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        Life at DWF

        We want everyone at the business, whether lawyer, support staff or central administration, to understand how their role contributes to the firm’s vision and strategy. How they fit into our business.

        We encourage everyone to ‘go further’ with regular training and development opportunities, annual and half year performance and development reviews and regular updates on the business’s performance and any big or transformational projects.

        We create a strong sense of listening, consultation and responsiveness across the firm. Seeking views and ideas at every opportunity. Acting on them and demonstrating that opinions, feedback and challenge count and make a difference. Projects and firm-wide initiatives involve champions and representatives from across the business. We encourage long-term collaborative relationships internally and externally through forums, roundtables and networking events. Learning and development is broad and easily accessible for all.

        Importantly, we recognise that to attract and retain the best people we need to think beyond just money, thinking creatively about benefits, policies and working practices that are focused on enabling everyone to do the best job they can. Whether that means dress down Friday or our Health & Wellbeing programme.

        Trainee Stories

        Our trainees, past and present, talk about their experiences and what life is really like at DWF.

        Read about Orla’s first year as a trainee and what attracted her to DWF...

        I was originally attracted to DWF because I was keen to start my career in a large, national, full service firm that offered trainees exposure to quality work across a variety of different departments. What is unique about DWF’s training contracts is their fourmonth six seat rotation, instead of the usual six months. This really appealed to me because I wasn’t sure about what areas of law I wanted to qualify into. Also, I particularly liked the focus the firm has on meritocracy: progression and reward aren’t about how long you’ve worked at DWF for; it’s about the value that you add.

        Has your first year been everything you expected?

        Yes, and so much more! Since joining DWF’s Edinburgh office in September 2013, I completed a double seat in Real Estate and have just transferred to our Glasgow office for my third seat in Insurance. I was pleased to complete a double seat in Real Estate as trainees are encouraged to take responsibility from an early stage so having eight months experience means I have been given exposure to a variety of transactions and I have gained a huge amount of experience in this area. You hear some ‘horror stories’ about training contracts where trainees are left to photocopy for hours on end or sent out to get the coffees. However nothing could be further from the truth at DWF. I have been encouraged to attend client meetings with Partners and other senior solicitors. It wasn’t long until they had me taking client meetings myself. I was delighted to be given this opportunity a nd I felt reassured that my supervisor had the confidence to let me do this. My third seat is much more court based so I am often travelling round to various sheriff councils in Scotland. I really enjoyed observing experienced members of Counsel examining and cross examining witnesses. I have relished how different this is from Real Estate as that is what a training contract is all about. I think it’s great that the firm recognise the contributions that trainees make and we’re often referred to as the ‘Partners of the future’.

        What has been your biggest challenge since joining the firm?

        My biggest challenge to date has got be joining the Insurance team. I was definitely thrown in at the deep end and was given my own cases to manage. This was a daunting prospect in the first few weeks but I was given all the help and support I needed. I never felt alone and there was always someone I could ask questions when I wasn’t sure. Also, commuting to Glasgow everyday means early mornings and late finishes but it is definitely worth it. I am enjoying every minute and would recommend moving across the offices to anyone.

        What else have you been up to? 

        Being a trainee isn’t all about the work. I am often able to get involved in lots of activities with all the other trainees. I’ve represented the firm in several sporting events including netball and touch rugby. And whilst I might not be a natural, it’s a great way of staying connected with the other trainees and building my network of other professionals from other organisations. There are also a lot of CSR activities to get involved with, from mentoring children in local schools to painting community centres and fun runs! I also spend a lot of time socialising with the trainees outside of work and recently attended the trainee dinner in Birmingham, where we got to spend time talking with DWF’s CEO, Andrew Leaitherland about the future direction of the firm.

        Application advice 

        The best advice I can give anyone is just to be themselves. You’ll spend a lot of time in work and with the people you’re working with so you need to make sure that wherever you apply is the right fit for you as much as you fitting with them. Overall my training contract has been great so far, there have defiantly been some challenging moments but I have thoroughly enjoyed every minute.

        Download Interview (pdf)

        Good luck, Orla!

        Find out how Joseph embarked upon a career in law after a successful career in physiotherapy.

        I hadn’t always intended to become a commercial lawyer, before joining DWF I enjoyed a successful career as a qualified physiotherapist and my interest in the law only started after I moved into an in-house medical advisor role, within the catastrophic personal injury team for a large law firm. I was instantly hooked and I decided to study my GDL and then apply for a training contract. I haven’t looked back since.

