Danielle Stobie is a future trainee solicitor at Clifford Chance LLP in London. She read International Relations and Modern History at the University of St Andrews, where she held the position of President of the Law Society. Danielle has recently commenced her legal career by completing the Graduate Diploma in Law.
How did you decide to pursue a legal career and in commercial law specifically?
Law has always appealed to me, but I decided to do my undergraduate degree in International Relations and Modern History first in order to have a broader and more theoretical academic experience before going on to pursue my professional interests.
I joined the University of St Andrews Law Society in my first year as Sub-Honours Representative and gained a greater insight into the industry by attending their events and meeting leading lawyers throughout the course of my university career. I also completed insight days and summer internships at various firms, which further helped me realise this was a well-suited career path for me.
I am particularly attracted by the intersection of law, business, and politics in the field of commercial law specifically and am looking forward to engaging with the pressing contemporary challenges corporations and governments alike face.
What societies and extracurricular activities did you get involved in at University?
During my time at St Andrews, I was President of the Law Society and oversaw events such as “Women in Law” and the “Law Fair Networking Dinner”. I further held the positions of Director of Finance of the Management Society, Group People Officer of the Economic Policy and Research Group, and Student Ambassador for the University. I also joined the committees of charities Children of Rwanda and SENSE as Director of Operations & Logistics and Director of Sponsorship & Communications, respectively.
The “Bubble” is wholly unique insofar as its tight-knit environment means it is a fantastic place to get involved with ample student and community initiatives, particularly at sub-honours level when students typically have more free time outside of academic work.
What skills did these experiences offer and how did you highlight this in your applications?
Extracurricular activities are crucial in the recruitment process for boosting graduate career prospects. Active membership and engagement in student-led clubs show employers that you are able to build relationships, commit to meeting objectives, and collaborate on projects.
My experiences on committees at St Andrews gave me invaluable leadership and team working experiences and helped me stand out in the highly competitive selection processes. I demonstrated that I was able to develop my communication, critical thinking, and public speaking skills by specifying the particular initiatives, events, and projects in which I was involved. Such experiences are undoubtedly a great way to show that you will be able to communicate at ease in collaborative and challenging professional environments.
How did you find the GDL?
The GDL was certainly an adjustment from my undergraduate degree, insofar as it had a much broader scope and more practical, rather than an academic, focus. The exam assessments are largely based on problem-solving questions, which meant having to learn how to apply technical laws to specific scenarios with accurate precision.
The biggest challenge was having to juggle seven core modules at the same time – Constitutional and Administrative Law, Contract Law, Criminal Law, Equity & Trusts Law, EU Law, Land Law, and Tort Law. This means a higher quantity of content and reading is packed into one year, although this is definitely manageable by approaching the course from a formulaic stance and maintaining good time-keeping skills.
What have your experiences at Clifford Chance been like? What drew you to the firm and how did you find your vacation scheme?
Clifford Chance is consistently the leader in its field – whether finance, corporate, or litigation. The complex and technical work they undertake offered a stimulating challenge, while their truly global culture presented a great opportunity to work with a diverse range of people on exciting transnational deals.
I completed the Summer Vacation Scheme in my penultimate year. The scheme was well-balanced between insight workshops, networking events, and working alongside lawyers in two different practice areas (Public Mergers & Acquisitions and Project Finance). We were even taken to Amsterdam for a business skills development workshop, which demonstrated the firm’s truly global nature. The two weeks enabled me to gain a genuine insight into the support, working culture, and opportunities that Clifford Chance offers its trainees and to better understand the facets of commercial law. The strong focus on high-quality training and professional development, combined with the friendliness and enthusiasm of those at all levels of the firm, made it a highly enjoyable and insightful experience.
What are you most looking forward to for your training contract?
I am greatly looking forward to re-joining the firm as a full-time trainee and putting into practice the skills I have learnt while studying law so far. The prospect of gaining exposure to a variety of practice areas while consistently being at the centre of cutting-edge, cross-border work is exciting.
Trainees undertake four practice area seats across the two years, which ensures that they are able to explore different areas of law in line with their personal interests. There is also an opportunity to undertake an international secondment and build relationships across Clifford Chance’s community. I am looking forward to getting stuck in and actively engaging with the commercial, regulatory, and legal issues underpinning exciting transformations in the legal sector.
What key advice do you have for fellow St Andrews students considering a career in law?
Do your research. Be able to show why you are genuinely interested in law as a career and why you have chosen to apply to the particular firm that you have. Think about what kind of law you would like to specialise in and show that you have a comprehensive understanding of a specific firm’s expertise and culture. Do not underestimate the power of tailoring your application to your own personal experiences, no matter how varied they may be.
Develop your commercial awareness. Show that you keep up to date with the key developments in the business world. I found Christopher Stoake’s “Know the City” and Jake Schogger’s “Commercial Law Handbook” particularly helpful as starting points in this area.
Do not be afraid to attend events, ask questions, and engage with practitioners. Seek out exposure to the industry, whether by attending networking events and presentations, actively looking for legal experience, or reaching out to practicing alumni. Any experience is worthy experience, even if to figure out that law is not the right fit career-wise for you.
Join the Law Society. Given the absence of a Law faculty at the University, their events provide a great opportunity to meet practising lawyers, acquire mooting experience, and gain a more practical and commercial understanding of the profession.