Name: Sneha Nainwal
Firm: Shakespeare Martineau
Position: Trainee Solicitor
University: BBA LLB (SIU, India); BCL (Oxford)
Hobbies: Dance, cooking, sunny holidays
Current Department: Energy and corporate
Number of TC applications made and interviews attended: 5/3
Why did you decide to train as a solicitor?
With my father having been a member of the Indian Judiciary for over 30 years, law has had a major impact on my life from the very start. The memory of watching my father at the dais in his courtroom, wearing his black robe, is still powerful and inspiring.
But my decision to become a solicitor actually evolved over time. I was an inquisitive child and at school, this curiosity developed into a quest for academic research and love for debates. Being naturally good with numbers, I began to prefer quantitative subjects like maths and accountancy and enjoyed logical reasoning. On finishing school, I knew that my skills were best suited for a career that valued nobility of knowledge and logical aptitude – law was then an obvious choice!
What were the biggest challenges you faced when trying to secure a training contract?
Given that both my bachelor degrees in law and legal internships took place in India, it was difficult to present my international qualification and foreign work experience into a format that would be recognised by UK recruiters. In addition, I had to submit all of my applications while I was already working as a full-time lawyer in India, so finding the discipline to complete the lengthy applications and manage the logistics of flying out to attend interviews was quite challenging.
What was the toughest training contract interview question you were asked (at any firm) and how did you answer?
At times the simplest of questions can be the most difficult to answer. I was once asked – ‘What is the difference between law and morality?’
Finding myself at a loss for words, I picked up a pen and drew a venn diagram to show law and morality as overlapping sets. Before I could relish my ingenuity, the interviewing partner drew another venn diagram next to mine that showed law as a subset of morality. What followed was a rather intense debate on evolution of law and theories of jurisprudence. It was the longest interview that I have ever attended and lasted for over two hours! In fact, the HR representatives told me afterwards that they were close to interrupting the interview to check everything was all right.
Tell us a bit about the type of work handled by the department you’re in at the moment …
I am currently doing a split seat in the energy and corporate teams.
The energy team advises on the full range of UK and European energy law and policy. The work involves advising on and drafting power purchase agreements, fuel supply and offtake agreements, network arrangements and associated project documentation.
The corporate department undertakes company and commercial law work including share and asset acquisitions and disposals, private equity transactions, shareholder arrangements, investment funds, partnerships, restructuring and joint ventures.
What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job?
Having previously worked at other law firms, both in London and India, what I find truly unique about Shakespeare Martineau is its people. They are intelligent, enthusiastic and fun-loving – which creates a positive and collaborative atmosphere in the office. Everyone at the firm, from the supporting network to the partners, is very approachable and always willing to help.
The best part is that I am always learning something new from each interaction – be it the complex energy legislation or a (even more complex) reverse pendulum backspin serve in table tennis. I can honestly say that I enjoy coming to work every day!
What about your job didn’t you expect before you started?
I did not expect to not be treated as ‘just a trainee’. Not only has the firm recognised my existing experience and tailored my work profile accordingly but it has also actively encouraged me to leverage my international contacts. It is unusual for a trainee to be involved with marketing the firm and contributing to new business but I have been networking with Indian businesses and even brought in a new client to the firm. This aspect of my role at the firm is very refreshing. I am currently organising a UK-India seminar to be hosted by Shakespeare Martineau with an Indian law firm – an opportunity that many trainees in other firms wouldn’t get I’m sure.
Who’s the most recent email in your inbox from, and what’s it about?
It is from a client looking to schedule a conference call for discussing a firm frequency response agreement.
Where’s the best place to go to get your office’s gossip?
The table tennis practice sessions.
Describe your training partner in three words
Sharp, meticulous and witty.
Tell us two truths and one lie about yourself (in any order).
- I have performed at the Oxford playhouse and made a short appearance in a Bollywood movie.
- I was a finalist at the under 17 national badminton championship.
- I am currently writing a novel.
If you had not decided to become a lawyer, what career would you have chosen?
Theatre. In fact, I almost applied to drama school instead of for a law degree.
What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in law?
The harder you work, the luckier you will get!
Law is one of those fiercely competitive fields, both academically and professionally, where there is absolutely no substitute for hard work!
My advice would be to build a strong CV – with consistent grades and early work experience – as that is one of the easiest objective measurements for firms to rely on when it comes to screening applications.
When it comes to applications, do your research and be deliberate when selecting the firms that you apply to. Factors like practice areas, growth opportunity, size and international footprint of a firm are important and should be considered early on. Your thoughtful motivation for applying to a particular firm will not only come across as a strength during your interviews but also ensure that you start your career at a firm that is the right fit for you.