Heading South for my interview with RPC was only the third or fourth time I had ever been to London, so life at a City Law Firm was a complete mystery to me. However, as a first year trainee, part way through a seat in Professional and Financial Risks, I now feel I can shed some light on the experience.
RPC's London office is based in the City, near to our insurance and corporate clients. Our glass fronted building is situated directly in front of both the Tower of London and St. Katherine Docks and whilst at RPC, I have had plenty opportunity to take full advantage of what London has to offer. In the first few weeks here, we were taken on a tour of the Lloyds' Building, which really put the insurance market into context. I also attended a client event at the Shard, witnessing some amazing views of London (and also doing a bit of client networking!)
There is a lot to get involved with on the social side at RPC. Much like at Hogwarts, when you first start at RPC you are placed into one of three Houses (Reynolds, Porter or Chamberlain). The Houses then compete to earn house points (by undertaking CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) activities and house events) and, ultimately, to win the house cup. The Houses compete in events such as the Quiz Night, Sports Day, Bake Off and our own talent show, RPC's Got Talent! House events such as book clubs, ghost walks and Christmas dinners also give you the opportunity to meet people from different departments.
One Friday each month, there is an insurance drinks trolley (hosted by a partner), where everybody meets for a couple of drinks and nibbles. This lets you catch up with the other trainees and get to know members of the insurance team. For more musical or sporty trainees, RPC also has netball, football, cricket and darts teams, and a choir.
It can be the case that working in a larger company means that an individual gets lost in the organisation. However, at RPC there is lots of support and guidance to ensure you don't feel too much like a fish out of water. When you arrive, you are assigned a second year trainee to act as a "buddy". Your buddy offers guidance to help you settle into the firm and is there to answer any questions you might be reluctant to ask your supervisor.
RPC also has a mentoring scheme whereby trainees pick a qualified lawyer to act as their mentor throughout the training contract. Your mentor is there to provide any legal or non-legal support you need and allows for continuity throughout the two years. Mid-seat and end of seat reviews, combined with regular coffee meetings with your supervisor, also mean that you receive regular feedback.
As a City law firm, RPC has an extremely diverse client base, with a lot of household names. In the Professional Risks department, the clients can vary from small law firms with only one or two partners to Magic Circle firms. The variety of clients means trainees get a range of responsibility and exposure to lots of different facets of the law. Having such diverse clients means that there are lots of opportunities to go on client secondments, both during the training contract and post-qualification. The secondments vary between full time and part time and are usually three to six months long.
Trainees receive a lot of exposure to international work. As a founding member of TerraLex – the worldwide network of independent law firms – the firm works very closely with lawyers across the world. In our first six months, my trainee intake have worked with lawyers in Trinidad and Tobago, America, Venezuela, Thailand and Nigeria.
RPC recruits up to 20 trainees per year so there are a lot of people to ask for assistance should you need any help. You undertake a lot of training in the first couple of months with your intake, meaning there are lots of chances to get to know people. The trainees are very close, so there is a friendly, non-competitive atmosphere. RPC's retention rate was 100% in 2014 and 81% in 2013, which demonstrates what a positive experience the training contract is.
Unfortunately working in a City Law Firm is not particularly similar to the law firms in Suits or Scandal. However, you will get exposed to a huge variety of work, both contentious and transactional, and domestic and international. There are opportunities to take on as much responsibility as you want, and to get involved with commercial and CSR initiatives. RPC gives you the chance to get involved with interesting, and high value matters whilst also ensuring you have a social life, both inside and outside the firm.