Hear it first-hand: Theon

Theon Richards grew up in Trinidad and Tobago and came to the UK when he was 19 to study Law at the University of Kent. When he graduated, he completed the LPC followed by a Master’s in Law at LSE. He’s now in his first seat.

Help from the top

I didn’t have a lot of work experience on my CV during my studies, so I had to start gaining that at small high street law firms and then regional firms. I think those work experiences helped me win a place on a vacation scheme at Norton Rose Fulbright during my Master’s.

While I was on the vacation scheme, the people I met made me think ‘this is the firm for me’. There was one time, for instance, when I had a research task and knocked on the door of probably the most senior person at the firm. Despite the fact that he was no doubt very busy, he made time to talk to me and help me with the task. What separates us from other firms, in my view, isn’t just that we’re large and global and do amazing work for some of the biggest clients; it’s also the personable element.

Finding my feet

That element’s been evident ever since I first joined as a trainee. When I was trying to find my feet and understand what was expected from me, there were a lot of training sessions with other members of staff and quite a lot of socials. The team was very welcoming, and that made it easier to reach out if I had question. My supervisor, who sits next to me, is usually my first port of call because, even when he has a lot on, he’ll always take the time to explain things.

The training here is exceptional – from formal to ad hoc. If there’s something specific I want to develop my skills in, I can ask training development or IT or another department for a quick training session. The other day I was trying to figure out how to use one of the search tools and one of the associates was quite happy to show me how. I’ve been encouraged to get feedback – which is always constructive – and no-one’s ever too busy or too important to answer a question when I have one. They say ‘I’ve been in your shoes. I know what it’s like to be a trainee’. That all makes you feel comfortable and helps you get a better sense of how you’re doing.

Learning by doing

Of course, the work you do is key to your training. Not only am I learning how to be a lawyer, but I'm also learning by working on headline-grabbing deals. One of those centred around a finance transaction that involved a syndicate of six banks, counsels in several overseas jurisdictions and different departments across the firm. It wasn’t straightforward. It was my responsibility to liaise with both the counsels and our departments. And when my supervisor was away at a conference, it fell to me to run the signing process for one of the main documents which was quite a major thing. My supervisor was there on email to offer guidance, but knowing I was trusted to handle that aspect of the transaction so early on in my training contract was a really good feeling.

I used to read about that kind of deal as an aspiring law student and wonder how it was done. Now I’m actually doing those deals myself. And I’m looking forward to working on more of them. The firm has plans to grow different departments, make a number of strategic hires and cement its position as a global player. It’s already pioneering in certain areas – like renewable energy. As environment issues become more and more prominent, that's going to be a key area for us. Especially as we’re already leading the way in that space.

Making choices

One of the great things here is that you can really shape your training contract. People want to know what you’re interested in doing and try hard to make sure you get the experiences you’re after. I was keen to work in project finance before I joined, which is why I was placed in one of its sub-teams for my first seat, doing structured trade commodity finance. 

And you have so much scope here. We have 50 different practices, all of which do good work. If you're like me and you want to do global project finance work, or work in the energy, pharmaceutical or technology sectors, that’s available for you. There are opportunities to do client secondments or international secondments all over the world. You’re spoiled for choice.