Training as a commercial solicitor in Leeds

For this article, The Legal Line Up co-founder Gemma Shohet spoke with Martyna Sikora and Jack Wray about why they chose to train at their respective firms in Leeds.

Jack is a second seat trainee at Eversheds Sutherland’s Leeds office and a First-class graduate in Law from the University of Leeds. His first seat was in Real Estate Litigation and he is currently sitting in EU, Competition and Trade. Before training at Eversheds Sutherland, Jack acted as the firm’s Campus Ambassador at the University of Leeds, undertook a vacation scheme, and worked as a paralegal in the firm’s Banking and Finance practice.

Martyna is a future trainee at Pinsent Masons’ Leeds office and recently graduated with First Class Honours in Law from the University of Leeds. In June 2019, Martyna undertook a Vacation Scheme at Pinsent Masons and subsequently secured a Training Contract with the firm. Before commencing her Training Contract, Martyna will be studying the LPC and Masters in Law, Business and Management at the University of Law.

On behalf of The Legal Line Up Team, thank you to Jack and Martyna for sharing your insights!

Q&A with Jack Wray

Why did you decide to train at Eversheds Sutherland?

When it came to applying for training contracts, I knew that I didn’t want to be in London but I did want to train with a reputable international firm. This, naturally, reduced my options somewhat. Eversheds Sutherland was particularly appealing to me because:

  • They had recently combined with US law firm Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP to broaden their international reach into the United States which showed ambition;
  • Having worked as their brand ambassador for a year I got a great insight into the culture of the firm. I felt that I would fit in well; and
  • The Leeds office (and all regional offices for that matter) are not just used as satellites for London – the work carried out is of a high standard for well-known clients. This is quite important, as some firms farm the less interesting/business as usual work up to the regions as the fees are generally cheaper.

Why did you choose to train in Leeds?

I didn’t want to train in London because of the expenses associated with living there and, being from Liverpool, I also wished to remain close to friends and family. I attended the University of Leeds, so I have a connection with the city. Leeds has a fantastic commercial hub that can compete with any outside of London and includes all of the large accountancy firms, international law firms and financial services companies such as Rothschild & Co. If you combine all that together I really had no reason to move.

Does the work differ between Eversheds’ UK offices? Is there much interaction between Eversheds’ UK offices?

I’m unable to give a definitive answer to this question purely because I haven’t experienced matters that are specific to UK offices other than Leeds and London, although, I could see no major differences between the two.

In my first year as a trainee I have worked with people in a variety of different offices from Newcastle, Nottingham, Birmingham, London and Cardiff etc. on different projects. This clearly shows that there is good quality work consistently across the board. I do feel that ES have a “one firm” approach and segmentation between offices is usually limited and it is very normal to call someone in another office if you need their assistance on a matter. This extends beyond the UK as well as I have often been in positions where I have needed local advice from France, Italy, Germany and Spain. Since remote working has been implemented and the vast majority of us have not been in an office, the feeling of being “one firm” has definitely increased.

Q&A with Martyna Sikora

What attracted you to apply to Pinsent Masons?

I first came across Pinsent Masons at a university Law Fair in second year and really enjoyed speaking to graduate recruitment and firm representatives. Not only were they lovely, but also incredibly helpful, and the information they provided about the firm made me want to research it more. I was already interested in learning about a career in commercial law, and the variety of work at Pinsent Masons as well as its international involvement appealed to me. The more I researched, the more I could see myself working there for so many reasons: the nature of the work; the Pro Bono opportunities; the inclusivity of the firm and diversity of the workforce; as well as my alignment with Pinsent Masons’ values. More importantly, I enjoyed my experience of interacting with the firm at the assessment centre for the vacation scheme despite all the stress surrounding the interviews. This approachable culture made me appreciate Pinsent Masons even more and affirmed my decision to pursue a training contract there. I think seeing yourself working at the firm and office which you are applying to is so important, and that’s exactly what attracted me to Pinsent Masons in Leeds.

Why did you decide to train in Leeds?

I fell in love with Leeds as soon as I first visited it for a university Open Day during sixth form. I previously lived in Cumbria, but I’ve always preferred life in the city and didn’t see many opportunities for myself at home despite the beauty of the Lake District. Leeds is still great in that it’s not far from nature yet still bustling and full of incredible opportunities. The legal workload in Leeds is so varied and exciting so that you’re still exposed to a range of practice areas, varied seats and great career and personal development opportunities. At the same time though, the city is more compact than others, which makes it easier to get around, as well as more affordable than many southern cities in terms of housing and transport, which acts as an added bonus. Having really enjoyed living here during University, I knew I wanted to stay here. 

Does the work differ between Pinsent Masons’ UK offices?

It is difficult to give a deeper answer without experiencing this yet, however, I know that while there are differences in terms of size and strength of practice areas between the offices, the general ethos is consistent with the firm’s underpinning values and strategy throughout it. The particular nature of the tasks undertaken at each office will always depend on business need and expertise of the professionals, but the strong teamwork, global outlook and innovative thinking are at the core of the firm and the way all employees operate.

Is there much interaction between Pinsent Masons’ UK offices?

This is something I am yet to experience first-hand when I begin my training contract, but I believe that the whole intake of trainees from all of the offices start off together at the headquarters followed by a residential conference, training and socialising for the first couple of weeks. More importantly, one of Pinsent Masons’ core values is being ‘connected’, therefore these relationships between employees from across the country which form through social interaction are so important and carry into working relationships across the entire firm. I am certain that I will soon personally experience just how valuable having access to a range of perspectives and expertise across all the offices will be for working on deals.

Did you undertake a vacation scheme before applying for a training contract? Would you recommend this and why?

Yes, I applied for the vacation placement and training contract together and had my final training contract interview during the second week of the placement.

While undertaking the vacation placement is not necessary in order to be considered for a training contract, the application process is streamlined. I would therefore definitely recommend applying for the vacation scheme at the same time. If you’re successful, there are so many benefits to undertaking the placement. The placement provided me with an opportunity to showcase my skills and suitability for the firm and its culture beyond the official interviews. More importantly though, my experience at the firm during the placement affirmed that this is a place where I really do want to work in the future – which, as I said earlier, is absolutely crucial. Although I already had legal experience, I grew up in a very rural area where I was limited to experience at the Courts and private high-street firms. While those experiences provided me with valuable skills nevertheless, I didn’t really see myself working there. I always thought I would enjoy working at a global City firm more but couldn’t be sure until the placement allowed me to experience it first-hand. That being said, undertaking a vacation placement can also have the opposite effect – you might actually realise that the place or area of law is not for you, and that’s perfectly okay too. Therefore, although it is not necessary and many people may be unable to undertake a placement, having the opportunity to do so is incredibly valuable for your personal as well as career development and if you’re able to apply – apply!

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