Hi, I’m Sarah, a final year law student. As part of my Law LLB degree, I chose to do the Professional Training Year (PTY) from October 2020 to July 2021. This was because I wanted an opportunity to interact with sector professions and develop my knowledge of the professional practice.
My original plan at the start of 2020 was to split my year 50/50, doing study abroad in the first semester and work experience in the second semester. I chose to do this because I wanted to experience studying in a new city and also getting the opportunity to get legal work experience.
I was offered a place in Barcelona at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra and was really looking forward to attending. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I decided to move study abroad to the second semester and then eventually canceled it and ended up doing a full year of work experience.
How did you find the application process?
Although I was only planning on doing work experience in the second semester, in January 2020, I was already starting to prepare for the application process. This preparation made it much easier for me to adapt to the sudden change of having to look for placement opportunities at short notice.
I started by updating my CV and creating a standard cover letter. I went to the academic Hive on campus and had a meeting with one of the career advisors for support on this. I then created a LinkedIn account and activated alerts for the type of work experience I would be interested in. I also checked Surrey Pathfinder and other job websites on a regular basis.
By the time I decided to move study abroad for the second semester, I only had around a month to find a placement before the deadline, at the end of August. As I was under pressure, I was applying for multiple opportunities on a daily basis.
I applied to absolutely anything and everything that I thought could be relevant. Although very normal, I did not hear back from 70% of the placements I applied to, which was very frustrating at times. In my experience, it is best to just keep applying instead waiting on a response from a select few places, as it may take a very long time for them to get back to you or they may not get back to you at all.
By the end of August, I had secured three interviews. I received offers from all three, which put me in a difficult situation of having to reject two and pick one. Instead of completely rejecting the other two, I made sure to show my interest in potentially interning for them at a later point in the year.
By December, as the COVID-19 pandemic had gotten much worse, I cancelled study abroad and reached out to my previous contacts from August and was able to secure two more placements. I was fortunate to get work experience at Bonn Stiechen and Partners (BSP), Grant Thornton and Linklaters in Luxembourg.
What type of work did you do on your placement?
– Three months in the Banking & Finance/Capital Markets department at BSP
One of my most time-consuming roles was completing the KYC/AML (Know your Client/Anti-Money Lauding) checklist forms. I needed to use information from various documents provided by the clients as well as doing online research on the clients and their UBOs (Ultimate Beneficial Owners).
Other examples of my responsibilities include, drafting newsletters articles for the BSP website, doing research and creating internal memos and translation tasks of legal documents, from either English to French or French to English.
– Five months in the Business Advisory department at Grant Thornton
I focused on regulatory compliance and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). My main role was being responsible for the Regulatory Watch. This is a fee-paying service, which consisted of six different newsletters that provided regulatory updates to clients. This role consisted of research, writing summaries, creating newsletters and presenting this information to the department. I also participated in online data privacy and information security trainings.
– Three months in the Investment Funds department at Linklaters
I had the opportunity to work with each of the partners and many of the other team members. For over a period of four weeks I worked on due diligence.
I meticulously reviewed and reported on outsourcing agreements, internal audit reports, compliance reports and material correspondence with the CSSF. I was also often tasked to assist draft and amend legal opinions, several PPM (Private Placement Memorandum), resolutions of general meetings, subscription agreements, commitment agreements, side letters and nominee feeder/master agreements.
What do you think you gained from the experience?
Although the year did not go as originally planned, I had a great experience. I learned how to adapt to remote working and working in high-pressure environments. I was also forced to problem-solve and make decisions independently, which gave me confidence in my abilities and legal knowledge.
I think my biggest achievement was the positive feedback I received and that my work was actually being sent out to clients. I think I have come into my final year much more focused and driven. I also greatly benefitted from the insight into what it means to be a lawyer within the financial sector and the potential future career paths that I could take
What is your advice for future placement students?
1. Be open-minded to any opportunities that may present themselves
Be open-minded to any opportunities that may present themselves. The program is a great opportunity for you to challenge yourself and push yourself outside of your comfort zone. So, apply to that job position that you are interested in even if you feel unqualified. You never know what could happen and even if you do get rejected, just look at it as being another opportunity to have practised your interview skills.
2. You do not need to be an expert in the role you are applying for
The employers or recruitment office do not expect you to know everything. At the end of the day, you are only a second year student and they empathise with that. It is simply important to demonstrate that you are a pro-active student, who is interested in their company and willing to use the skills you have gained over the previous two years of study, to apply them to your new role.
3. Don’t compare yourself to your peers
Some people may secure their placement by January or only have had to apply to a few places before getting one. It is important to focus on what you want and to search for opportunities that would be interesting for you. You have plenty of time so do not rush into anything. You will likely be working for an entire year so it is important that it is something you are actually interested in.