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SPOTLIGHT ON: Sophie Bessisso

1. Please introduce yourself!

Dear KWIL Members and Spotlight On Series Readers, I would like to start by saying how grateful I am for the opportunity to share my career journey with you. To introduce myself, my name is Sophie Bessisso and I am a corporate associate in the London office of a global law firm, Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP.

Like most of the readers of this brief article (if not all), I studied law at King’s College London, having graduated in 2017. I was born and raised in Prague, I am a great tennis, golf and all kinds of winter sports enthusiast and I love music.

2. What inspired you to pursue a legal career at Davis Polk?

I first came across Davis Polk at a King’s law fair, where I spoke with Davis Polk’s head of London graduate recruitment. I was immediately drawn to the firm not only because of the formidable work that Davis Polk engages in, but also because of the recruitment team’s openness and positivity. I was intrigued to see what the culture at the firm was like.

I ended up attending a first-year open day, where during the course of the evening, I managed to speak to most of the lawyers in the London office, among them being our training principal and recruitment partner, Will Pearce. The open day itself was like my conversation with the recruitment team, very frank but also welcoming and encouraging. One of the most important things when it comes to choosing a law firm is seeing whether the particular firm’s culture resonates with you; which it did with me with Davis Polk.

3. What was your experience like to work as a female associate at the firm? Did the affinity groups at Davis Polk help you feel more included?

My experience as a trainee solicitor and as a newly qualified associate has been nothing but positive. I was encouraged and supported throughout my training contract and was given a lot of responsibility early on. As an associate, the responsibility is even greater, but because of our collaborative culture, the encouragement and support never ceases. I have managed to work on a good variety of deals and transactions and have been learning immensely (I will admit though that the more I know, the more I see how much more there is to yet uncover).

Firm-wide, we have around six affinity groups that are open to anyone and everyone wishing to join. I myself have been engaged with our DPWomen affinity group the most. We meet monthly and discuss various issues and topics, plan mentoring events and share knowledge about talks, presentations and networking events that would be beneficial to attend.

It’s definitely great that we have the opportunity to join these affinity groups (or even set up new affinity groups), but I have always felt included, even before I joined the firm to start my training contract. Once our new joiners accept training contracts with us, they are immediately included in all firm events, from open days and networking drinks to our Christmas and summer parties as well as informal dinners with our training principal, Will, to keep in touch with the firm while they complete their studies.

4. I've heard that you completed a rotation in the M&A Group in the New York office. How did you find working in New York? Did your work in the New York office differ from London?

Yes, that’s right, I went on to do a secondment in the New York M&A Group at the beginning of February 2020, right before the pandemic hit. I really enjoyed meeting our New York colleagues and getting an insight into how they conduct transactions. We often work with our New York M&A team on cross-border deals, so it was great to be able to meet, and work with, the team in person.

I found my day-to-day tasks quite similar to those that I would usually do in the London office on M&A matters; as a junior lawyer, you would often be in charge of preparing non-disclosure agreements, conducting due diligence and drafting of transaction documents, by way of a very brief example. However, I also got to work on matters that are more prevalent in the US and which I haven’t worked on before while training in London (mostly matters to do with shareholder activism), so overall the work that I did was a good mix of the ‘known and unknown’ for me. I had a really positive experience and even though I spent a part of my rotation working remotely, it was very easy to connect, and form good working relationships, with our New York colleagues.

5. Who is your role model, and why?

I’ve had different role models at different stages of my life, but to keep with the theme, I will say that all the women that I have met at Davis Polk would be my role models; with their intellect, drive and dedication yet coupled with compassion, kindness, team spirit and good humour. It’s definitely a privilege to be a part of, and to be able to learn from, such a great team.

Interviewed by: Olivia Kim


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