I really, really enjoyed my time on SPARK 2020. What graduate recruitment were able to achieve, having taken the scheme virtual, was extremely impressive, especially given the limited time they had to adapt. The talks were highly engaging and genuinely helpful, containing a lot of information you could call upon in future interviews. The daily tasks were thorough and interesting, and the virtual setting allowed us to collaborate with peers we'd met on the scheme, so that ended up being a big advantage to the online environment. The daily reflections were surprisingly valuable, and forced me to properly evaluate what I'd learnt and achieved each day, which, again, was helpful for future interviews, and quite rewarding.
This is where graduate recruitment at Clifford Chance stand out - they are by far the most personable HR team I've encountered at any firm so far. From start to finish they made the most effort to look after me - from Zoe welcoming us warmly and keeping us calm at the assessment centre, to Yasmina just having a really personable and down to earth way of talking to us, treating everyone as adults. They took our questions seriously, responded promptly to emails, and, from what I saw, made a lot of effort to accommodate people's individual circumstances. The whole team were lovely and did a fantastic job.
Although nothing went wrong, all the support I might have needed was available to me. There was a help function on the InsideSherpa platform that was there to help should any technical issues arise (not that they did for me), and graduate recruitment were always there if you needed to email them. The tasks, whilst challenging, were very self-explanatory and we were given all the information we needed to carry them out confidently. The bottom line is, the scheme and its various components were designed clearly enough that I didn't really need any support, but it was made very clear that graduate recruitment were always available if I did, which was comforting.
The skills required for the tasks are what I would consider essential skills not only for my degree but also for the legal profession and life in general - research skills, attention to detail, organisational skills, time management, written and verbal communication skills, teamwork skills, and many more. Carrying out the tasks each day ensured we put all of these into practice, and the reflections ensured we thought about what we could perhaps improve on before doing the following day's task and participating in the interactive workshops, some of which contained case studies, requiring us to call on these skills to actively engage in answering questions and contribute ideas and solutions.
Very well structured, a nice balance of talks, activities, tasks and networking, which slotted together very nicely. The schedule was packed full, which was great, but breaks were included, which gave us a bit of breathing space. One thing I particularly liked was the fact that for some sessions we were given a choice between a few different options, which was potentially something that was only made possible by the virtual environment. These smaller sessions allowed for a slightly more intimate setting, and allowed us to ask a few more questions, which was really valuable. The evenings were left for the daily tasks, which worked well and allowed me plenty of time to get them done to a standard I was happy with.
Everyone was lovely, no competitive nastiness or anything untoward. I think this was in part down to graduate recruitment making it clear that we weren't competing against each other and there was no need for any sharp elbows, but also everyone on the scheme just seemed to be genuinely interesting/interested in other people, which contributed to a nice, positive atmosphere throughout. When I say I made friends with people on the scheme I genuinely mean it - four of us still regularly chat on a Whatsapp group that we made during the scheme in order to help each other with the daily tasks.
They gave us everything they had - online resources, access to their careers portal, access to Clifford Chance Academy (which is an online training platform usually reserved for trainees) and obviously the chance to speak to lawyers face to face. They also gave everyone feedback on their interview performance. I struggle to see what more they could have given us - we got to carry out typical trainee tasks, we got to use the materials trainees get to use to learn whilst they're on the job, and there were also workshops on things like personal branding, so we were given a lot.
We were given tasks that reflected the typical activities of a trainee, so, whilst we didn't get to go into the office due to the pandemic, the scheme did a really good job of emulating the sort of work we might do as a junior lawyer at Clifford Chance. A group of us worked together on the tasks in the evenings, which made me feel even more like a trainee, working alongside peers from my cohort.
We had numerous talks on the various diversity networks that Clifford Chance operates, which gave us a real insight into the firms genuine commitment to broadening access to the profession. It was greatly encouraging to see passionate people in charge of these networks, showing there is substance behind the firm's claims to be serious about equality, diversity and inclusion. Besides this, all the lawyers we met were highly engaged, interesting, pleasant people, which was obviously very encouraging, and they were all very positive about the working environment, so I feel we got to know the firm's culture quite a lot during the scheme.
It certainly galvanised a pre-existing desire to pursue this profession, and I'm very grateful for that. The content was fundamentally interesting enough for me to want to learn more, which hopefully bodes well for the future, and the sorts of people we met at the firm are without a doubt the calibre of highly intelligent, interesting, diverse and driven people I would like to work alongside. So the experience definitely confirmed for me that this is still the career I want to embark upon.
I think the pay is pretty generous for this scheme - and even after it was shifted online due to the pandemic (meaning we could no longer shadow individual lawyers and subsequently carry out any kind of supportive work/tasks for them), they still offered to pay us the full amount. Before it was shifted online, they were ready to operate a bursary scheme which was able to reimburse travel fees for those that needed it, and also hotel accommodation in London if required.
Every day we met new people from the firm and had the opportunity to ask questions and chat to people. There was trainee networking, where we could ask candid questions about trainees' specific practice areas or wider experience of the firm, and, crucially, graduate recruitment weren't there, so we could feel pretty uninhibited with our questions. We were also all assigned a trainee buddy who was available to contact at any point during the scheme, so that was a really helpful contact to have.
Considering the virtual environment, I thought the socials were great, and nicely positioned throughout the days. The highlight for me was the risotto cooking class, which ended up being pretty tough actually - keeping up with a live chef going fairly quickly through a not entirely straightforward recipe was a solid challenge, but it was worth it in the end as the risotto came out well and lasted several days! Other more chilled sessions included normal video networking with each other and even a live yoga class, which went down well!
Yes - we found out about the firm's numerous pro-bono opportunities, from casework to community engagement activities and beyond. My trainee's pro-bono work sees him read books to children at a primary school near the office, which sounds pretty fun. There are also a tonne of social groups and clubs, including sports and music societies, so there's clearly a lot going on outside the workplace. There's also a swimming pool at the top of the building, so that got a mention!
This is quite clearly the best 1st year commercial law work experience programme in the City. I was told this before I applied, and I still believe it having done it in its adapted, virtual setting. I've done several other first year schemes, at numerous other firms that directly compete with this firm, and I can confidently say that more effort has gone into SPARK than any other I've done. So, if you want the best scheme you can do in the first year of your degree, do this one - it will, in my opinion, give you the fullest picture of life as a commercial solicitor that you can possibly expect to get from a work shadowing scheme, at this stage in your life.
Central London and City
25th November 2020