Senior associate and former tennis professional Nick Ames shares his thoughts on interviews, the firm’s culture and the importance of an open mind.
Being a lawyer was my second career choice.
I had ambitions of being a professional tennis player, having started playing tennis when I was very young. Once I’d got my A-levels, I was fortunate enough to get a tennis scholarship to university in America, so I went out there for three years and played tennis while studying for a degree. During that passage of time I came to the reality that I was not going to be a top 100 tennis player. In order to make a living as a professional tennis player, you really need to be within the top 100 players in the world. So I began to focus my thinking on what my second career could be. I decided to pursue a law degree at Manchester University, which I really enjoyed.
Most people here have excelled at something other than law, even if they don’t shout about it.
To be successful, you have to be driven, and I think this pays off when you’re working at Freshfields.
I chose Freshfields for two reasons: the work and the culture.
Obviously, before choosing the firm for you, you have to go through the process of understanding the different types of firm that exist and which of those might be the right fit for you. I narrowed down my choice to Freshfields and two similar firms. All of them had excellent clients, did international work and had stellar reputations. I was most attracted to Freshfields because the people I met were fantastic; engaging and very welcoming. When I came here for the interview day and other recruitment events it seemed an exciting environment and one which, crucially, I could actually see myself working in.
We do demanding work for demanding clients, so at times it can get intense.
But if you come here with the right attitude, you’ll find that it’s also a very collaborative and open environment in which you can express your views. And you really get involved in some top-quality work.
There really is no typical day and, for most people, that is what’s great about working for a firm like Freshfields.
We’re a firm that does market-leading, unique, transformational work and one that requires you to take responsibility. Every day, you will do different things on a daily basis for a range of different matters. I sit within our dispute resolution practice group and that means that the type of work can be markedly different to a number of our other practice groups, which focus on transactional work. Generally speaking, disputes run for a longer period of time than transactional pieces of work because they are following some kind of external timetable, whether that’s for an arbitration, piece of court litigation or an investigation. Therefore, it’s possible to manage your workload a bit better than transactional work, but there are obviously peaks and troughs.
I came into my training contract with a completely open mind,
and this really helped me get the most out of it. As the training contract progressed, my experience in a range of seats gave me a much clearer idea of what type of lawyer I wanted to be and ultimately where I wanted to qualify. I encourage all of the trainees who sit with me to endeavour to approach their training contract with an open mind. Until you have experienced working in a firm and understand the different areas of it, it doesn't make sense to me to come to a view based on of a preconceived idea of what you may or may not enjoy.
I had limited experience of London before I moved here, but I’ve been here for nearly ten years now and I love it.
We’re very fortunate with where we get to work and the opportunities that present themselves in terms of social activities and with such great access to bars, restaurants and venues. It really is a fantastic place to live and work.
The social opportunities the firm provides are fantastic.
I run the tennis club here (unsurprisingly) and the firm subsidises it. Every other year we go abroad on a tennis tour. The encouragement and funding the firm gives to clubs, networks and societies is testament to the belief that people need to have a life as well as their work.
The clue is in the title when it comes to interview preparation – you’ve got to prepare for it.
Consider the areas that law firms are interested in, which you can find in the various materials that are available. Take time to reflect on your own achievements and skills and think about how you match up with the desired criteria. People sometimes come across as over-prepared and robotic when actually what the interviewer wants is to understand who you are and how that matches up against what they are looking for.
I enjoy doing community work, and there are lots of pro bono opportunities too.
During my time at Freshfields, I’ve enjoyed working at a school in East London mentoring children. I do enough law, so I like doing something a bit different that also contributes to society. Trainees and vacation students can all get involved in firm initiatives during their time with us. It’s an active side of the firm that’s very well supported. I think it’s very impressive.
The best Freshfields perk: getting to work with such top-quality people on great matters.