Rachel's Trainee Experience at Bird & Bird

Name: Rachel Callender

Degree: BA Environmental Policy, MPhil Environmental Policy (Cantab), LLB (Hons)

University: Middlebury College, Vermont USA; University of Cambridge, Queens’ College

Seats to date: Dispute Resolution, Aviation, Commercial

Current seat: Corporate

What attracted you to a career in law?

I had quite a non-conventional introduction to the law. As a child I was very outspoken and enjoyed fact-checking my parents, much to their annoyance, and my father always used to say he had a lawyer on his hands. But I never paid him any mind. I believed my lifetime career would be as an environmentalist. During my Masters in environment at Cambridge, I completed a mandatory course in Environmental Law and developed a close relationship with both the subject matter and the Professor. This Professor, who was also my dissertation supervisor, told me I had a natural knack for the probative and told me about the GDL. I knew nothing about a path to law having never lived in the UK prior to my Masters, but this Professor guided me through the particulars and I began my GDL, obtained a Bird & Bird training contract, and voila!

Why did Bird & Bird stand out to you from the rest of the law firms?

As most law students are painfully aware, applying for training contracts can be a bit of a numbers game. Many applications are completed during the application process and it can almost feel monotonous to answer the various iterations of similar application questions . I started feeling that way until I reached the application for Bird & Bird. It was simply unique. While contemplating “how Bird & Bird” I was, I knew this firm was a place that would embrace difference and be welcoming to an international student with no GCSEs or A levels (as I have international equivalents), and a non-law background. And sure enough, this turned out to be true!

What do you think made your application successful in securing a training contract?

The Bird & Bird application was one where I felt encouraged to express my personality. So I took the risk of being quite unapologetically myself and thoroughly enjoyed completing it. If you were to look at my application to Bird & Bird alongside my application to any other firm at the time, the difference would be stark!

What was your childhood dream job?

As a very young child, I was convinced that the greatest job in the world was being a nanny. I was a very social child and loved being around other young children so I figured the greatest thing would be to never have to stop interacting with them. I quickly got over that when my younger brother was born and for the rest of my childhood I wanted to save the world from pollution and deforestation – hence my two environmental degrees!

Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?

I imagine that in 5 years I will still be in private practice hopefully working in Commercial law. However, one of my personal 5-10 year goals is to start a foundation empowering women into entrepreneurship and financial independence through the provision of microloans, business training and facilitating technology. Stay tuned for the launch!

One piece of advice you would you give someone who is looking to go into law?

Do not be intimidated by other people’s stories about their journey into law. Do not let the numbers put you off. If the law is what you want to do, throw yourself into it wholeheartedly. Work hard and be yourself at every turn and the right firm will find you. Reflect a little on what you have to bring to the table that would make you stand out from other candidates and maximise on these in your applications – they are your differentiators and your greatest strengths. Lastly, the practice of law is far more exciting than the degrees! If you found your LLB or the GDL a bit tedious, don’t worry, I have not yet come across Donoghue v Stevenson at the office!

Thinking back on your time at Bird & Bird, what has been your most memorable experience?

My most memorable experience to date has been flying to Toulouse on short notice as the sole representative from Bird & Bird to attend the delivery of an Airbus aircraft for a client. I was two weeks into my aviation seat when this happened and I was admittedly terrified. However the associate involved guided me through all the documentation and formalities of the process and it all went like clockwork. The trip was a great learning experience and the closing celebratory champagne was very much enjoyed!

What has been your greatest challenge at the firm?

My greatest challenge at the firm has likely been having discussions around qualification – I have thoroughly enjoyed all my seats to date and choosing between them is no easy feat!

What is your guilty pleasure?

I must confess to having several of these, but I have to say the guiltiest pleasure is probably my very expensive hobby of attending the opera. There is nothing like dramatic tragedy and overly passionate love to revive the soul!