Pursuing a career in law: case study

Olufunlola Balogun, 24, is a black African and works at Clifford Chance

I decided to study law with European legal studies at King's College London primarily because I thought it would be interesting. I wasn't absolutely sure that I wanted to become a lawyer but I was aware that the course that I had chosen would enable me to learn certain skills which would be useful in any profession, not just the legal one. During the course of my degree I completed two vacation schemes (law's version of work experience), one at Linklaters and one at Simmons & Simmons. I found my experiences interesting, stimulating and rather glamorous, and they enabled me to decide that I wanted to pursue a career in law.

I decided to make a career in corporate law because I find it interesting. I deal with people from all around the world, and I have good opportunities to travel. I accepted a training contract at Clifford Chance for a variety of reasons, high among which was my impression of the people that I met on the assessment day. I felt that the firm was right for me and that it would help me to fulfil my ambitions.

I joined Clifford Chance as a trainee in February 2006. I need to complete four six-month seats and I will become a newly qualified lawyer in February 2008. About three months before then, I will choose the practice area into which I would like to qualify. General banking, where I spent my first seat, is a possibility, as is international commercial arbitration.

I am currently in my second seat, in the Financial Institutions Group, which is part of the corporate practice area. I would love to spend my third seat in international arbitration and to go to Japan for my fourth seat, probably to work in the capital markets team. Most of the work that I did during my time in general banking was on behalf of banks. I was usually responsible for reviewing documents that companies had to provide to banks in order to receive a loan. Experienced lawyers drafted the principal loan document, but I had the opportunity to draft smaller documents: security documents, powers of attorney and legal opinions, for example.

I don't feel that my ethnicity affected my education. I worked hard to get very good grades in my school exams and in my degree and that was key to being offered a position as trainee at Clifford Chance. I am still at the beginning of my career, so it is too early to make a more conclusive judgement about the effect of my ethnicity on my career. I would advise other young black and ethnic minority students who are interested in pursuing a career in law to try very hard to get work experience during the summer holidays. It is obviously crucial to work hard at university. The training and opportunities provided by support networks can also be helpful. I don't currently belong to any professional support networks for ethnic minority people, but I found the Windsor Fellowship ( www.windsor-fellowship.org) very helpful while I was at university.