A unique training contract

The path from law student to qualified lawyer isn't the same everywhere. A partner and trainee from Jones Day tell The Gateway about what their firm has on offer for new recruits

David Smith: Graduate recruitment partner

How does the Jones Day training contract work?

Here you don't move between departments and you have your own office from day one. You can work with anybody in the firm that you choose, or who offers you work that you've got capacity to do (subject to fulfilling Solicitors Regulation Authority minimum requirements and some further requirements that we add ourselves).

What are the benefits for trainees?

Trainees here have control over what they work on and with whom they work. The system also incentivises partners and senior assistants to treat the trainees well, for example, involving them in a deal as a whole so that they can see the bigger picture. If they didn't do so, they would find it difficult to get trainees to work for them.

We also think trainees here develop faster than on the traditional seat system. If you're working on a deal with various aspects, you can do, say, the real estate due diligence and the banking work, so you get a more rounded view. And because you gradually concentrate on the area you want to qualify into, by the end of the training contract you're more experienced in it than you would have been if you'd just done a six-month seat there.

What are the benefits for the firm?

Trainees learn to market themselves internally to get work, which teaches them the skills they'll need to get work for the firm from clients.

Our training method also helps us to respond to market fluctuations. For example, if we get a big litigation case, we can draw on our whole pool of 30 or so trainees.

Who is suited to training at Jones Day and what do you look for in applicants?

We want people who are clever, analytical, confident and proactive.

Looking at CVs, I like to find people who have been doing a few things at the same time because it means they're driven, already able to cope with conflicting demands and probably a bit more interesting than those who just do academic work!

When it comes to interviews, I like people to be honest. We often ask �What would your friends change about you?", because nobody's perfect! Lots of people say something like �I'm a perfectionist", turning a positive into a negative. But I like it when people have the confidence to identify an area in which they're not as strong as others.

What support systems do you have in place for your trainees?

Everybody in the firm understands how the system works - around 50 per cent of our partners (including me) trained here themselves - and so people empathise with the challenges the trainees face. We have a trainee induction programme at the beginning of the two years, and appraisals every six months. We also have a mentor programme, but we tend to find that people find their own mentors informally. We have a team of people in graduate recruitment who can give trainees guidance, and they also support each other.

Florian Albert: Trainee

What made you choose to train at Jones Day?

I read about the firm's reputation for giving responsibility to trainees and for being friendly and sociable. I applied for the vacation scheme, got offered a place, and it confirmed all the things that I'd read. While I was doing the vacation scheme, I wasn't sure what area of law interested me most and I thought the training system here would be the best way to try out a lot of different things at first, and then to focus on what I enjoyed.

How have you found your time at Jones Day so far?

At first I walked around, knocked on just about everybody's door and asked them if there was anything I could do, and responded to every request for help. I did many different kinds of work and met a lot of people. Then I got involved in a fairly big corporate deal and enjoyed it, and I've been able to continue doing corporate matters ever since, while doing some litigation and banking work too. Because I've had a year and a half of corporate work, not just six months, I've had a broad range of experience in this area - both public and private M&A, acting for buyers and sellers, national and international deals, and also fundraisings, both on AIM and in the main markets. Working on such a variety of deals has helped me decide that this is the type of work that I want to do when I qualify.

I feel very much part of the corporate team here now - and I've been given a lot of responsibility. I've led calls and participated in a lot of client meetings. I've even managed to establish some client relationships of my own - there are clients that know me, and will contact me directly with questions.

What are the challenges of training at Jones Day and how have you learnt to cope with them?

Here you have to take more responsibility than elsewhere for finding your own work. You especially need to take the initiative at the beginning - otherwise you could just sit in your office alone for weeks. But the people that get the training contracts here usually don't have any problem walking around and talking to people. Once you become a bit more involved and people know you, you get a lot of �repeat custom" and it becomes less important for you to keep knocking on doors every day. And when you work on a big transaction, it could last a month or two and during that time you don't need to find any new work. So it's a challenge initially to make sure you put yourself out there, but then things start managing themselves.

You need to be flexible to deal with work from different departments at the same time and it can sometimes be difficult to juggle all the things you have to do. So you need to know how to prioritise and to make sure that you're clear about how much capacity for work you have and by when you can do things.

What has been your best moment while working at Jones Day?

My first completion, which took place in New York. We were there for two weeks, worked hard and closed the deal. The client was very happy and took us out for a nice dinner. It was good to get a reward after all the work we did!

We don't have a formal overseas seats scheme like some firms do but, if the work requires it, trainees get to travel. I've managed to go to New York two or three times since my first completion. Also, I worked on a transaction where we, together with some colleagues in Germany, helped a UK client buy a lot of German assets, and I got to go out to Frankfurt for a few weeks to help with some of the post-completion arrangements.

Do you feel ready to be a qualified lawyer?

I've been working almost continuously on corporate deals and, yes, I feel ready to qualify here. I know what the process is for certain types of transaction and what the key issues are, and I often know the clients too. New things come up every day that I need to get my head around, but I know I can ask more senior people for help if I need it.