Howard Li, 23, is a trainee solicitor with Simmons & Simmons in London. He graduated from Leeds University with a degree in Law and completed his Legal Practice Course the following year
What do you do in your job?
At the moment I’m on secondment to a hedge fund client of Simmons & Simmons. What I’m doing is a bit different from the work that I undertook at the law firm. I’m now looking at everything from the client’s point of view, and liaising with Simmons & Simmons rather than the other way around. The secondment has allowed me to get a good idea of what is happening in the client’s offices.
At the law firm, I try to get hedge funds off the ground, which typically involves drafting legal documents, managing the parties involved in the project, and regular communication with the clients through the entire structuring process. The hours are about 9.30am to 9pm, although this can vary. The good thing about Simmons & Simmons is that it doesn’t expect you to stay if you don’t need to. When you come into the City to work at a big international firm, you don’t expect to work nine to five. But as long as you enjoy the work and get along with the people, it doesn’t feel like a job.
What was your motivation in applying?
I knew I wanted to work in the financial sector, particularly in the City. In my second year at uni I was vice president of the Law Society and had the opportunity to visit several big City firms to raise sponsorship. This gave me a good insight into what the firms were like. At Simmons & Simmons I found everything I was looking for: it was professional, approachable and friendly. The place really fitted my personality, and was also the type of finance–focused firm that I wanted to work with.
Plus, do remember a big bonus to securing a position with a major firm such as Simmons & Simmons is that many of them pay all the fees for your Legal Practice Course, and a maintenance grant.
What do you enjoy about your job?
Aside from the work, a lot of the time it comes down to the people. The firm is dynamic and ambitious. The lawyers are motivated and fun to be with. I enjoy meeting new people and working as a team. The last thing I want is to be stuck in a room by myself.
Most challenging part of the job?
Some of the trading documents are highly technical, and involve a lot of specialised terminology. But once you get your head around it, dealing with these can be quite satisfying.
Advice to readers considering a career in your field:
Get involved in extra–curricular activities at uni. It gives you a more rounded CV, and positions with societies can give you the opportunity to speak to firms that you are interested in.
I’d also recommend stepping back and thinking about what your unique selling point is. I’m Canadian, can speak multiple languages and have a lot of international experience. Many of the big City firms are international too, so that was my unique selling point.
Competition for places in City law firms is intensely competitive. So it’s worth thinking about applying for a vacation scheme. This will help you to get your foot in the door and give you hands–on experience. Such a scheme could put you head and shoulders above other candidates when it comes to applying. In some big firms, between 50 and 60% of the summer placement students go on to be offered a full–time job.
Howard also points out that many of the big law firms will sponsor graduates through their Legal Practice Course, which means a massive saving.