University: University of Sheffield
Year of qualification: 2001
Position: Partner (and training principal)
Department: Corporate finance
What attracted you to a career in law?
I like to help people and I like different challenges rather than a routine day. Being a lawyer in a large commercial firm gives me the opportunity to help people every day, while at the same time learning new things and coming across new challenges every day.
Why solicitor not barrister?
I never contemplated being a barrister, I always wanted to be part of a large commercial firm with the opportunities this offers.
How did you decide which firms to apply to?
I wanted to work in the North of England and really liked Leeds as a city, so I chose the best large commercial law firms in Leeds to apply to. Thankfully Booth & Co (as it was then – now Addleshaw Goddard) offered me a training contract and I have stayed here since then.
How much work experience had you had? Why is it so important?
I worked in a professional services company for five years after completing my A levels and before going to university, so I had a slightly different route to a training contract than most others, particularly at that time. One of the most difficult aspects for any applicant for a training contract is making their application stand out from others, and my work experience helped make my application different (in a good way!).
Which departments did you train in?
Litigation, pensions, real estate and corporate finance
How does the qualification process work at the firm?
We start the process shortly into a trainee's fourth seat. We hold a briefing so trainees are comfortable with the process and know what to expect. We send out a list of vacancies to qualifying trainees for them to consider. Trainees need to submit their qualification preferences along with their qualification pack (a CV and performance reviews throughout their training contract). The departments that trainees are applying to are sent their qualification packs to consider. Departments then make decisions and we let the trainees know. The process works well in the firm – we know this is a nerve-racking for trainees so work hard to ensure it is transparent and trainees understand the process.
What do you wish you’d known about being a trainee before you started that you now do?
How important a trainee is to the operation of the departments they sit in. Trainees are an essential part of each team from day one – and the future of the business in terms of being our next associates and partners. While this might seem daunting, I think it gives real confidence to trainees to be an integral part of the firm from the moment they join.
Please outline your area of expertise. What might you do in a typical day?
I am a corporate lawyer, specialising in M&A transactions and private equity investments. Thankfully there really isn't a typical day, which is the key reason why I was attracted to corporate as a discipline – businesses and the individuals that own and operate them are all different, with different ambitions, motivations and challenges, so each day genuinely brings something new to deal with.
What do you most/least enjoy about your career and why?
I enjoy the different challenges that each day brings and coming up with solutions to those challenges, and I enjoy working with the many hugely talented people in our business. I am continually impressed at the level of expertise and experience we can bring to our clients. No career is perfect but there's little point focusing on what you don't enjoy. If you really don't enjoy the career then choose to do something else – lawyers develop an abundance of skills that can be used successfully in many different careers.
How involved are you with business development and promoting the firm?
I believe it's an essential part of every lawyer's role, some will naturally be better at it than others, but everyone has a responsibility to develop business and promote the firm.
What makes your firm stand out from the rest?
Our collegiate culture and our approach to – and use of – innovation – easy to say, but we know from client and team feedback that these are two of the key traits which retain people and attract new talent and new business.
What skills/strengths do you need to be a successful solicitor?
A desire to learn and to keep learning throughout your career (no-one knows everything!) and an ability to understand what is important for your client and for the other parties in a transaction.
What advice do you have for budding solicitors who are contemplating a career in law?
Learn as much as you can about what it means to be a lawyer in the business area you are interested in and really think about why you want to be one. Get as much work experience as you can, you never know what this might lead to. Above all, be authentic – law firms are looking for real people, so be yourself, not what you think other people want you to be.