TSS Interview with Raina Mahapatra, International Student & Trainee Solicitor

In this interview, Raina Mahapatra provides invaluable tips, including how to overcome common mistakes and how best to leverage an international background.

Raina is a current trainee solicitor at Eversheds Sutherland, with an LLM from Queen Mary and an undergraduate in law from India.

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

  • Undergraduate law degree – Symbiosis University, India
  • Postgraduate degree (LLM in Comparative and International Dispute Resolution) – Queen Mary University, London
  • PGDL – BPP University
  • LPC – University of Law, Moorgate

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

While researching the firms I was aiming to apply to, I had a specific set of criteria that I specifically paid attention to.

For example, diversity and inclusion, sponsorship in the form of a work visa, international offices, cross-border transactions, size of firm and number of employees.

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

  • Limited time and resources (applying alongside a full-time Masters course)
  • No online interaction during COVID lockdowns
  • Limited guidance and mentorship
  • No previous knowledge of the UK legal market
  • Limited work experience in the UK legal market/with UK law

I had to conduct extensive research into the UK legal market and the application process – specifically through attending law career fairs, online networking events and reaching out to professionals already working in the field.

To build on my work experience, I volunteered for pro bono work during my LLM and tried to involve myself in internship experiences/extracurricular activities to increase my visibility in the market.

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

  • A difference in the working approach that the two different cultures have and acclimatising to the same
  • Not seeing enough diversity and inclusion in actual practice
  • Incorporating work-life balance as someone with no family support in a foreign country

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

  • Inadequate research into the market and application process
  • Not reaching out to enough professionals in the field before submitting applications
  • Not tailoring applications to each firm
  • Not anticipating the amount of time and effort each application might take to balance other responsibilities (courses, part-time work etc)
  • Not identifying the difference between international, multi-national, regional and high-street firms and their approach to sponsorship/work culture/remuneration

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

  • Built on my experience in different jurisdictions to showcase breadth of legal and technical skills
  • Vocal about strengths and soft skills that coming from a different background teaches you as an international student (adaptability, perseverance, flexibility)
  • Offering firms the ability to diversify and increase their market presence
  • Knowledge of foreign law and markets

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

  • Firm-specific and general market research
  • Direct communication with HR teams
  • Reaching out to international students already pursuing TCs/qualified in England and Wales

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

Yes. To showcase how the firm matched my requirements as an international student and how the firm, in turn, could benefit from my breadth of knowledge, experience and soft skills. This is part of tailoring the application to each firm, and firms appreciate understanding your personal background before recruiting you.

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?

Do thorough research before approaching any application, networking event or even a quick call with a professional in the field. Being well-prepared is key to impressing.

Network effectively.

matt oliver law career coach

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 >>>>