What does being authentic mean?

Matthew Berrick recently spoke with Matthew Leake who agreed to write this guest piece on what it means to be authentic. Matthew Leake has secured a training contract with Herbert Smith Freehills and aims to share his insight in this guest piece. Feel free to contact Matthew Berrick or Matthew Leake on LinkedIn if you have any further questions regarding this article!

Over to Matthew for his insight!

When preparing for interviews and vacation schemes, it is inevitable that budding solicitors will have a similar question running repeatedly through their mind: ‘What can I do to stand out from the crowd?’ The advice given in response to this question often revolves around the same themes. Candidates should have an eye for detail, be personable, organised, demonstrate resilience and have mastered the dark art of ‘commercial awareness’. However, in this writer’s opinion, there remains another important element in gaining that elusive training contract – being authentic.

It can be tempting when trying to impress a law firm at interview or on a vacation scheme to conjure an image of what the typical trainee at that particular firm looks like, and mould yourself into this person. To some extent this can be useful. After all, you should be aiming to portray the skills necessary to be a trainee. However, it is also important to not drastically change your behaviour from how you would act in everyday life. When candidates are invited to interview, or achieve a place on a vac scheme, the firm is taking a closer at them to decide whether they would be a good fit for the firm’s culture.

Interviewers and/or supervisors are generally very good at gauging this, and at deciding whether they could see themselves working into the early hours alongside the individual. As such, they will also be very good at ascertaining when a candidate is putting on a front. If you can relax and be sociable with firm representatives, whether at interview or during a vacation scheme, the chances of obtaining a training contract are that much greater. 

Of course, there may be situations where you feel that you ‘need’ to change your behaviour to fit in with the type of person the firm is looking for. I have always been told that interviews and vacation schemes are a two-way street. The firm is certainly assessing you, but it is also an opportunity for you to assess the firm and decide whether it is somewhere you would like to work for at least the next two years. Understandably, many individuals are desperate to attain a training contract. But there also needs to be a period of reflection. 

If you feel like you must drastically alter your natural behaviour to fit in with a firm’s culture, then perhaps the firm is not right for you. Understandably, it can be difficult in such high-pressure circumstances to fully relax and be as natural as you can. But if the firm is the correct fit for you, it all becomes that much easier. 


Leave a Reply