Case study

Daniel Lee — Trainee solicitor

Slaughter and May

Daniel studied history at the University of Bristol before pursuing a career in law. He’s now a trainee solicitor at Slaughter and May

Why commercial law and why Slaughter and May?

At school, I focused on humanities subjects and then chose to study history at university. During my degree, I enjoyed continuing to build on my written and analytical skills and wanted a career where I could use these. I also had a broad idea at university that I wanted to start my career in the city; so I was drawn to commercial law as I thought it might combine both of these desires.

I started attending recruitment events in my second year at the University of Bristol, and I had the opportunity to meet lawyers from Slaughter and May. I was impressed by the calibre of the clients and the complex legal questions that trainee’s not much older than I had the opportunity to work on. I also liked how the role of the solicitor was framed as that of a trusted advisor. Slaughter and May seemed like an exciting and challenging place to work, and one where I might be able to apply my skillset.

How did you find the application process?

I found Slaughter and May’s approach to recruitment refreshingly different to other law firms. The process centres on submitting a cover letter and a CV. I found less to be more, because with fewer hoops to jump through, I had to really focus on every word of my application.

I was initially unsuccessful in applying for the firm’s summer work experience scheme. I then happened to meet the partner that interviewed me at a careers fair in Bristol, and the feedback given was invaluable. I successfully applied for the firm’s winter workshop at the beginning of my third year, and then applied directly for the training contract. The interview day consisted of a (fairly time-pressured) written exercise, an interview with two of the firm’s partners, which included a discussion on a news article, then a short HR interview.

The interview was nerve-wracking, but I genuinely enjoyed the experience. It’s not a box-ticking assessment centre-type exercise - it was a genuine discussion focussed on my reflections on my legal and non-legal experiences and my views on various issues - you are challenged to see how you think under pressure.

What’s a typical day like as a trainee solicitor in your current seat?

I have recently started the third seat of my training contract, in finance. Slaughter and May lawyers are multi-specialist, which means that there is huge variety in the work we do and there isn’t a typical day. A lot of the matters I am working on are in the energy sector. Given the turbulence in the sector clients need our advice, particularly with respect to project financing.

I start at around 9.30am and normally leave at around 7pm, but there are no set hours and this can be earlier or later depending on how busy I am. At the moment, I am writing a memorandum for an energy client on the benefits and risks of altering certain contractual arrangements, carrying out research on green energy levies and working out what documentation underpins an unconventional type of derivative product.

There are also several smaller ad-hoc requests throughout the day. These might include Companies House searches, taking notes on calls or carrying out a conflicts of interest check for a new matter.

What has been a highlight of your training contract so far?

It was actually the very first transaction I worked on. I am a Formula One fan, so to be told on my first day in the mergers & acquisitions department that I’d be working on the potential acquisition of an F1 team seemed too good to be true. Even though the deal eventually fell through, it was incredibly interesting to work on. The jump from law school to being a trainee is a big learning curve, and the prior understanding I had of the industry enabled me to offer a valuable contribution early on and informed the commercial angle of my legal work.