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Sophia Maxwell-Yates

Studied: BSc Management

Graduated: 2011

Place of Work: Latham & Watkins

Position: Trainee

Why did you choose Management?

I was very much focused on what I wanted to do after university. Initially, I wanted to study International Relations, but this was at the start of the recession. I spoke to friends who had done humanities degrees, and the general feeling was that you should be employable as soon as you leave university so you need to have vocational skills on top of your academic qualification. I chose Management because of the opportunities to specialise and tailor your degree to be more employable. As nice as it is to do something you like, you really have to be sensible about your decisions, particularly given the higher fees and current economic climate.

What were the best parts of your course?

You are encouraged to make the most of all the opportunities on campus; it’s all about building up your network, meeting and hearing from industry experts. One talk I attended was by Nigel Kershaw, the CEO of the Big Issue. Following some email contact, I ended up volunteering at the Big Issue’s investment branch a couple of days a week for three months in my 2nd year. Above all, the main draw was the freedom to choose modules and build a programme around my interests. It’s all been so useful when it came to applying for jobs.

Why did you choose the corporate law stream of the SEO?

Before I started university I’d gained some legal experience, but it was a profession that I hadn’t ever properly considered. I started reading up about it and found myself getting really excited about the idea. At the end of my 2nd year summer vacation I got an informal placement through a friend at a high street law firm; just before Christmas in my 3rd year, I got talking to a barrister and managed to secure a mini pupillage. Sometimes things just happen! But ultimately the work placements reassured me that this was what I wanted to do. So hearing about SEO’s links with corporate law firms, getting onto the programme… every step of the way I was reassured I was doing the right thing.

Tell us about your placements.

I sat in two departments: competition and banking. My choice of practice areas had a lot to do with the modules I was studying on my degree, for instance, I was particularly interested in the Accounting and Finance modules. The placement works in two ways, as recruitment for the firm and as your continuous assessment, so you sit with a supervisor, work with them on their cases, learn about the firm, as well as handing in formal written assessments during the placement. Trainees often ask you to help on their cases, and on top of that, there is a strong emphasis on networking. On the first day of my placement, we had a drinks reception with the firm’s partners and senior associates, so you have to be quite confident.

After the placements, I received two offers and chose Latham & Watkins. Both firms I was placed at were great, but I preferred Latham as it tied in with my ambitions to work for an international law firm where I would have the opportunity to be placed abroad.

Have your studies in Management been useful to you so far?

In today’s competitive climate firms want business minded people: it’s all about commercial awareness. For me, studying Management proved to be a huge advantage. Not only did I have an understanding of the issues at stake because of having studied the business modules in my degree, I also had an interest in it. It all slotted together.

In addition, we were required to do a lot of presentations, report writing and essays, and that is how I was being assessed in the application process. When it came to handing in work, mine was very different to say an English or Law graduates’ work, because I channelled these skills of clear and concise presentation of information.

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