Interview with Camilla Dutton - Trainee Solicitor at Dentons
Camilla Dutton is a trainee solicitor at international law firm, Dentons. When she sat down with AllAboutLaw.co.uk, she revealed her experiences of the training contract thus far which includes mingling with corporate law partners at departmental lunchtime training and the opportunity to do an international secondment in San Francisco...
How much contact did you have with Dentons in the time between accepting the offer of a training contract and starting with them?
I was fortunate in that a couple of weeks after I accepted my training contract I started the LPC at BBP London. During the LPC, Dentons kept in frequent contact with me and if I had a question they would happily answer it. I thought that it was great that Dentons invited future trainees to firm events such as the Christmas Carol service. They also organised a drinks evening with current trainees so we could meet our future fellow colleagues!
Was there an introductory period to ease you into work, or were you thrown in at the deep end? If there was, what did it entail?
Before we started in our departments there was a two week induction. This allowed me to get to grips with the fundamentals (especially the I.T.) and to bond with the other trainees that I had started with. We also started the Professional Skills Course and attended useful training sessions. After the two weeks I felt comfortable that I was ready to go into the corporate department.
How much emphasis is placed on technical, skills-based learning in relation to hands-on work? For instance, have you been given many responsibilities with projects?
Technical skills-based learning is important to have as a trainee and each department will run weekly training sessions for its trainees. During each session you will learn about a topic that you will come across in your department. For example, for me being in corporate, one session covered what the fundamental clauses are in a share purchase agreement. Also there is a lot of emphasis placed on hands-on work. I have undertaken many responsibilities and have managed projects by myself.
Has there been a social aspect to your training, such as any client-facing experience? Are there opportunities both to work with other trainees and to network?
One of the main reasons I accepted the training contract at Dentons was because I knew I would have plenty of client contact. Dentons holds morning seminar sessions and evening events for clients which we are invited to attend. I regularly attend client meetings and I even had to entertain a client for a couple of hours when a meeting was running late!
Being in corporate, I often work with other trainees in different departments. I have also worked with other trainees at different firms during deals which is excellent for networking. The corporate department have weekly lunchtime training, where other Dentons solicitors or external speakers run the sessions. All department members attend which I find empowering as I receive the same level of training as partners and associates… plus there are the plenty of sandwiches!
How are seat rotations managed? How easy is it to adapt to a new seat after spending a few months getting to grips with another?
Seat rotations are managed in a fair and easy system. A pack is distributed which lists all the available seats and gives a detailed explanation about the type of work involved in those seats. We also have been given talks about client secondments and seats at some of Dentons overseas offices. I am just about to start my second seat application, in which I will complete an application form and list my top three seat preferences.
Are there support systems in place for trainees, both professional and personal?
Professionally, we are allocated 'buddies' who are a member of your department. They provide support and information to help you adjust to your new seat and are there to answer any questions. Sarah Dyke, a partner in banking, is our Training Principal. For corporate, Matthew Tinger is the Departmental Trainee Solicitor Partner. Both Sarah and Matthew can offer further support if needed.
For personal matters, Dentons has a dedicated employee assistance programme which provides help, support and resources on a variety of subjects such as family care, health, work and equality in the workplace. Access to a confidential counsellor is also available.
Does Dentons have a mentoring scheme in place? For instance, do you have a supervisor or supervisors in each seat, and how much interaction do you have with senior colleagues?
Supervisors are either partners or senior associates. I sit in an office with my supervisor who also trained at Dentons and is now a partner. She is a superb mentor, who really does take the time to explain things to me and she has taught me so much in the little time that I have spent with her. I work with other partners daily, which has gave me a broad experience as they all specialise in different areas.
Has a secondment, either international or client-based, been part of your training?
No, not yet as I am a first seat trainee, but I do plan to go on a secondment during my training contract. Dentons offers secondments to some of its international offices, and to clients, both in the UK and abroad. HR are working hard to increase the number of international secondments and to offer them in new locations. A new secondment to San Francisco is available for the next seat which is exciting!
Is there one aspect or part of your training which you feel was particularly beneficial, or anything that you feel sets the traineeship with Dentons apart from others?
The quality of training given to you at Dentons is first class. The work that you do will often be cross-border, involving international clients, alongside world-leading banks, accountancy firms and law firms. But for me, what sets Dentons apart from others, is that you have all of this and you are a name in the firm. Dentons really does have an open door policy. I can openly talk to any colleague regardless of their position. Everyone is willing to help you and Dentons is the place where people genuinely want you to do as well as you can.
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