When Catherine Balmond talks about training at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer – the oldest of the “Magic Circle” of British law firms – it pays to listen. Catherine joined the firm from Cambridge University as a trainee in 1999 and made Partner in 2010. Freshfields appealed to Catherine for the “high-quality international work, with individuals who are the best in their field.”

She also liked Freshfields’ inclusive approach. “I felt very welcome from day one,” she says. “Trainees are very much part of the core team.” With regards to the training contract itself, she says that, “Freshfields allows trainees to move around every three months so they see a wide variety of work.”

Her advice for anyone considering a career as a solicitor is to “think in advance because we recruit a long way ahead. Try to speak to as many people as you can to get a sense of what it means to be a lawyer, and do your research about the different law firms. You want to join a firm where you enjoy the work and thrive.”


A chance to shine

Sophie Tughan-Jones, Head of Graduate Recruitment, explains that the process of trying to secure a training contract begins with an application form and personal statement. “Use this opportunity to tell us about yourself,” she says. “We want to hear about your experiences. Give examples to demonstrate your skills.” Sophie also emphasises the need to tailor an application: “you immediately stand out from the crowd if you have a well-presented form.” The next stage is attending a half-day assessment. “Once you have secured an interview,” she says, “psych yourself up to think on your feet.”

Sophie recommends visiting a variety of firms in order to establish where you would like to work. “Freshfields offers a number of programmes that give you the opportunity to get a feel for the firm,” she says. Catherine and Sophie also advise trying to secure a place on a vacation scheme. “You’ll have the chance to do real-life work,” says Sophie, “so your experience truly reflects what our trainees get involved with.”

As she goes on to explain, there is no Freshfields “type”. “Freshfields recruits graduates from a range of different areas of study and with a range of backgrounds and interests.”

Her final words of advice? “Fundamentally, to give yourself the best chance of securing a spot, you need to demonstrate an interest in commercial law,” says Sophie, “and show that you have a global mindset, as well as a motivated, proactive and can-do attitude. Above all, be yourself.”