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London trainee Sahal on paying it forwards

January 2021: Sahal Suleman talks to us about his journey from student to trainee lawyer and why he feels a responsibility to share what he has learnt with other aspiring lawyers.

"The first time I heard about White & Case was at an event organised as part of Rare Recruitment's Articles Programme back in 2015," remembers Londoner Sahal. "One of the partners, Inigo Esteve, spoke so enthusiastically about the Firm and his work. This really stayed with me and so I applied for the summer vacation scheme the following year." 

Getting to know White & Case

What were the highlights of the vacation scheme? Sahal says that it was a combination of the work and the people. "First of all, it was a true insight into the work that commercial lawyers actually do—the deadlines, the day-to-day tasks, the collaboration. The office was incredibly diverse – you can hear a dozen different languages just walking down the halls. Most of all, I found everyone approachable and open to all my questions."

Paying it forwards

After accepting the offer of a training contract at White & Case, Sahal decided to broaden his horizons before starting at the Firm. "I joined Rare Recruitment to help others achieve what I had—a training contract with a top global law firm. There have been so many people that have helped me along the way and I wanted to pay it forwards. And it's also incredibly personally rewarding when I hear from someone that I have helped that they have got that interview or been selected for a vacation scheme." 

"Every careers event, every conversation… it all adds up"

What kind of knowledge or advice does he offer? "Above all, to take advantage of every opportunity. Every careers event, every conversation with a recruiter or employee at a firm, every piece of feedback or offer to get in touch—it all adds up and gets you where you want to go. Also, I strongly advise candidates to fine-tune their application or covering letter and practice their interview responses. It's about maximising all the incremental improvements that you can make to present yourself in the best possible light." 

Staying in touch as a future trainee

Sahal says that he has stayed in regular touch with the Firm. "It was a revelation to me that the Graduate Resourcing & Development team stay in regular contact with trainees, both before they start and during the two-year training contract. It was easy to keep in touch and I felt connected to the Firm even before I actually started working there."

Gaining first-hand business experience

Having now completed the LPC, Sahal has gained first-hand commercial experience at a fintech startup. "Being part of business development efforts, managing client relationships, understanding what the different internal teams need—all of this is great experience for working as a lawyer." 

Supporting the next generation of aspiring lawyers

Along with a friend, Sahal continues to share his accumulated knowledge with aspiring lawyers, via an email newsletter offering advice and answering their questions. 

"One of the most common questions is about interview preparation," he says. "From my experience, you can anticipate the kinds of questions that you will be asked and practice your response. For example, any employer is likely to ask why you want to work for them. Do your research and make sure you have a good answer ready to go. That way, even if you stumble over your words on the day, you will be able to pick it up again."