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Future London trainee Onose Ogbebor shares her career advice for aspiring lawyers

March 2021: So you think you want to be a lawyer at a big commercial law firm? Then read about how Onose Ogbebor set about bridging the gap from classroom knowledge to real-world experience of the law and provides insight into the work that lawyers actually do.

When future London trainee Onose first heard of White & Case, it was as a sponsor to a moot court event in her home country, Nigeria. When she returned to her LLB studies in the UK, she researched the Firm. "From Inside White & Case to the Firm's YouTube, Instagram and LinkedIn channels, I was able to find out quite a lot about the people who work here and the sort of tasks that a trainee or an associate would do. I liked the international aspect of the work and the culture especially, so I looked for opportunities to find out more." 

Online learning, open day and a vacation scheme

After meeting a White & Case recruiter at a career fair, Onose completed the White & Case virtual learning programme and says that this was a gamechanger. "This opened my eyes to so much, from exposure to commercial terminology, to the different practices within the Firm and the varied work." Next, she attended an open day organised by the London office and then applied successfully for a place on a vacation scheme. 

"By the time I was offered a training contract, I was sure that this was the right firm for me," she says. "During the vacation scheme especially, I found the work interesting and challenging." 

Making connections and building a network

Onose adds that it was the people that made the biggest impression of all. "Before I got to know the Firm, I didn't really know what to expect in terms of the culture. But this Firm is as international and diverse as I had hoped, and the people are extremely supportive. I have always been encouraged to reach out to as many people as possible with any questions or just to talk."

As a future trainee, Onose is still very much in touch with her network at the Firm. "My mentor from the vacation scheme has offered to put me in touch with colleagues who can advise on a project for my studies. And I have joined a White & Case Law Without Walls team too."

Do your homework and ask questions: Onose's advice

What advice does Onose have for aspiring lawyers? First, do your homework on firms that appeal to you. "Look at their website, follow social media channels, see what they post on LinkedIn. Try to talk to their people at careers fairs, reach out on LinkedIn or drop an email to a speaker that you meet at an event. Be proactive and make connections." She reminds students that it's good to ask questions. "Nobody expects you to know it all. Keep an open mind and stay curious. It's ok to want to find out more."

Actions over words: Look for an active commitment to diversity

As a Black woman, Onose was keen to look for evidence that any future employer was committed to recruiting, retaining and developing underrepresented groups, and she strongly encourages others to do the same. "A lot of firms say all the right things, but I say that you need to look at the data. Actions always speak louder than words. When I look at a firm, I want to see evidence that there is progress for women and for Black lawyers, both right at the top and also at more junior levels."

Finally, Onose's top interview tip is to be yourself. "Show your personality and try not to be too nervous! You'll find that people are happy to help and remember, they were in your position once."

Onose is due to start as a trainee in our London office in September 2022.