James Jankowski



Travers Smith fast facts:

Name: James Jankowski

University: University of Warwick

Degree and subject: Law (3 years)

Current department: 3rd Seat: Tax

Previous departments: 1st Seat: Investment Funds. 2nd Seat: Private Equity and Financial Sponsors (Corporate)

Trainee James Jankowski reflects on the skills you need to be a successful trainee at Travers Smith and shares four top tips for your application.

"I first encountered Travers Smith at an open day they hosted as part of the Rare Recruitment Discuss programme. I was attracted to the Firm's small trainee intake and reputation for providing high-quality training (which I would discover extends throughout your time at the Firm). I was also struck by Travers Smith's welcoming and inclusive culture. As a trainee at Travers Smith, you feel valued for the work that you provide and are very much treated as a pivotal member of the team. Partners and associates are genuinely invested in your learning and development and are keen to help support you as you progress through your training contract. 

My Travers Smith Journey

I completed a vacation scheme at Travers Smith in December 2017, sitting in the Firm's finance and commercial, IP and technology departments. During my time on the vacation scheme, I experienced the Firm's broad range of high calibre work first-hand. I also saw that trainees at the Firm were given a high level of responsibility and direct contact with clients. My experiences on the vacation scheme showed me that Travers Smith would be a Firm where I would feel supported and challenged in equal measures. Most importantly, I realised that this was a place where I would enjoy working. One year into my training contract, I continue to feel the same.

My Typical Day

One of the best things about being a trainee at Travers Smith is that no two days are the same. Generally, I like to start my day by going through my inbox and responding to emails that came through overnight. I also use my inbox as a base for my to-do list, so running through them in the morning helps me prioritise my tasks. Trainees at Travers Smith are given as much responsibility as they can handle. From day one, you could find yourself on calls with clients and other law firms, providing advice or negotiating matters. I am often responsible for helping to coordinate matters internally within the firm which can include helping to update partners or associates in other departments on any developments that may have arisen in recent meetings, or the feedback we received on our documents from the other side. 

In my tax seat, my work is roughly split between research focused tasks and drafting tasks. I apply the research skills I developed through my law degree to examine various pieces of legislation or case law and produce clear and concise summary memos for members of my team and the client themselves. I also look for articles or legislative provisions which can help us to create a plan of action. For drafting tasks, I create initial drafts of various documents for our clients based on their case's particular facts and circumstances. 

Essential skills you will use on a nearly daily basis as a trainee are teamwork and communication. As a trainee, you will often be responsible for helping coordinate matters with other departments in the Firm or even foreign law firms. This requires you to work closely with other lawyers at all levels, many of whom may rely on you to keep them updated on the progress of the matter or provide further instructions from the client. My experiences working on various group projects during my degree helped to enhance my teamwork and communication skills. 

The Firm places a real emphasis on the training and development of its trainees, which takes various forms. I recently rotated seats, so I have attended training to provide a deeper insight into the typical tasks I may encounter and the law applicable to this new practice area. You also receive training to improve your understanding of the Firm as a business, as well as the broader commercial sphere in which Travers Smith and its clients operate. 

During my time at the Firm, I have also volunteered at the legal clinic run at Bethnal Green. Travers Smith is committed to supporting a broad range of pro bono initiatives. This clinic aims to assist those who would not otherwise be able to access legal advice on a range of issues, including consumer rights, small claims, debt, and tenancy. It is hugely rewarding to work alongside other members of the Firm and play a small role in this initiative.  

Outside of work, I love spending time outdoors as I grew up in the countryside. I also enjoy travelling to new places and trying new foods and local cuisines. I am a fan of cooking and baking and am always on the hunt for a new recipe to add to my collection.

The Travers Smith Culture 

Travers Smith is truly a welcoming and inclusive place to work. The unique room-sharing system creates a collaborative culture amongst trainees, associates, and partners alike. This culture makes a real difference when you are beginning your legal career. The Firm also recognises that each employee is different and that these differences need to be valued and respected. The Firm encourages employees to try and strike a balance between work and wider extra-curricular activities, such as CSR and pro-bono initiatives, or our sports teams and various social events. There are also diversity and inclusion groups which are a supportive community that champions awareness on essential matters. During my time at the Firm, I have attended various events run by the Gender Balance Group, BAME Group and LGBT+ Group, which I found informative and engaging. 

My Top Tips for Applicants

  • Take time to research the Firm and the work that they do. Travers Smith has an incredible business development team who publish many of the Firm's recent deals and matters. In addition to this, there are also lots of external publications and websites with helpful content. 
  • Tailor each application to the Firm. Each Firm has a unique culture and approach; they will want to know you have done your research and thought about why their Firm is best suited to you. 

  • Take time to perfect your application. Coming back to an application with fresh eyes can help ensure it is well-researched and tailored. It will also help you spot any spelling or grammar mistakes. I would often write my application and then not look at it again for a week. 

  • Attend as many events and open days as possible. Attending events will help you gain insight into the culture of each Firm and the type of work you will be doing as a trainee. There is only so much you can learn about a firm from reading about them online.

My top tips for applicants

  • Don't be too hard on yourself, the right opportunity will come along in time.

  • You do not need to be a marathon running, Financial Times reading, espresso drinking law robot to get a great training opportunity.

  • Step into every room, approach every piece of work and enter every meeting putting your best foot forward. Confidence is crucial to being successful."

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