Can you give me a brief background of yourself?
My name is Yoon So and I am a future trainee solicitor at White & Case. I spent my childhood in South Korea and moved to London when I was 10 years old. I studied French and German with a year abroad at University College London and obtained my training contract in my final year of university. I then completed the GDL and am now studying the LPC at BPP University.
How has your languages degree helped shape your legal career?
I think studying languages has helped me in so many ways. In general, a lot of law firms are thrilled to have students with language skills because their clients are global and lawyers from different jurisdictions work together all the time. The lawyers in White & Case’s London office alone represent 55 nationalities and speak 36 languages and the firm offers a guaranteed international secondment to all of its trainees. Being able to speak other languages could therefore be really helpful.
In terms of practicality, having a year abroad also meant that I had an extra year to conduct more research into different firms, attend open days and make applications. This has definitely helped me a lot. Some people even go on to work at law firms on their year abroad, which would be an amazing experience and would help them with their vacation scheme and training contract applications in the future.
How did you choose what type of law you wanted to go into and were there any experiences that helped you decide?
It was a gradual process for me. I started by attending law fairs and talking to lawyers, including those who are not practising commercial law, about the different practice areas and industries they were working in. Afterwards, I would research the firms and make applications to attend open days. I was fortunate enough to participate in insight schemes and vacation schemes at commercial law firms and had very positive experiences there. I felt that commercial law offered the most variety of work and thought that a training contract at a commercial law firm would allow me to gain a varied experience, which would help me to decide which practice area and sector would best suit my interests and skill sets.
Why did White & Case stand out to you?
I was initially attracted to the firm and intrigued by the fact that White & Case is a globally integrated firm which is both American and English. It was the first US firm to open an office in London and has a very strong presence in the city with more than 500 lawyers. This means that the firm has a well-established training programme and a large trainee intake, which worked perfectly for me as I personally wanted to be a part of a larger cohort. Being so global also means that the firm is very diverse, which is something I noticed immediately when doing my vacation scheme.
In terms of work, White & Case has top rankings in various practice areas, from capital markets to international arbitration, with rapidly growing practice areas like private equity. This will allow trainees to learn from the very best practitioners, whichever department they end up in.
On a more personal level, I felt that the firm caters to its lawyers’ interests and allows them to form their own career paths, even at the trainee stage. For instance, trainees can choose not to do a litigious seat and instead participate in a ‘trainee litigation programme’ if they are certain that they wish to qualify into a non-contentious department. I think this shows that the firm respects your choices and will accommodate you wherever they can.
What advice do you have for students struggling to balance their mental health with academic studies?
Being a student in itself is difficult sometimes, so having to find yourself keeping up with academic studies in an uncertain situation and in lockdown can be very challenging and cause anxiety. I have personally struggled to stay motivated as time went on because I was spending the majority of my weekdays sitting alone by my desk. I think it is really important to try to maintain as normal a social life as lockdown will allow you. Make sure that you have a good support network around you and try to keep in touch with friends and family. Please do seek help or talk to someone if you are struggling or feeling alone.