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Meet the lawyer

Hannah Pettit

Hannah Pettit

University: University of Southampton
Degree: Law
Year of qualification: 2019
Position: Solicitor
Department: Commercial
Pronouns: she/her

Why solicitor not barrister?

When I started looking at the legal profession, I was curious about being a barrister and I did a bit of mooting at university, which I really enjoyed. However, I realised my skill set was better suited to being a solicitor.

The idea of being part of a team was one aspect that particularly appealed to me – I wanted to work collaboratively on projects, build client relationships and be their day-to-day support, which you tend to do more of as a solicitor, rather than a barrister.

How did you decide which firms to apply to?

I knew I wanted to be based in Bristol, which was a great starting point. I also wanted a firm that had a full range of practice areas so I could complete seats in different departments and get varied experience. I also looked for firms that prioritised the development of trainees and junior lawyers with a view to retaining them on qualification.

What do you think made your application successful?

For an application to be successful, it must be tailored. Law firms receive so many applications, so they want to know why you are applying to them in particular, why you are a good fit for the firm and to see evidence that you have researched the firm and understand the work they do.

Which departments did you train in?

My first seat was in corporate, followed by commercial and employment. I then went back to commercial to do my final seat before qualifying there.

How does the qualification process work at the firm?

Some trainees do four distinct seats and others may do a double seat in a particular department. For me, because there was a business need and I wanted to qualify into the commercial team having done my second seat in that area, I ended up back there for my fourth seat.

During the fourth seat I did a newly-qualified (NQ) lawyer interview with a partner in the team and a member of HR. Overall, I found the transition from trainee to NQ to be a smooth one and doing my final seat with the team definitely helped.

Please outline your area of expertise. What might you do in a typical day?

I sit in Ashford’s commercial team and specialise in technology contracts and data protection work. Bristol has an exciting tech scene, which definitely has an impact on my day-to-day work.

I was a trainee in the commercial team during the GDPR go-live period, so I got involved with a lot of privacy work. I really hit the ground running and had lots of hands-on experience. I think this is what sparked my love of data protection work. I now provide data protection support to different teams across the firm and get to work with a really broad variety of clients, ranging from early-stage start-ups at the start of their compliance journey, to well-established larger international clients.

In terms of a typical day, I tend to have a good mix of calls and time for either drafting or contract reviews. Client calls might include initial kick-off meetings for a new project, running through a draft contract with a client to receive further instructions on particular clauses or negotiation calls. Drafting tasks might involve marking up the other side’s standard terms so that we can negotiate them, or alternatively drafting new agreements from scratch, which is always a nice opportunity to be creative.

Please discuss a current/recent specific deal/case, outlining your role in the matter.

This year I have been doing a lot of work with Form3, a payment processing platform provider. It has been a great time to work closely with the company as it has experienced rapid growth in recent years and has received investment from the likes of Lloyds Banking Group, Nationwide Building Society, Mastercard and Goldman Sachs. I have supported Form3 with a large number of supplier and customer contracts, including customer negotiations with both challenger banks and tier one financial institutions.

Having the chance to provide day-to-day legal support to Form3 has given me excellent exposure to quality work within the fintech sector.

What do you most/least enjoy about your career and why?

I love that every day is varied and intellectually stimulating and most enjoy the client-facing aspect of the role. I’m a people person so it’s great to be able to meet new people and work with a huge range of clients.

I tend to look at the positives, so identifying an aspect of my career that I least enjoy is hard. A typical drawback that many solicitors might mention is the long working hours during particularly busy periods. That said, I do get a buzz from this; I often perform my best when working in faster-paced environments and it is when I feel most motivated.

How involved are you with business development and promoting the firm?

The firm encourages everyone to get stuck into business development and as a trainee this is something that I was able to get involved with right from the outset – attending events and helping to host them as well.

More recently, over lockdown, myself and two colleagues have been hosting a series of lunchtime data protection webinars, which has been a great way to stay in touch with clients whilst also promoting our data protection practice when the in-person events weren’t taking place.

What makes your firm stand out from the rest?

The people – everyone is down to earth and approachable, and I have always felt well supported. The firm is also ambitious and innovative and it’s exciting to be a part of that.  

What advice do you have for budding solicitors who are contemplating a career in law?

The journey into the legal profession can be a long process and it is incredibly competitive, but it is worth the hard work you have to put in along the way.

Try not to get disheartened when you receive knockbacks. The feeling you get when you secure your training contract offer is one you will never forget.

What is the wider culture like?

The firm has a sociable culture. There are lots of activities and events to get involved with. For example,  charity quizzes, sports tournaments and black tie dinners, which are attended by a mix of individuals from different teams and roles across the firm.

There are often firm-wide fundraising initiatives as well. Prior to the pandemic, we had bake sales, bake-off-style competitions and pancake days, which will hopefully make a return now that we are transitioning back to working in the office a few days a week.

In terms of sports, there is a netball league that we play in on Tuesday evenings, which is good fun.

Describe the firm in three words.

Ambitious, agile and friendly.  

What’s your signature dish?

Seafood spaghetti or any type of pasta dish. My next challenge is to master homemade pasta!