’re spread across every department in the firm, and across both our UK offices. Word travels fast between us, so we all tend to be fairly well informed.

Describe your training partner in three words.

Calm, authoritative, friendly

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

  • My dance troupe made it to the BGT semi-finals
  • I volunteer at a dog shelter
  • A sea lion once bit my camera

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

I thought about becoming a professional athlete, but my complete lack of sporting ability held me back.

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

Do your research! There are so many different firms out there, with different personalities, specialising in different areas of law. If you have a firm idea of what you want, it will make applications a lot easier, and will lead to a lot more fulfilling training contract.