        Why does DWF appeal to you?

        DWF is a progressive and forward thinking firm and there are lots of opportunities for trainees who are aspiring to be its ‘Partners of the future’. However what I have enjoyed the most about my time a DWF is the collegiate atmosphere and how everyone works closely as a team, even the trainees who are placed in different locations around the UK.

        The current growth in our London office also brings exciting opportunities. From a trainee point of view, this growth has led to an exciting opportunity to experience different areas of law that wouldn’t be available in many ‘city firms’.

        What’s been the highlight so far?

        In my corporate seat, I was fortunate enough to be involved on an IPO for a Chinese based company. I had been assisting with preparing the documents and I was asked to travel to China with the leading partner to help with the verification process. This was an invaluable opportunity as it allowed me to use my language skills but also gave me a chance to interact with the client on a day to day basis. But most importantly, I got to fly business class which was a real treat.

        Outside of work, I am involved in the London office’s Corporate and Social Responsibility Group. The group organises regular volunteering activities outside of work such as providing support to students via a reading group or funding raising activities for our office nominated charity, St Joseph’s Hospice. Being part of this group has been immensely rewarding and also helps to promote the firm’s values.

        Briefly describe a typical day for you at DWF

        I tend to arrive at the office around 8.30am. This gives me time to prepare my day and also deal with any urgent emails. The tasks vary significantly depending on the seat that you are in. In my current seat, Pensions, I spend a lot of time reviewing and drafting pension deeds and providing advice to our clients who can be either the trustees or the company. In the corporate team, I was often involved in tasks such as drafting contracts, reviewing share purchase agreements, conducting verification and attending board meetings.

        I usually leave the office around 6.30pm although on occasions, I have stayed later due to a completion or meeting client deadlines. Even though you do sometimes have to work late, there isn’t the sense that you have to stay in the office just to be seen staying late. The work can be demanding and sometimes it’s stressful but the trainees are a close group and we always find time to catch up and support each other (usually in the canteen downstairs).

        What does the future hold?

        I am currently in my third seat and will not be qualifying until September 2015. At the moment I am interested in gaining as much experience as I can in both insurance and commercial sectors. Also, DWF’s London office have just moved into the ‘Walkie Talkie’ building so you never know what opportunities are around the corner.

        Any tips for students thinking of applying

        One of the most important things I have learnt from the recruitment process is to be prepared. You need to understand the firm you are applying for and what makes it tick. A dash of commercial awareness will also help.

        I would also recommend gaining legal work experience if you can as this will help make you stand out from other applicants and also allow you to demonstrate your experience and skills.
        Lastly, if you have come via a non-traditional route into law, please don’t think this will put you at a disadvantage. Having experience in other work sectors can be extremely valuable, given DWF’s sector approach. You’ll never know when your university chemistry degree may come in handy when dealing with a pharmaceutical company!

        Download Interview (pdf)

        Good luck, Joseph…

        Read about Agata’s exciting opportunity to complete a secondment with one of our prestigious clients.

        Agata

        DWF is a progressive firm which over the recent years demonstrated unparalleled growth and ever increasing success in terms of the market share and breadth and quality of client service on offer. I believe that this can be attributed to the unique sector approach which offers clients a comprehensive service from fee earners who are true experts in their respective industries. It also ensures that as each client relationship develops, DWF can maximise the earning potential. Working for such a driven firm would offer me great development prospects and career progression.

        I was also attracted by the number of large national and international household names which DWF acts for as this would lead to a greater quality of work. Having done my research into the firm it became apparent that responsibility and client exposure is encouraged from the outset. Lastly, it has always been important for me to work for a firm which looks after its employees and encourages community involvement. There are lots of opportunities for trainees to network across the firm and everyone is encouraged to contribute to the communities through volunteering and fund-raising.

        Highlight so far…

        At the beginning of my second year I was given the chance to undertake a client secondment at a global sports brand. Initially, having to spend 4 months working directly for one of DWF’s biggest clients was a daunting concept however; I quickly learnt that this was an opportunity not to be missed.

