September 2013 marked the launch of an exciting new era in the London office. S&C proudly welcomed its first class of trainee solicitors: Anna Hagan, Sean Ruscitto, Victor Siek and Michelle Vickers.
|Anna L. Hagan||Sean Ruscitto|
|Victor T.P. Siek||Michelle A. Vickers|
Ben Perry and Jamie Logie are the partners responsible for the trainee solicitor program. “We first decided to recruit trainee solicitors in 2010, so this is the culmination of more than three years’ preparation and hard work,” says Ben. “During this time, we have built up the S&C ‘brand’ among U.K. students, developed links with leading U.K. universities at a number of levels and, above all, been able to attract some terrific recruits.”
Kirsten Davies, the graduate recruitment manager in the London office, has also been a key figure in the development of the trainee solicitor program. Working with Ben and Jamie and supported by Lisa Woods, Kirsten is the first point of contact for prospective trainee solicitors and also maintains the Firm’s contacts with universities, organizes the London office vacation scheme (a two-week work experience program for U.K. undergraduates, who often work at several firms over a summer), attends numerous university law fairs and runs other recruiting events around the United Kingdom throughout the year.
The trainee solicitor program shows S&C’s continued commitment to the U.K. practice and to encouraging the organic growth of its offices. It allows S&C to recruit straight from university in the United Kingdom, as it has in the United States for decades, and ensures that hiring associates from other firms is not the only source of lawyers for the U.K. practice. Both Ben and Jamie expressed enthusiasm for the caliber of the incoming and future classes of trainee solicitors. “We are already enjoying working closely with the newest members of our team,” Ben says. “They have settled into the London office and the Firm exceptionally well.” “We are confident that the trainee solicitors whom we have recruited to start in 2014 and 2015 will do the same,” Jamie adds.
Completing a two-year training contract is a required step in the process of becoming a qualified solicitor. During this stage, trainee solicitors gain on-the-job experience and practical knowledge to supplement their formal academic legal training. The Solicitors Regulation Authority outlines requirements that trainee solicitor programs must meet, such as giving the trainee solicitor experience in at least three distinct areas of English law in separate seats within the Firm, as well as developing presentation, organizational and business skills. In each of their seats, trainee solicitors are matched up with a designated supervisor responsible for overseeing their day-to-day training and work. In addition, trainee solicitors participate in formal training sessions for associates in the London office, as well as additional sessions designed specifically for them.
For their first seat, the trainee solicitors are each getting experience in one of the core practice areas of the General Practice Group. In addition to working on the same matters, trainee solicitors may share offices with their supervisors. They receive first-hand experience dealing with clients and thinking through challenging legal issues and are already an integral part of daily life in the London office.
Victor, who is focusing on mergers and acquisitions, shares an office with Ben Perry. Anna, who is focusing on capital markets, shares an office with partner Vanessa Blackmore. Sean and Michelle share an office next to Jamie Logie’s, with Sean focusing on finance and restructuring and Michelle focusing on project finance with Jamie. All emphasize the benefit of having full access and being able to ask questions of their supervisors at any time.
Think sharing an office with your boss sounds intimidating? The trainee solicitors promise it’s great. “It’s remarkable how much you gain through osmosis—by just sitting there and listening in. Just seeing how Ben’s mind operates has been a big privilege,” says Victor.
“Plus,” adds Sean, “our contract is split into four six-month seats. So, after six months, we will swap around, which means we’ll get to see a variety of work styles during our training.”
It can be challenging to be the inaugural group in any program, but the 2013 class of trainee solicitors is undeterred. “It’s really a marvelous opportunity,” explains Anna. “Though the training program is new, the Firm has a long history in London and there is no question they are committed to making the program a success. It’s great to be somewhere where the Firm is also learning so we can both explore what works and what doesn’t and adjust the training accordingly.”
With only four trainee solicitors in London, S&C’s first trainee solicitor class is quite small: A large U.K. firm takes in excess of 100 trainee solicitors per year. But the participants were quick to note that the smaller class size has definite advantages. “S&C doesn’t treat us so much like trainees—they give us assignments very similar to what a qualified associate would get,” Michelle maintains.
The smaller size also allows for more individualized training and opportunities to learn about the environment and the people in it. “Everyone, from the partners to the support staff, has been so friendly and helpful all the way through the process,” Michelle says. Sean and Michelle also did a vacation scheme with S&C, spending two weeks in the London office in 2011. “In just two weeks, I felt like I really knew the place, and that is what made me definitely want to come to S&C,” Sean adds. In addition, all of the nine students who have accepted offers to join the trainee classes of 2014 and 2015 participated in the London office vacation scheme in 2012 and 2013, reflecting the success and popularity of the program.
The launch of the trainee solicitor program is a significant development for the London office and the Firm as a whole, and all the participants are excited about the opportunity. Victor summed it up, saying, “During the recruitment process, it was impressed upon us that there’s a culture of organic growth at S&C. We heard from partners who have had one career at one firm and excelled, and now with the training program at S&C London, we have an opportunity to pursue the same path. It’s thrilling.”