April 6 2021
How Flex helped Armand secure a Training Contract with Schroders
Every now and again, a Flex paralegal will get offered a Training Contract following a placement with Flex. We love it when this happens, as it really demonstrates how good our platform is at pairing interim legal professionals with the legal teams who need them.
This is exactly what happened with Armand Derri, who was offered a Training Contract with Schroders following a Flex placement. We couldn’t be happier for Armand! We also wanted to catch up with him and pick his brains on how this came about, what his time with Schroders has been like, and a few other interesting bits. We put some questions to him, and this is what he had to say:
Could you tell us a bit about your background and education?I came to the UK when I was three and have lived in London ever since. I studied History, English Literature and Economics at A-Level and then went on to study History at Queen Mary, University of London. I’d known I wanted to pursue the solicitor route since around my GCSEs, so the plan was always for me to do my GDL, which I did straight after undergrad degree.
I worked part-time whilst studying the GDL and I found this particularly tough, so after my GDL I took some time away from studying (not too long) and worked for an EdTech start-up as I was eager to gain some commercial experience and to try something else other than law. I loved this experience and it helped me gain skills that I would otherwise not currently have.
I started studying the LPC part-time in 2019. I chose this path as I wanted to continue working and building up skills and experience, and it would help finance my studies too. Whilst this was tough, I have enjoyed this experience and it has allowed me to work on paralegal placements through Flex. This mixture of full-time work and part-time education has meant I have gained valuable legal work experience and completed my LPC at the same time, which has – thankfully – now led me to my current trainee role.
Could you tell us a bit more about your placement with Schroders?I started my placement at Schroders in April 2020. What I still find so crazy is that I was only able to be put forward for this role because a few days beforehand I had been placed on furlough by my previous placement. I wanted to gain more experience so I asked if there were other short-term placements I could be put forward for in the meantime. I was offered the role at Schroders initially for three months…but I was fortunate, and it’s now been almost a year since I started the placement!
My placement at Schroders has covered a number of different projects, each involving reviewing and analysing a number of different agreements, looking for and extracting different information that was needed according to that particular project. This was my first exposure to contracts in this industry, so I had done quite a bit of reading before the placement and I had some background knowledge thanks to the LPC, but I only really began to understand the structure and the contracts by going through them and getting familiar.
I think my exposure to this variety of agreements and having to look for, extract and organise certain clauses was incredibly important in me learning to understand the purpose of each agreement and the different relationships with clients. Whilst carrying out my tasks for the project, I was also able to learn a lot about the asset management industry, the different types of contracts and the culture of the company, so I was able to make the most of each of the projects that I was involved in.
What is the biggest lesson you're taking away from your Schroders placement?The importance of absorbing information and asking questions. From the first interview for the placement with Schroders, it was stressed to me how important it was that I was humble and aware enough to be able to ask for help or for clarification in case I was unsure about anything. I know a lot of places say this initially, but it was clear from the beginning that they truly valued curiosity and the eagerness to learn, so I have embraced this throughout the placement. This placement has made me realise that, especially in junior positions, you aren’t expected to just be great at everything and learn it all by yourself – being able to ask for help and admit you don’t know or aren’t sure about something is a very important skill. For someone who is generally quite stubborn at accepting they don’t know something, this was a big learning curve for me, but a very valuable one that I stress to others when they join the company too.
How does it feel to have secured your training contract?It took a very long time to sink in!
Like many, I hated the process of applying for training contracts and I always felt that these applications very rarely offered you a chance to truly present yourself to the firm. So, I am incredibly grateful that I was able to secure a training contract through not only my performance in interviews but by having the chance to truly get to know the company and for the company to get to know me. It makes you feel a lot more confident that you are picking the right environment for your training.
Although I’ve been with Schroders for almost a year, starting the training contract felt like I was joining for the first time again, and I had the same feeling of excitement/nervousness for about a week before I started. But just like any placement, after taking time to learn and asking loads of questions, I’ve started to settle into the new role, and I’ve been able to get on with some work I’ve really enjoyed doing. So I think now the overriding feeling is just gratefulness that I’ve been able to secure this training contract and take the next step in my career.
What advice would you give to other paralegals starting interim placements?As well as the lesson about being confident enough to ask questions mentioned above, I think for me it was important that I treated every placement as if I was going to be there for ages. Of course, for most placements you aren’t going to be, but as long as you treat the placement like a long-term role, you will find it easier to settle in and do well, and that ultimately leaves a better impression.
How have you found the experience of working as an interim paralegal through Flex?Honesty, I look back and sometimes can’t believe how smooth it’s been. I signed up to Flex in January 2020 and was put forward for roles on the same day that I was on-boarded. I got my first interview a week or two later and started my first placement the week after that! Flex were so helpful in organising the interview and providing advice and information beforehand so I could be best prepared to do well.
I was always kept updated about the process and even whilst on placement, I remember receiving an email letting me know that they had received positive feedback on how I was doing. This was such a boost for me as this was my first paralegal role and I hadn’t worked for three months before that!
When I was furloughed after the pandemic hit, Flex were again so helpful in laying out the options for me and when I asked to be put forward for new roles in the meantime, they sent me a few within the next few days. Again, they helped me prepare for the interview and kept me updated on the process, and within two weeks I had started my placement with Schroders!
Whilst on placements, Flex have called to check in on numerous occasions and contract renewals were incredibly easy, whilst the timesheets and payroll aspect has never been a problem. Hard to truly express how helpful Flex have been, and I’m especially grateful because for months before I signed-up to Flex, I was making no progress with securing a paralegal placement and was close to giving up!
Finally, have you got any advice for coping with lockdown life?I’ve come to realise the importance of adding variety to your day is so important for coping with lockdown life. I’m sure most people have had periods of time where they really struggled during lockdown, and for me personally, it was the repetitive nature of lockdown life that really made it difficult. I try to make sure that outside of work, I do something different each day so that I have something to look forward to and just to keep my mind engaged. This has really helped with keeping morale up and has also introduced me to some activities that I otherwise wouldn’t have tried.
My advice for coping with work during lockdown life is to try to make sure you speak to someone during the day. When in the middle of a project or task, the eagerness to get the work done and meet deadlines can often mean you are working on something on your own for most of the day. From my own experience, I know this can sometimes get lonely – there would be days I’d get through a whole workday and wouldn’t have spoken to anyone else! I try to make sure I have a call with someone at least once in a day, either to ask any questions or at least to provide an update. Home-working definitely has its benefits, but I think the social element is so hard to maintain sometimes, and it is important, so try to make sure you reach out and talk to someone.
- Armand’s LinkedIn profile - given that you’ve read a small section of Armand’s professional history, check out the full thing on LinkedIn!
- How Flex helped Iliana secure a training contract - many of our paralegals are offered training contracts following Flex placements. Have a read of this recent one!
- Training Contract Guide: Different types of law firms - thinking of applying for a training contract yourself? Learn about different types of law firms and the experiences they offer.