TSS Interview with Lydia Odedeji, International Student & Future Trainee Solicitor

In this interview, Lydia Odedeji gives some important advice about maintaining a positive mindset and how to navigate the challenging TC recruitment process.

Lydia is a future trainee solicitor at Clifford Chance with a Nigerian undergraduate in law.

If you’re an international student, also check out our Insider Guide On How To Get A Training Contract As An International Student.

1. Can you share a brief background about your journey.

I studied law for five years at Ajayi Crowther University in Nigeria. I graduated as the best student in Law with a first-class degree.

Following this, I completed an LLM at the University of Glasgow, where I graduated with a high merit.

2. In what way did being an international student influence the firms you chose to apply to?

As an international student, I filtered the firms I wanted to apply to based on the size of intake, international strategy and, most notably, sponsorship license.

In terms of intake size, I believed that the larger the intake, the higher my chances are that the firm will take a chance on me as an international student. This reasoning was not backed by any particular logic; I just felt that firms with larger intakes may be less picky and more diverse.

In terms of international strategy, I have always wanted to be the kind of lawyer who dealt with deals that cut across different countries and time zones. I enjoy the ability to interact with diverse people, particularly when working towards deals with international impact. This interest is why I am also keen to do seats in project finance and funds because these practice areas usually result in tangible projects all around the world.

Therefore, I analysed firms’ international strategies to get a glimpse of the work the firm does on an international level and where the firm hopes to do it in future. Additionally, most firms with a strong focus on their international growth have good secondment opportunities at trainee and associate levels.

In terms of sponsorship licence, this was a practical consideration as an international student. It is key to confirm with graduate recruitment if the firm is willing to sponsor their employees or your application will be futile

Following all these considerations, I made a list of ten firms and wrote out their application process, deadlines and whether they were rolling or not to create my strategy for applying.

3. What was the most challenging part of being an international student in the TC process? How did you overcome this?

The most challenging part of the TC process was demystifying the TC process. There was a lot of information I did not know starting out, and I had to learn as I went. I truly believe information is power because you can only access an opportunity if you know about it.

To combat this, I got comfortable really quickly with asking for help from people on Linkedin, going to law events and spending a lot of time researching firms and the TC process.

The corporate law academy was particularly helpful because the forums had other aspiring solicitors who were all trying to do the same thing.

4. What concerns did you have as an international student as you pursued a TC?

Honestly, my major concern was that I could do all the right things and still not secure the TC. This fear was magnified by the fact that at the time, I could not find any international student with a non-UK degree getting a TC. This is why representation is so important.

Anytime I got a rejection mail or did not pass the application stage, a part of me felt like my degree was holding me back.

5. What are the main mistakes you made or see other international students make when pursuing a TC?

Self-rejection. I believe the best way to think about it is that everything is worth a try, and if you get rejected, you will move on. It is always worth applying to big firms even if you think that they are not looking for people like you.

6. How did you leverage your international background when pursuing a TC?

I leaned into my international background in interviews and even in applications by highlighting the advantages of employing a candidate with an international outlook particularly since I had experienced education and work styles in both countries.

7. How did you find the firms that best suited your international background and would sponsor you (if relevant)?

Most big law firms have this information on their websites. When in doubt, it is best to email graduate recruitment or meet them at their events, e.g. legal cheek fairs, etc.

8. Did you reference your international background when answering the why commercial law or why this firm questions? If so, in what way?

Yes, I tied my background into why I wanted a firm with a strong focus on international growth and international clients. For example, I highlighted the experiences I gained working in Nigeria, the experiences I had in the UK, and how working on deals across jurisdictions appeals to me.

9. What is the best advice you can give to an international candidate who is just starting out or who has been unsuccessful so far?

Honestly, just to get comfortable with failure. It is easier said in retrospect, but I always have the mindset that “You never know which one will click”. This statement got me through the multiple rejections and the dark nights I felt that I was just wasting my time.

Also, looking at it objectively, if you put effort into 100 applications, that effort may mix with luck one day, and you will get one. Remembering you just need one to click makes all the difference!

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Matt Oliver

Matt is a former FTSE 100 in-house lawyer, an experienced legal career coach and MD of Trainee Solicitor Surgery. He provides entry level law careers advice to students and graduates through his writing and mentoring. He also offers private one-to-one coaching to those struggling with training contract and vacation scheme applications, interviews and assessment centres. Find out more about Matt's 1-2-1 Coaching >>>>