Were you based in the UK, or was there the opportunity to intern abroad?
I was based in the UK. However, we do have vacation scheme opportunities in Singapore for candidates interested in undertaking a training contract there.
What made you decide to do a vacation scheme with an international firm?
I have always been interested in cross border transactions. After completing a dissertation that considered the concept of universalism with regard to corporate insolvency law I became fascinated by the legal complexities that arise in cross border transactions. London is home to over half of the UK’s top 100 listed companies and remains one of the leading financial centres of the world. Firms with a presence in London are therefore more likely to be involved in cutting edge transactions, involving prominent clients and I was keen to gain experience on those types of deals. Latham & Watkins is recognised globally as one of the most prestigious international law firms and the firm uses its international experience to create innovative legal solutions that achieve a client’s commercial objectives. Despite the size of Latham & Watkins internationally, the London team is relatively small and I was able to be part of an incredibly large network and benefit from all of the resources that the firm offers, yet I was also able to get thoroughly involved in high profile and cutting edge transactions at an early stage in my career.
How did you find out about the vacation scheme at Latham & Watkins?
I knew of the firm through reputation and researched it further, particularly the application process. I also was encouraged by the number of awards the firm received from various legal media.
What did the application process involve?
The application process involved completing a very straightforward online application which included the usual questions – why law, why Latham & Watkins and what makes you stand out? I was then invited to an interview day which consisted of two interviews; one was more general and focused on your application and extra-curricular activities and the second was designed to test your commercial awareness. I was nervous about the second interview as I really didn’t know what to expect but it was much more informal than I expected. I was given a scenario and asked to talk through some of the issues which I thought might arise. The associates interviewing me were incredibly friendly and encouraging, and offered me guidance on points of law that I wasn’t sure about.
After the interview process there was a lunch presentation with the current trainees. This part of the day is unassessed and gives you the chance to ask the trainees any questions about their role in the firm and the type of work that they are involved in.
How was the vacation scheme structured at Latham & Watkins?
The vacation scheme at Latham & Watkins lasts for two weeks and vacation scheme students sit in two different seats during that time to get as varied an experience as possible. You do have the opportunity to request a specific seat which can be really useful if you are particularly interested in a specific practice area.
On the morning of the first day you are welcomed by numerous members of the firm and given a general overview of the schedule for the two weeks. The firm lays on a number of talks and presentations so that vacation scheme students get an overview of all the practice areas of the firm and also the extra-curricular activities that the firm is involved in. You are also given an in-depth presentation on the training that trainees at the firm receive throughout their two years which is really helpful as it gives you an insight into the type of support and continued training that the firm offers throughout your career.
Throughout the two weeks there are numerous assessments. Whilst in each seat your supervisor will assign you a piece of writing to complete by the end of the week. Your supervisor will offer you guidance and talk through points of law with you during the week and then will assess your essay at the end of the week. You are also asked to give a presentation to your peers and a panel of Partners in the firm. Each presentation is on a different practice area of the firm, which gives you an opportunity to research different departments and speak to associates across the office.
When you are not working on one of the compulsory tasks that the recruitment team have provided you are encouraged to reach out to your Supervisor for work. I think this is probably the most valuable experience you can get whilst on the vacation scheme as you will often be given the work that trainees would be expected to complete on a daily basis.
How much contact did you have with senior colleagues and with other interns?
Latham & Watkins operate an open door policy and that policy was apparent whilst on the vacation scheme. Each intern sits with an associate in their chosen department but they are encouraged to introduce themselves to other members of the team. Whilst I was sat in the insolvency department I introduced myself to the other members of the team and offered to help with any tasks that they might have. I was delighted to be given the opportunity to research issues relating to parallel insolvency proceedings in the UK and the USA which I then had to discuss with the senior associate on the case. I felt as though I had completed meaningful work that was useful to the team. In my second seat I was invited to work on a pro bono matter for the Technology Transactions team and I found myself sitting in on a conference call with two partners and my supervisor. Everyone was incredibly welcoming and enthusiastic to hear about my experience at the firm. The lawyers I spoke to were all incredibly proud to work at Latham & Watkins, were highly motivated and were eager and willing to share their knowledge and experience with junior lawyers, including vacation scheme students.
What was your most memorable experience at Latham & Watkins? And what was the most valuable?
Whilst on the vacation scheme you are split into groups of three and asked to present to your peer group and a panel of partners about one department within the firm. I had previously done quite a lot of public speaking and was definitely looking forward to doing the presentation. On the day however it all went very wrong – my nerves kicked in and I couldn’t get my words out. I was convinced that I had ruined my chances of a training contract but I had to go back to my office and continue helping my supervisor with the pro bono work that she had given me. Whilst it sounds like a terrible experience I think it was by far the most valuable that I had on the vacation scheme as it taught me a lot of things. Firstly things probably are never as bad as you may think – I knew I could have done a better presentation but as far as everyone else was concerned I was just a little bit nervous. Secondly, even if things do go slightly wrong you just have to persevere and complete your other tasks to the best of your ability. Finally it taught me to acknowledge my weaknesses and figure out how to tackle them.
During my second week I was asked to get involved in some of the firm’s pro bono work and I was put on a matter in which the client, a children’s charity organisation, was hosting a charity event and had asked the firm to review numerous contracts in relation to the venue and entertainment. My supervisor asked me to review some of the contracts and highlight any issues which I came across. I emailed my supervisor with my points and was surprised to get a phone call from the Partner on the matter who invited me to lunch to discuss some of the points I had made. After going through some of the issues I was asked to join a conference call with the client to discuss possible solutions. I was surprised that my opinions were valued and that I had been given so much responsibility whilst on a vacation scheme. I admit that the rest of the scheme went by in a blur of social activities such as bowling, karaoke, lunches and cocktail evenings. Although it was intense, it was a really fun two weeks and I came away having learnt so much but also having had an incredibly fun time!
Would you recommend doing a vacation scheme with an international firm to other students?
I think if you are interested in law then you should attempt to experience a variety of firms – whether they be international, national or regional. Each type of firm has its pros and cons and you have to decide which suits you best. The two week internship was a great opportunity for me to experience life at Latham & Watkins and confirm that it was the firm that I wanted to complete a training contract at.
What piece of advice would you give to any wannabe interns?
I think the one thing that stuck with me after my vacation scheme was not to be intimidated whilst on the scheme – if you have been accepted on a vacation scheme or internship programme you have already impressed the firm with your credentials and there is no doubt as to your academic ability! The scheme is not intended to test your knowledge of the law but it does aim to show whether you would be a good fit for the firm and whether the firm is a good fit for you. I think it’s key to be yourself – always be willing to get involved in work but don’t be over the top, ask as many questions as you can and remember the vacation scheme, whilst important, is supposed to be fun!