October 2021: London trainee Steph Lartey joined the Firm in February 2021. Read her essential advice for future lawyers considering their career options, especially about how to make your applications as strong as possible.
"The first time I met the White & Case team was at a university law fair," Steph explains. "I liked the people that I met and what I heard about the Firm, especially the guaranteed overseas seat. So I applied to join an open day at the London offices–but I didn't get accepted."
Still interested in the Firm, Steph then applied directly for a training contract in her second year but was again turned down. Showing the tenacity and commitment that every lawyer needs, she reviewed her previous applications to work out where she could improve. "My first application didn't say why I was interested in White & Case specifically," she says. "The second time, I didn't show how my skills and experiences were transferable, because I didn't directly link them to the skills of a successful trainee; perseverance, time-management, organisation, curiosity etc."
Third time application success
In her third year, Steph applied for the winter vacation scheme, and was successful. So what was different this time? "I was clear about how my experiences were relevant; from an internship in the civil service to working part time in Tesco, tutoring school students or volunteering at the weekend. I was also proactive in reaching out to people on LinkedIn to find out more about the culture of the Firm. For example, the opportunities for professional development and the day-to-day work of trainees."
She also explained clearly why she was interested in the Firm: "My family is from Ghana, and we actually live in the location of one of the Firm's landmark energy projects, one that has made a big difference in the area. So I could demonstrate my interest in global business and also show my passion for the work."
How to demonstrate a global mindset
What other ways can applicants show their global mindset? Steph says that it's not about how many stamps are in your passport. "No one expects you to have travelled the world, what matters is how interested you are in other countries. One of my fellow trainees went restaurant hopping around London to try food from every country. Another was passionate about following vloggers posting stories about what life is like in their country. What matters is being curious."
She explains how this international outlook manifests itself in the office. "Every week, the Old Broad Street restaurant features a different cuisine, from Bulgarian to Korean or Mexican. It's a really nice way to celebrate the diversity of nationalities of the people who work here."
The international outlook isn't limited to the food, it's also true of the work. "I'm yet to work on a deal that only involves the London office. It's a really nice way to learn more about other cultures and broaden your network."
Steph says that one of the most important skills that a trainee can develop is communication. "Make sure that you understand exactly what's expected of you; where to start your research, what the deadline is, who to go to with questions. It's better to over-communicate than not to communicate enough."
New understanding of diversity
Steph says that her experience of diversity at the Firm has changed since she started her training contract. "Being here has expanded my idea of what diversity actually is. I now think of two main themes: diversity in representation, and diversity of thought. And of course, diversity cannot exist without inclusion. We had a team barbeque over the summer, and I was really struck by how many different languages we spoke between us."
Being part of the Black Affinity Network has also expanded her personal understanding of diversity: "Not all Black experiences are the same. So for me, being part of this network is not only about the networking and shared events like celebrating Black British icons or Black History month, it's also about meeting those from different heritages and backgrounds. I've met some great people and made connections across the London office."
Responsibility and the importance of asking questions
Eight months in, how would Steph sum up the trainee experience so far? "You get a lot of responsibility early on. You're trusted to do the work and expected to learn by doing." She encourages trainees to feel confident in seeking support when they need it. "Ask what the legal acronyms mean, explain when you can deliver the work and never hesitate to ask questions."
Interested in discovering more about Steph's typical day as a London trainee? Watch the video to learn more.