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Catherine McLaughlin

Trainee Solicitor, London
Why I Chose S&C
The process of deciding where to continue your training as a lawyer after university can be a confusing one. In the London legal landscape, City firms can sometimes seem like homogenous places. Many do high quality, multi-disciplined work, with extremely intelligent lawyers working on cross-border transactions. Which stands out for you will be a deeply personal and intuitive matter. For me, S&C’s deep commitment to training, the cohesiveness of those who work there and a reputation for doing the most bespoke, highly specialized deals in the market clearly set it apart from its peers.

The Work
A major attraction of S&C for me was that as a smaller office the ratio of lawyers to deals is lower than that of a bigger firm, yet our work is some of the most high quality and specialized in the market. Often  the only trainee in a particular department, you are given a lot of responsibility in contributing to the progression of a transaction. A few weeks into my project finance seat I have engaged with local counsel, set up data rooms, and worked on documents shared with partners, clients and external parties. The learning curve is a steep one, but every day something new is learned and that is hugely rewarding.

The People
My experience so far at S&C has allowed me to work with lawyers at the top of their fields in a truly collegiate atmosphere. A fortunate by-product of S&C’s small trainee intake is that it helps with building strong relationships between colleagues. Studying the LPC for a year alongside your peer group forms a great support structure for everyone, which enables you to approach the training contract with confidence and enthusiasm. Meanwhile, the relatively small team within the London office means most lawyers and support staff will know your face and name long before your first day of work as a trainee lawyer. The variety of S&C events I was invited to in the period between accepting my offer and stepping through the doors to begin my training contract—some two and half years—bears testament to the Firm’s commitment to making you feel part of the team from the outset. Huge emphasis is also placed on fostering a sense of belonging throughout the global practice. At the beginning of our training contract we spent a week’s orientation at New York headquarters, meeting new joiners hailing from all S&C offices. This opportunity to build relationships with our cross border colleagues stems from the reality that here the work you do really will be ‘international’, and you will be liaising every day with lawyers in other jurisdictions.

The Vacation Scheme
From the outset, S&C’s genuine interest in making those who step through its doors part of the work and life of the Firm is clear. I had already had a sense of the warmth and friendliness of S&C lawyers at recruitment events, and this was confirmed in my interview (which was very much about the team and I getting to know one another rather than a formal assessment). The approach to integrating newcomers during the summer scheme was really relaxed, eating lunch alongside partners and associates in the canteen and sharing an office with a fellow vac schemer contributing just as much to a sense of belonging as the impressive calendar of social events. Care was also taken to give us a true picture of what working at the Firm would be like. I worked closely with a trainee to compile originals of documents relating to a large project finance transaction and was responsible for sending these out to the parties. This was invaluable in familiarising me with support staff at the Firm (who couldn’t have been more welcoming) and the tasks I would be likely to carry out as a future trainee.

The Training
I was convinced at an early stage of S&C’s investment in its trainee cohort by the extensive involvement of senior lawyers (and in particular Chair Joe Shenker) in our orientation. The message was very much that S&C cares about your professional development not because you are expected to spend your whole career there, but to ensure you grow into the best lawyers possible, possessing skills marketable across any sector or industry. S&C also devotes incredible amounts of time and resources to ensuring we have as much support as possible in approaching our training. In-seat experience in the form of four six-month rotations is supplemented with weekly training and know-how sessions, which give an overview of the work done by particular departments and how best to approach the tasks commonly carried out by junior lawyers. There are often seminars on interesting legal developments or commercial issues, which take the form of a sociable lunch or breakfast.

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