        During my time at the client I worked on some really exciting athlete contracts and sponsorship deals, I even got to meet a few famous names! My time there enabled me to gain a lot of experience and built my confidence. Working ‘in-house’ means that everyone looks at you as a legal counsel, you have daily client contact with people just popping by your office for ad hoc legal advice sessions. It is a whole new way of working and one which is very different to private practice. One of the most rewarding parts of my secondment was that I built a great relationship with the client and managed to make a few friends along the way.

        DWF is one of the few firms which offer a large number of client secondments. I would recommend this to everyone as a fantastic opportunity to broaden your training experience and raise your profile within the firm.

        What does the future hold?

        I am due to qualify in September this year and will be joining the Real Estate team in Manchester. Due to the 6-seat training structure at DWF, I have recently come back to Real Estate to complete my final seat here. Everyone in the team has made a real effort to increase my responsibility in anticipation of qualification. I am running a few of my own files and have even been assigned to a couple of designated client teams. This should ensure a smooth transition to being an NQ. I am really looking forward to spending some more time in my chosen field and building my experience and legal knowledge working alongside some top lawyers.

        Advice on applications

        When assessing candidates, the interviewers will want to know that they can comfortably put you in front of clients therefore, I think that it is very important to show some personality. Nobody likes robots! Also, always back up your claims with specific examples and try to match your skills with the firms requirements as best as you can. This will add credibility to your application, it will also create a clear structure for your interview. Remember that the interviewers will ask questions based on your application so if you provide specific examples, you are pre-empting some of the questions, making the interview process less stressful.

        Download Interview (pdf)

        Good luck, Agata…

        Read about Sophie’s experience with qualification and how she is finding life after her training contract.

        Finding the right firm, which compliments you as a person and as a future lawyer can make those Monday mornings worth getting up for! After completing my summer vacation scheme with DWF the decision was a simple one – I left itching to get started and knew that this was where I needed to be to get my career off to the best possible start.

        It was the people that attracted me to DWF as it was obvious that they enjoyed being a part of the firm and felt supported as well as challenged. During the two years of my training contract, I received a wealth of knowledge and experience and my supervisors encouraged me to become more involved with different aspects of the firm. This included running the netball team, taking part in CSR initiatives, participating in a mentoring programme and organising firm events, including the firm Christmas party. I completed seats in the Corporate, Commercial, Employment and Litigation teams, as well as a client secondment at a large UK retailer.

        Experience on qualification

        At the end of my training contract I was fortunate enough to be offered an NQ position in the Employment team. The transition from trainee to a newly qualified solicitor can often be quite daunting but DWF manages this process seamlessly.

        After qualification I was selected to go on a second client secondment. This provided me with invaluable ‘client side’ experience, exposed me to a high level of responsibility and required me to be a strong advocate for the firm. Now I have returned to DWF, I have started to develop my own case load and the supervision I receive is first rate. I have never felt unsupported or out of my depth. My supervisor is conscious to keep pushing and challenging me, which has not only developed my technical ability, but also my own personal confidence.

        My typical day

        I usually arrive at the office for around 8:30am. This gives me enough time to get a cup of tea and complete my ‘to do’ list for the day.
        A large proportion of my job is dealing with tribunal claims on behalf of our clients. Preparing for a tribunal case demands a high level of organisational skills, as your work is dictated by tribunal deadlines. It is important to clearly structure your work from the beginning.

        DWF also offer an ‘Employment Helpline Service’, which a lot of our clients make use of. This often means that I am dealing with a variety of different queries on a daily basis. Even after qualification, there is no such thing as a stupid question. In fact, the employment team will often get together to discuss a particularly complex or unusual issue together – and this is where I tend to learn the most.
        As well as chargeable work, a large proportion of my time is spent on non-chargeable matters. Most recently this has included managing the netball team, launching lunch time yoga sessions as part of our health and wellbeing programme and preparing ‘lunch and learn’ sessions.

        What the future holds

        As I approach my one year anniversary as a qualified solicitor, my focus is now on improving my technical ability. I hope to make use of all the opportunities available to me and to raise my profile across the firm. I also want to develop my advocacy skills for when I attend tribunals. I am really looking forward to the next chapter of my career and feel comforted knowing that my team are behind me every step of the way.

        Tips for students

        Don’t ever under estimate the importance of being you. You will develop the technical skills on the job but being able to get on with people, being comfortable with clients and working as part of a wider team are skills that are highly valued at DWF.

        Download Interview (pdf)

         

        Good luck, Sophie…