Case study

Neeraja Chemburkar — Trainee solicitor

White & Case

Neeraja studied law at the University of Cambridge. She’s now a trainee solicitor at White & Case

What course did you study and where?

I applied for the spring vacation scheme at White & Case in my second year of university, following which I was offered a training contract. I started with the firm in September 2021 and have finished seats in Debt Finance and M&A. I am about to go into my third seat with the Tax team.

Why did you decide on a career in law?

I decided on law because it was a technical subject that offered commercial exposure. At school, I enjoyed studying English and history and wanted to pursue a career that incorporated language, problem solving and research elements.

I was also interested in the idea of working with a range of clients across industries (e.g. banking, pharma, tech) because I thought it would offer an opportunity to learn something new every day, and to gain insights into areas that I would not have otherwise become familiar with.

What attracted you to the firm?

I applied to big commercial law firms with a range of practice areas because I did not know what I wanted to specialise in. Although quite a few US law firms in London focus on specific practices, I liked the fact that White & Case had a broad offering and that I would be able to experience a range of work during my training contract.

I was also drawn to its established presence in London and the relatively large size of the trainee intake because I thought it would offer a well-structured training programme.

What was the application process like?

When I applied for the vacation scheme in 2019, I submitted a cover letter along with my application form. I then sat an automated online video interview, answering three questions covering my motivations and the role of a trainee. Finally, I was invited to an in-person interview in the London office with a senior associate and a member of the graduate resourcing team.

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

In M&A, a typical day usually involves:

  • Due diligence - a trainee will help to review material contracts (e.g. distribution agreements, relationship agreements with shareholders, etc.) to identify any red flags that should be raised with the client. The red flags are raised in the form of a due diligence report, which the trainee will help draft with the associate.
  • Working with specialist teams - a trainee is often responsible for project management, liaising with the specialist teams (e.g. Employment, IP, Real Estate) on their respective parts of the deal.
  • Client meetings - trainees will typically attend and take a note of client meetings and circulate these to the rest of the team.
  • Research - you might be asked to look into a specific point of law on a standalone deal. Last week I looked into punitive dilution provisions in joint venture mining agreements. No one expects you to have any prior knowledge on the point of law and will appreciate any colour that you are able to add through your research - we also have a professional support team that will be more than happy to guide you.
  • Business development - in M&A, trainees are assigned to different business development initiatives. I helped with the shareholder activism initiative, which involved assisting on activist deals (often very fast-paced), checking publicly disclosed shareholder holdings (to track any noteworthy purchases) and listening to the Beyond the Boardroom podcast to stay on top of recent developments in this space.

What part of your job do you enjoy the most?

I enjoy having the chance to work on something new every day. Trainees at the firm are given a lot of responsibility and play an active role in deal management, whether that be co-ordinating internally with specialist teams or liaising with clients. Although that is initially a little daunting, being given that responsibility and being able to take ownership over different work streams makes you feel like an integral part of the team.

What are the challenges?

The biggest challenge for me was learning how to balance different deals and maintain clear lines of communication with each of the deal teams. I quickly found that everyone was very supportive and willing to help - all you have to do is ask.

Can you debunk a myth about working in law?

The environment is a lot less cut-throat and competitive than I had imagined - our trainee intake is very friendly and I always feel comfortable turning to them if I have any questions. Even more generally, the partners and associates are a lot more supportive and encouraging than I expected - everyone wants you to do well.

What are your career ambitions?

I hope to qualify as an associate with White & Case.

Why should future trainees consider applying to the firm?

White & Case is a global law firm with a well-established presence in London - you will co-ordinate work streams on headline deals and collaborate with offices across the wide international network (one of which you’ll get to spend a guaranteed six months in), all while receiving the robust training and support you need to shape your legal career. Most of all, you will be working in a supportive environment with friendly faces - come see for yourself.

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