University: University of Manchester
Year of qualification: 2017
Department: Global markets, derivatives and structured products
When I first went to university I chose to study medicine at the University of Birmingham, but the course didn’t really suit me. However, it did include quite a few medical legal modules covering issues such as euthanasia, assisted dying and the law around abortion. I excelled in those modules and it was then that I first began to consider a career in law.
I did as much research as I could by attending open days and other events on campus, where you can often interact with several different firms at the same time. I liked what I found out about Ashurst – it had a reputation as being a friendly firm that produces high-quality work and also has an international presence. The size of the trainee intake also appealed to me.
I did a couple of mini-pupillages and one vacation scheme at another City firm during the penultimate year of my law degree. I also applied directly for training contracts at that time and Ashurst was one of the firms to offer me an interview and later a training contract, which I was delighted to accept. Remember that all work experience is relevant. I had a lot of medical work experience, from which I gained many transferable skills. These skills were an important part of what I had to offer as a training contract candidate.
My first seat was in derivatives. This was followed by construction, which is part of the real estate department. My third seat was in corporate projects, in the resources and utilities team, and I spent my final seat on secondment to the firm’s corporate projects department in Tokyo. Japan is amazing – and having the option to go on secondment during my training contract was a fantastic opportunity which I would recommend to anyone. Probably around half of the trainees at Ashurst experience some form of secondment during their training.
As a soon-to-qualify trainee, you have to submit your previous appraisals to two preferred departments, as well as update your CV to reflect all the work you have done during your training contract. A couple of departments also conduct interviews in cases where there are multiple trainees trying for the same role, but generally the process is less formal than at some other firms.
I'm in the derivatives sub-team, where our clients are generally large investment banks. Derivatives are financial instruments that take or ‘derive’ their value from an underlying asset. Common derivatives include interest rate swaps or currency swaps.
A typical day might involve reviewing and drafting documentation, liaising and co-ordinating with our clients or other offices and working within teams to handle the signing and execution of different deals and trades. We do a lot of transactional work but there's still a fair amount of advisory work too, particularly because this area has a lot of regulation around it.
I'm working on a loan financing for an emerging market bank. The bank sells their interest on a diverse portfolio of loans – relating to shipping, aviation and real estate assets – to a company, and that company will issue bonds that our client’s investors will buy. The emerging market bank is able to raise finance and derivatives are used between the parties to ensure the cashflows move through the structure appropriately. It was a challenging matter, involving multiple jurisdictions, foreign counsel and several Ashurst offices. Some late nights were required but it is a rewarding feeling to get these large deals over the line!
I really enjoy the scale of the work – matters that I work on usually involve multiple jurisdictions, so I regularly work with clients based in other countries, as well as colleagues in different offices all over the world. There are lots of moving pieces to keep track of in any transaction and as the lead law firm on many of the deals we work on; it’s our team’s responsibility to be in the driving seat.
In addition to that, I work with really good people and there is a lot of camaraderie in the team, which helps when everyone is working hard to complete a deal. If you do have to stay late you won’t be on your own – you’ll have dinner with your colleagues and everyone will be in it together. I think to an extent that working in corporate law is a lifestyle choice, so although you won’t be going home at 5:30pm every day, you will have access to a lot of opportunities and will be doing interesting, fulfilling work with good people, and the social bonds that form from working in the firm are a really important part of that.
The unpredictability of the work means that it is sometimes hard to make social plans – working hours vary and it can be tricky to find a balance.
Ashurst has all the benefits of a very large international firm – exposure to great clients, strong and diverse practice areas, and cross-jurisdictional work – within a more balanced, supportive, relaxed and people-focused environment. From speaking to some of my friends, the expectations placed on me at Ashurst are more reasonable than would be the case at some other firms.
I’ve also found that the work I do is recognised by partners and other colleagues. People here get the work done without unnecessary fuss – they don’t tend to take themselves too seriously and generally have a sense of perspective on their work.
Try to get as much experience as possible and think carefully about what type of law firm you want to work for. The other piece of advice I give to students when I meet them on campus is that when you are writing your applications, each one should be so detailed and specific to that firm that if you swapped another firm’s name in, the application would no longer make sense.
There’s a deep house record label called Anjunadeep that I’m a big fan of. They have a large roster of artists so I’d take anything by them with me.