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Meet the lawyer

Jonathan Tham

Jonathan Tham

University: UCL
Degree: Law
Year of qualification: 2019
Position: Associate
Department: Corporate

What attracted you to a career in law?

I am a problem-solver and enjoy making friends across the world. In a complex transaction, I can do both - untie knots with an international team of like-minded colleagues.

Why solicitor not barrister?

I very much prefer a collaborative environment where parties try to work towards a commercially sensible outcome - often, all sides win and the solution is quite creative. What a barrister does on a day-to-day basis felt contentious, win-lose and process-driven to me during my IP litigation seat.

How did you decide which firms to apply to?

I spent some time thinking about what I brought to the table and what mattered to me. I decided that my strengths were my linguistic abilities, international background and experiences as someone of minority race and part of the LGBT+ community. I picked firms that I felt would value my strengths.

How much work experience had you had? Why is it so important?

I did a bit of everything - I bartended, worked at a music festival, taught in private and public schools and even served in the military. Each experience taught me something and has made me a better solicitor.

What do you think made your application successful?

I genuinely invested time in each application. For Bakers, I went to the Bakers booth at the UCL law fair, attended an open day, kept in touch with the team, attended the assessment day and vacation scheme, and received my TC offer off the back of the scheme.

Which departments did you train in?

Private M&A; private equity & funds, which included a secondment to Macquarie; intellectual property; and technology which included a secondment to Palo Alto/San Francisco.

Please discuss a specific deal/case that you were involved with, outlining your role in the matter.

I am currently working on the GSK-Pfizer consumer healthcare joint venture - one of the largest deals the firm has been instructed on - and I am the Europe, Middle East and Africa regional lead. I work with and support an efficient team of partners and associates in London and across the Bakers network to ensure that the joint venture is legally and commercially successful.

How does the qualification process work at the firm?

Towards the end of our TC, there is a formal process in which trainees submit an application and CV stating our preferences for qualification. Informally, trainees continue to keep in touch with their preferred departments after their seats and often do client/international secondments in their fourth seats with their preferred departments.

What do you wish you’d known about being a trainee before you started that you now do?

Stay calm and don't feel like I need to make decisions because others are.

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

I am an associate in the private M&A team. I communicate with our clients as well as colleagues in London and across the Bakers network on various transactions. This often involves some form of negotiating, advising, coordinating, researching, explaining and so on with a sharp sense of objectives and goals.

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

I acted for Chinese technology and gaming giant Tencent's Series A investment in a UK AI drone company. I worked with a partner and senior associate to carry out due diligence and negotiate and draft the transaction documents, and assisted on signing and completion.

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

Most - the amount I learn and the adrenaline rush in the lead-up to deal signing and completion.  

Least - trying to balance always wanting to do and learn more vs taking a well-deserved break.

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

I am very involved and very much try my best to contribute directly by aligning myself with the firm's key practice areas, skillsets and clients. I also contribute indirectly to diversity/inclusion and recruitment initiatives, which are aspects that I value and fortunately for me, so do Bakers.

What makes your firm stand out from the rest?

We are commercially and legally sharp lawyers with an incredible global network - and we genuinely love a laugh and drink too!

What skills/strengths do you need to be a successful solicitor?

Communication skills, ability to work in a team and a genuine interest in the law and how businesses succeed - and fail.

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

Keep an open mind and get as much exposure as possible.

What is the work-life balance like at your firm? How often do you have late nights/work at weekends?

This is hugely dependent on a deal timetable but with more experience, I can anticipate long/short days and plan ahead. I have also been able to take advantage of my phone and laptop to participate remotely and be equally effective - we have the tech infrastructure for that at Bakers.

What is the wider culture like – are there sports teams/trips out? Is there a LGBT group, women’s group and so on?

The firm is always alive, there is almost too much to do! There are touch rugby, netball, basketball and football teams - with the annual Fluency cup where teams - male/female/mixed - descend upon the host office's city for a football tournament. The diversity strands are split into the LGBT+ allies, gender, culture & ethnicity, disability and wellbeing networks. There are office-wide events such as our BakerMingle quarterly themed socials and the Christmas party. In my department, we are having a karaoke night, a Day of the Dead/Halloween party, ice-skating, Christmas tree decorating and Christmas lunch just within October to December.

Does your department largely work independently, in support of another dept or is it routinely supported by other depts?

By nature, the corporate team tends to lead transactions and interact with the key client stakeholders. We receive input from our colleagues in other teams. That said, personally, I view my colleagues as specialists in their fields and I rely on them. I do not see them as ‘support’ functions, especially when they are ‘top of the class’ in their areas and have independent work.

Describe the firm in three words.

Diverse, energetic and responsible.

How often as a trainee were you communicating directly with clients (calls, attending meetings)?

I was given exposure from an early stage and was asked to lead a board meeting in my first month in the seat. I always felt safe and reassured that I can rely on my peers and seniors for advice.

What’s been the highlight of the last month at the firm?

A senior associate from the Melbourne office completed his one-year associate transfer programme and sadly it was time for him to return to Australia. In the same month, he received a promotion, he announced his wife was expecting and he had his birthday. Needless to say, there was a celebration…

What’s the biggest opportunity you’ve been given since joining the firm?

I was seconded to the Palo Alto/San Francisco and relocated there for four months earlier this year.

What’s your desert island disc?

My Spotify playlist titled ‘California’ filled with tunes from my time on secondment.