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London Graduates

Francis Beechinor-Collins

Trainee Solicitor

Year joined: 2018
University: School of Oriental and African Studies
Degree: BA Chinese (Modern and Classical)

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I am a Trainee Solicitor working in the project finance department of our Singapore office. Before joining the firm in 2018, I attended a winter internship at the London office in my final year of university. Clifford Chance then funded me (with living expenses!) through the law conversion course and the legal practice course.

I was attracted to Clifford Chance for two main reasons. Firstly, the firm has a great China focus. When joining, I researched a lot about the firm's Chinese deals so as to potentially apply my Chinese language skills. I could see that Clifford Chance was not only adapting to China's rise as a huge economy but also getting involved in some of the really cutting-edge Chinese work.

During my internship, whenever I spoke about studying Chinese and doing a year abroad in Beijing, everyone responded positively and said about how useful my language skills would be. Since starting, my Chinese has definitely been put to good use!

Secondly, the people I chatted with (both at the firm and my fellow interns) were really down-to-earth. No one was trying to show off or compete, people were interested in each other's stories and there was a lot of diversity in terms of backgrounds. Immediately, I was having great conversations about charity work and pro bono law, and that really attracted me to the firm.

International opportunities

My third seat was spent in Singapore. Leaving aside the fact that my secondment involved eating amazing South East Asian food and going on weekend trips to Vietnam, it was fantastic to experience another office. The associates were very keen to use my Chinese and gave me great exposure. I looked at Taiwanese harbour leases, emails on the supply of building materials and all kinds of unimaginably interesting work!

The work

Along with using my Chinese, I am looking to specialise in work relating to renewable energy. My seats have mainly focused on project finance and construction law. Over my Training Contract, I have been exposed to some of the biggest players in the renewable energy industry. Energy developers and banks which are making the world a greener place are suddenly ringing me up on the phone with queries on documents or timeframes of deals. The exposure is incredible and, like my interest in Chinese, the firm has been really supportive of my interest in renewable energy.

The people 

You are part of a global network of top-class lawyers. Currently, I am working on a transaction with an associate in Abu Dhabi. A couple of weeks ago, we needed trainee support on a deal so we reached out to the Hong Kong office. Within about half an hour, another trainee was supporting my team. It really is impressive at how effectively this global network of people works together.

My advice

Firstly, try and find your niche. I am interested (if you haven't guessed) in renewables and China. I was interested in these areas before starting at the firm and read about them in my spare time because, well, they're interesting! This has given a structure to my Training Contract and allowed me to filter through all of the opportunities on offer.

Secondly, be prepared to work hard too. I thought I worked hard in university, but that was nothing compared to the work needed to close a deal worth hundreds of millions of pounds! Sometimes the job is demanding, however, it's rewarding too considering the quality work we do.

What makes Clifford Chance different?

Earlier on I mentioned the people being down-to-earth. That’s the main thing I feel differentiates Clifford Chance. It's probably a product of emphasising pro bono and charity work as well as putting diversity and inclusivity at the top of their priorities. This means that people have a wide range of interests and stories to tell. My colleagues don't just want to talk about work, but also what you got up to at the weekend and your views on the latest series of Stranger Things (it's amazing, in case you were wondering).

The most rewarding experience I've had so far

Based on my passion for the environment and combating climate change, I applied to be a Clifford Chance delegate at the 2019 One Young World summit and was selected. It's a great opportunity to meet young people who are pushing the ball forward on the resolution of climate change, as well as a chance to network with a range of organisations (from client companies, to NGOs and so on). It’s a real privilege to be representing Clifford Chance in 2019.

What I like most about my job

As well as being down-to-earth, the people I work with are fantastically intelligent and on-top of their game. Its really stimulating to have chats with people on the role of subsidies in the renewable energy industry or on how China is conducting its business globally. The partners and associates don't just talk about these issues theoretically, through what they've read on the news or in books, but they can also reflect on industry issues from dealing with clients and previous deals they've worked on. I've learnt an incredible amount over my Training Contract because of this.