Smriti Kalra 4th year NLSIU student on getting a training contract from Linklaters

Smriti Kalra is a fourth-year student at NLSIU, Bangalore. She recently bagged a training contract from Linklaters, London. She will be joining the office in 2022. She has been interviewed by EBC-SCC Online Student Ambassador Anushree Jain. 

  1. How would you like to introduce yourself to our readers?

My name is Smriti Kalra, I’m a 21-year old law student from Gurgaon, currently in my 4th year at NLSIU, Bangalore. I’m just another law school student that’s done the rigours of ye olde mooting, debating and being on journals and some not-so-usual things like theatre and being part of the editorial team for Quirk – NLS’s magazine! I can usually be found in the library stressing over deadlines or chilling with my friends at some quaint Bangalore café.

2. What are your other interests, hobbies?

I really enjoy travelling and experiencing new places and cultures. I’m also reviving my habit of reading since I have more time on my hands now and I’m learning how to cook and do yoga.

3. Please could you tell us a bit about the Internship and the Training Contract? 

The Linklaters Indian Clerkship (as the internship is formally called) is a four-week internship programme which is conducted once a year at their London office. It’s a very enriching experience and time really flies by! It begins with a set of orientations to familiarise you with their working culture, the ethos of the firm, their pro-bono activities, their diversity initiatives and how you can make the most of your time with them. Over the course of the four weeks, each intern gets to sit at 2 different departments (allotted based on the intern’s preferences) for a period of two weeks. The firm also ensures exposure to other practice areas by conducting practice overview sessions where a team comes and talks to you about the kind of work that they do in that department. Another very exciting part of these four weeks is the set of weekly social and networking events arranged for us – ranging from ice-skating at Somerset House, Asian cooking at Covent Garden, stunning play at the National Theatre and a sit-down dinner and drinks with partners.

In terms of the work – it is not particularly demanding, but you are expected to be able to research and write succinctly and clearly. Make sure you keep an eye out for any typos and submit work on time or convey your inability to do so well in advance – they value attention to detail, punctuality and sincerity. In addition to the feedback from your mentor, team and your trainee buddy, you are also assessed based on the quality of your project (an assignment broken into 3 weekly written tasks) and the interview (conducted in Week 4) – and if all goes well, you are offered a Training Contract on your last day!

The Training Contract is a 2 year contract with the firm, wherein you join at the trainee level and at the end of the 2 years, you are likely to get offered a formal Associate job position – all going well! Over the course of these 2 years, you get the chance to sit at 4 different seats (departments) for a period of 6 months each and are evaluated at each seat by the team. This allows you to choose which seat you’d be best suited for.

4. What about your previous achievements? Did they help in any way during the interview process?

I think everything you’ve done in law school that has gotten you where you are, helps in one way or another. Mooting and debating helped me cultivate meticulous research skills, be able to articulate thoughts clearly and respond to questions. Traveling and even doing something as unconnected as theatre gives you unique experiences to talk about and teaches you to be spontaneous, which is as important as thorough preparation.

Most of all, I would recommend honest introspection and giving a mock round/saying your answers out loud when you’re preparing for the interview.

5. What is the process for applying for the internship? When does it start? 

The Linklaters applications were due this year on 31 July 2019 and all penultimate year law students are eligible. As per the previous format which required three essay type questions followed by the Watson Glaser test – this year, they’re changing the format and it’s likely to take much lesser time.

Applicants are then shortlisted for the assessment day (HR interview, Technical interview and the e-tray case study exercise) and out of the 18 shortlisted for the assessment stage this year, 5 of us were selected for the vacation scheme/internship.

6. What all areasare to be covered? Did you work on any specific skills?

I would advise focussing on developing commercial awareness (recent business news, working knowledge of financial terms etc) and an understanding of the legal landscape in London (which are the Magic Circle firms, what role a trainee plays, what kind of work is handled, who are their clients). As someone who isn’t too extroverted, I also learnt to reduce my mental barriers on making conversation and interacting with people once I was on the vacation scheme.

Make sure you keep an eye out for all the helpful information and advice put out by the Graduate Recruitment teams of such firms, they’re useful too!

7. What sources did you rely on for your preparation? (Blogs, Books, Commercial awareness sources)

Some of my notes from particularly two courses in college which were helpful (Venture Capital Financing by Mr. Lalu J. Philip and Commercial Remedies and the Law by Mr. Mihir Naniwadekar). Apart from that, I trawled through a lot of different blogs to compile a list of important terms and concepts and happenings in the commercial world. Practical Law (by Thompson Reuters) and Financial Times are frequently used resources but there’s no set formula because the resources at your disposal and the amount of knowledge you already have in this field differs from person to person.

8. Any tips for the readers?

Be calm, confident and candid. Remember to be professional at all times but not too uptight or deferential. Make sure to highlight the best in you, let it show that you’re genuinely excited to join them and that your values align with theirs. An interview isn’t just about technical competence but a lot about making sure you and the firm are a good fit for each other so do make sure you look up the firm!

9.How was your visit to London? (As a city)

Oh, I absolutely love London as a city! I’d been there before a couple of years back but living in it this time for an entire month, coupled with meeting wonderful new people from across the world, being taken careby the firm and seeing off-beat parts of the city was truly memorable. I’ve made friendships I’ll always cherish and I look forward to returning soon to get in more of the city’s culture and history!

10. How was your office experience? How was your day like? How different is it from Indian corporate culture? 

I really liked the firm’s culture and the kind of work I was given. I would begin my day at office at 9:30 am and would leave around 6:00 pm. As compared to Indian law firm culture – I noticed a lot of differences. First, from my conversations with people and my observations – the work life balance appeared to be better (which of course doesn’t mean that everyone left in the evening – late nights are inevitably a part of the profession we’ve signed up for!) – and a lot of people actively pursued their hobbies/sports and took time off to travel. Second, they didn’t have as rigid hierarchies and even as in intern, I felt that everyone, ranging from the partners to the associates, was approachable and encouraging. Any work that was given was well explained along with the context of the case/matter and the knowledge resources of the firm were very impressive. Third, they’re far more focussed and hands-on with regards to their approach to recruitment – their Graduate Recruitment team was very responsive, very professional in providing constant feedback, was always there for us and conducted several sessions and social events very well (contrasted with the HR team at a particular Indian leading law firm that has yet to pay us our stipend pending since the past few months :P)! Last but not the least, Linklaters’ focus on mental health and diversity was very heartening to see!

11. Is there anyone you’d like to thank who helped you achieve this feat?

Absolutely! First and foremost, I’d like to thank my parents for always encouraging me and being my constant pillars and my friends in college for being my much needed support system. I’d also like to thank all the seniors who had been through this and took out time to guide me and review my application – there are too many to name but I’ll always be very grateful to each one of them!

12. What advice would you give to the law students? Is there anything else you would like to tell our readers?

My advice would be to not run after jobs/achievements – Indian or foreign, simply because it’s “cool” – do take the time out to think about what you’d like to do and whether you’d like to try out something like this and your conviction to pursue a path will definitely reflect in preparation. I’ve also learnt that rejection often teaches you more than success and learning to take things in stride is essential. Most importantly, believe in yourselves, do not constantly compare and take care of yourselves in the dreaded recruitment season!

Also, do not stress during you vacation scheme however hard that may seem – time really flies by and you should make the most of your time in London!

One comment

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    Hi, that was a very interesting and informative interview. It’s amazing how there are such great opportunities that our students can take advantage of and learn the best practices from other countries.

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