Case study

Abigail Westby — Trainee solicitor

Slaughter and May

Abigail started off as a nursing cadet working for the NHS. An interest in the legislative structure behind the healthcare system led her to a career in law

How did you get your job?

I loved my LLB at the University of Manchester, especially the course on business law. I then moved to Canada to study for an LLM at the University of Toronto, with a focus on commercial law. One of my first lectures was held at a well-regarded law firm. Sat in the firms’ offices overlooking Lake Ontario, discussing the financial crisis and deals involving the NYSE and the LSE, my interest in corporate law turned in to a determination to become a commercial lawyer.

My determination to secure a training contract at Slaughter and May wasn’t based solely on its prestige and reputation for providing exceptional legal services. I was also in awe of the calibre of the firm’s clients, as well as the expertise of its lawyers.

I sent my CV and cover letter and was invited to an interview. During the interview I was tasked with preparing a recommendation letter for a client, based on a fictional scenario. I was then given time to read a current affairs article, before being interviewed by two partners. This involved a discussion about the article I had just read and after my interview a trainee showed me around the firm before I had a short meeting with HR.

What’s a typical day like as a trainee solicitor?

Some days I won’t be in the office long before I rush off to help facilitate a client meeting or seek client signatures on a document. Other days, I spend time drafting anything from board minutes and resolutions, to Share Purchase Agreements (SPAs) and deeds of amendment, and researching niche points of law.

There is generally some training to go to throughout the day - either an advocacy course, a presentation skills session, seat-specific training or a session hosted by the firm.

Sometimes I’ll help the firm with recruitment by taking prospective trainees on office tours after their training contract interviews, visiting our Brussels office with work experience students, or staying overnight in places such as Nottingham and Manchester, presenting on what life as a trainee at Slaughter and May is really like.

How has your role developed?

Assisting on a multi-jurisdictional transaction, which involved a major corporate restructuring in my first seat, to being given the opportunity to draft and negotiate reliance letters with partners in French law firms and facilitate client and third party negotiations throughout my second seat - my role is constantly evolving. My third seat has allowed me to focus on my research skills and writing style, having been tasked with drafting numerous memorandums, research notes and attendance notes. My fourth seat will be in Slaughter and May’s Hong Kong office - the perfect way to prepare for qualification and hone in on the skills I have developed during my training contract.

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