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Careers Guide

Student View: Clifford Chance PRIME work experience

Karishma is a Year 13 student with a keen interest in the legal sector - not only has she created a detailed UCAS guide for students applying for law but is in the process of creating a website that showcases her experiences.

Having attended a law workshop with Uptree, Karishma offered to share her recent Clifford Chance PRIME experience with you to help if you're also considering applying and taking part.

Prime goodie bag

How did you prepare for the event?

The first step was the application process which required the most preparation. I began by researching the firm and the scheme itself before trying to identify what skills I thought the Graduate Recruitment Team would be looking for.

The next step was finding evidence of these key attributes: team work, time management, analytical and communication skills are just some of those I realised were important. The final step of preparation was tackling the Watson Glaser Critical Thinking Test. I found this the hardest part and my main advice is practice makes perfect, but also stay calm and try to remain objective when completing the test. 

Once I had secured my place there wasn’t much preparation left to do besides plan my route to Canary Wharf.

PRIME

I did a bit more research on the firm and I also prepared a couple of questions I could ask if there were any networking opportunities (which there were lots of!). This is a very important part of preparation and you should try to make the questions as specific as possible rather than something general you could have just searched up on the internet. 

How did you find the programme?

Personally, I thought the scheme had a very good balance of presentations and interactive sessions. A particular favourite was by Luan de Burgh on “Wearing your Crown and Building your own Personal Brand.”

He was a very engaging speaker and he made it interactive as well. The most interactive part of the scheme was the Business Challenge which involved us splitting into smaller teams and delivering a pitch in an attempt to secure a new client.

Preparing for the pitch

The challenge was enjoyable whilst also developing my presentation and communication skills and I am delighted to say that my team successfully won the client.

Prep for pitch

Did you discover anything surprising in your time on PRIME?

The firm is extremely large and prestigious and therefore for me, the most surprising part of the placement would definitely have been listening to both trainees and associates echoing each other when discussing the firm’s collaborative culture as this completely eliminated my original belief that the environment would be intense with a strong hierarchal structure.

View from Clifford Chance offices

I also learnt more about the type of deals trainees would work on and in particular, I learnt about the pro bono work the lawyers are able to get involved with which I found particularly interesting. The trainees also loved getting involved with the pro bono as it provides additional variation to their work as well as allowing them to use their knowledge to help others and it seemed like lawyers at all levels were often involved in pro bono. 

One speaker who did stand out was Luan de Burgh as he was so engaging as well as inspirational. His talk renewed my confidence in how to present myself and how to network as well as touching on the importance of mental health. In addition, we were fortunate enough to hear from a real estate partner who was actually from a state school background, much like myself and the other candidates on the scheme. Therefore, it was particularly inspiring to hear about his route to get to where he is now as a partner at a Magic Circle firm.  

Do you have any advice for any students also interested in the law industry?

I come from a state school background and didn’t know many commercial lawyers. Nevertheless, I refused to let this prevent me from breaking into the legal sector. Originally, I got several rejections and perhaps even worse, I often got ignored completely by firms.

However, eventually, I was successful in securing two legal placements: one at Clifford Chance and the other at Weil, Gotshal & Manges. My advice is not to give up and to recognise that law is competitive a competitive field. Ultimately, getting rejected is just a part of the process but you shouldn’t view it as rejection, rather just practice and part of your learning curve. 

Name badge

In addition to work experience, many Sixth Forms and colleges don’t offer law at A Level so I think it is very important to try and expose yourself to what it would actually be like studying law.

I personally attended a Summer Challenge at UCL as well as reading as many academic legal books as I could and completing some online courses. Due to the current climate, attending courses and summer schools isn’t quite viable; however, there are far more free online courses available now as well as webinars and virtual internships which you can be taking advantage of. 

Clifford Chance peers

Karishma with feel PRIME students at Canary Wharf

Although it is a very competitive field to try and break into, many firms are trying to work on new ways to improve access and therefore the best advice I can give any aspiring lawyers is to be proactive and seek as many opportunities as possible. COVID-19 may have made getting work experience harder, but there has also been an influx of online resources and virtual opportunities to get involved with.

Finally, do you have any advice for other potential law students?

Some advice I have been given during lockdown is to realise you don’t need to take a direct route to your career goal and have everything planned out. The reason for this is because it makes it harder for you to be adaptable when presented with change but also, because it makes you more close minded and you could accidentally lose out on possible opportunities.

Day 4 Clifford Chance

Ultimately, there are so many routes into law and you don’t need a law degree to be a lawyer anymore so being close minded will hinder you. Lastly, something I often forget is that there is no rush to become a lawyer and actually you need to embrace the journey and all the opportunities you encounter on the way.

Best of luck! 

Uptree thanks Karishma for her insights about the PRIME scheme she attended with Clifford Chance last summer and we wish her all the best in her journey.