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Dermot Costello

Trainee Solicitor, London
Why S&C
When I started researching for training contracts, I was still unsure about what sort of law firm would suit me. A vacation scheme at a Magic Circle firm convinced me that I wanted to be part of a slightly smaller office and a smaller trainee intake. Being a small cog in a large machine just seemed unappealing! Sullivan & Cromwell was a fantastic opportunity, as I would be working on top-tier, trans-national work, while part of a smaller and more personable office. The generalist approach meant that I would have a varied and intellectually stimulating workload, and that I would develop a broad skillset throughout my career.

The Work
I am struck by the international nature of Sullivan & Cromwell’s practice from the three weeks that I am working here. On my first day, I researched the application of some EU financial services regulation to resolve a query for our Tokyo office. It’s fascinating to see how our clients benefit from our seamless multi-jurisdictional capabilities. I am currently working on a matter that involves close cooperation with local counsel in two different counties, and I have been given first try at some of the drafting. The generalist approach of Sullivan & Cromwell is also evident. My inbox is already bulging with emails from different work streams; you are never pigeonholed in one area, but encouraged to seek out work in busy departments. This teaches you to think from multiple perspectives, and can therefore give a client better strategic advice.

The People
At Sullivan & Cromwell everyone takes the work seriously, but no one takes themselves too seriously. If there’s a spare fifteen minutes in the day, it’s nice to swing by the offices of other trainees and the junior associates to have a quick chat and a catch up, and the size of the office means everyone is soon a familiar face. During our year on the LPC, the Firm invited the other trainees and I to several dinners, which allowed us to get to know the lawyers before we started. This, and plenty of afternoons drinking coffee and procrastinating from LPC study, has resulted in our trainee cohort bonding quite well.

The Vacation Scheme
I did vacation schemes at other firms, and the one at Sullivan & Cromwell gave a much better flavour of a trainee’s work. While there were several fun social events, there was no pretence of a training contract being a rollercoaster of parties and no tedious ‘networking’ exercises. The newly qualified associates sourced work for us in the areas in which we were interested, and everyone at the Firm took the time to thoroughly explain the background to the matters we worked on. I had several drafting tasks, such as preparing pricing supplements and editing a schedule to a project finance agreement. All the work I did felt meaningful; there weren’t any exercises or tests that involved writing a memorandum to an imaginary client!

The Training
We kicked off our training contract with an orientation programme at the New York office, where we had a chance to meet all the new joiners worldwide. It offered an opportunity to understand the global elements of the Firm’s practice. The ongoing training in the London office is helpful, there are workshops on different practice areas, which are a useful introduction to work in a particular seat. Alongside this, there are lunchtime roundtable discussions of recent transactions that the Firm has advised on and novel legal developments. This provides a top level perspective of the business of law and a sense of the direction of the Firm as a whole.

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