Joseph Luke

1. How did you find out about the Undergraduate of the Year competition and what made you apply?

I found out about the UGOTY award from an email asking for applications which was sent around by TARGETjobs to my university. I decided to apply when I saw that there was an LGBT+ award, because I was doing some work as a Stonewall Youth Ambassador at the time and I was hoping that the award might be useful in lending some weight to my activism. I also hoped that some recognition might lead to further initiatives like mine, which aimed to offer training on language sensitivity and safe spaces, being adapted in other areas, such as at Clifford Chance. Finally, I was hoping to gain some insight into the level of inclusivity at Clifford Chance.

2. How did you find the selection process and assessment day?

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the selection process and assessment day, as I had never done anything like this before, especially with such a successful firm. I was actually happily surprised by the interviews, as the recruitment team were so friendly and my interviewers were much less interrogative than I expected. Instead, I actually had two interesting discussions, which I enjoyed far more than I had thought I would.

3. What were the highlights of your work experience placement with Clifford Chance?

The highlight of my work placement at Clifford Chance was definitely shadowing Eleanor, an Associate in Employment, for a full day. I was very unaware of employment law before the shadowing, and I found it so engaging! The work I was doing wasn’t especially complicated, but the exposure to the specific cases and the way that everything was explained so thoroughly to me, and that I was doing real work for the cases, was so exciting. I also did an exercise for another member of the Employment group, drafting an amendment to a clause in an employment contract. I am a non-law student so I had never done anything like it before, but it was so interesting to give it a go! I didn’t get everything 100% correct, of course, but having the feedback of how to improve was fantastic.

4. What did you find most surprising about the culture and workplace at Clifford Chance?

The most surprising thing for me about the culture at Clifford Chance was how warm and friendly the atmosphere was in the offices. It seemed like the groups were really integrated as a team, everyone knew everyone and it was amazing to see the working dynamic even just for a day. I was also impressed by the day-to-day facilities and services that CC offer their staff; the secretaries and tech teams were so helpful and kind, and I think having people like that around to help you in your daily work would be a massive advantage.

5. What was the most useful thing you learnt on the placement?

I think, in all honesty, the most useful thing I learnt was that you don’t need a ton of technical knowledge from day one to work at Clifford Chance. People really wanted to help me learn about their work, and at first I was worried that without a background in law I would be overwhelmed and not capable of anything. Of course there were things I didn’t know, but when I asked a question I received a detailed answer which really made it easy to engage with the scheme. I think learning that law is an apprenticeship and is facilitated by continual improvement was the biggest learning experience for me.

6. What advice would you give individuals considering applying next year?

To individuals considering applying next year, I would say this: if you want to learn, come to Clifford Chance. You shouldn’t be discouraged by your own negative thoughts - if you think you have the potential to do well in a career like law, at a firm like CC, then go for it. In my experience, CC really invest in their people, and put a big focus on training and continuous improvement. The worst that can happen is you don’t get the gig, and even then it will be a learning experience with good feedback. Of course, if you think you aren’t ready or it’s not right for you, don’t force it, but don’t hold yourself back.