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University: University of Bristol
Year of qualification: 2012
Department: Intellectual property
What attracted you to a career in law?
In secondary school, I went on a school trip which was designed to give an introduction to various different careers. The trip involved a mock crime scene and students from the various schools in my area took on the different roles of the people who would become involved, such as journalists reporting coverage of the incident and police interviewing witnesses. One of the roles was that of a lawyer, either defending or prosecuting those involved. That small insight into what being a lawyer entails (ie, researching applicable laws and the development of argument) really sparked my interest; I then chose to study law at A level and enjoyed it, so I decided to continue the subject at university.
Why solicitor not barrister?
In the early stages, I considered both routes, but I became clearer about what I wanted when I went to university and started doing a bit more research. I’ve always played quite a few different sports and I enjoy working as part of a team, which lends itself to the collaborative working lifestyle of a solicitor, as opposed to that of a barrister, which seems slightly more isolated.
When you were going through the application process, how did you decide which firms to apply to?
I actually used LawCareers.Net! It’s all about doing as much online research into firms as you can because when you’re first looking, the legal market is a completely new world that you are unlikely to be familiar with. I considered the size of firm that I wanted to work at and the types of work I could see myself being interested in. I knew that I wanted to work in London, where there would be a range of interesting clients. Through my research I further established that intellectual property and technology-related matters were for me, which also helped to narrow my list of potential firms down. I decided to aim for firms where I could take on a lot of responsibility and be exposed to a good calibre of client.
What do you think made your application successful?
I tried to demonstrate the skills that I had attained from various things I had achieved prior to my application (such as an aptitude for teamwork being developed through playing sports) and how they would translate to the workplace. All the different experiences that you have throughout school, university and various jobs can be used to illustrate your ability to deal with the issues and challenges that come up in the course of working at a law firm. I also made sure that I carried out some thorough research so that I was clear as to the reasons why I wanted to apply to this particular firm and how I personally distinguished it from the others.
How much work experience had you had?
I completed a vacation scheme at a law firm which specialised in construction law and contract-related disputes, which was really good fun and gave me a good insight into what working in London would be like. I then attended another scheme with a West End firm to see what the contrast would be between that and the City. Finally, I did a vac scheme with Baker McKenzie.
How did you find the training contract?
It was really good - the reality of practice was very different to anything I had done before, even on the LPC; you have to increase the speed of your analysis and the rate at which you synthesise new information, as you can’t always spend too long debating the relevant issues and need to come up with an effective and correct solution quickly.
What departments did you train in? What did you like/dislike about the work?
My first seat was in intellectual property, where I ended up qualifying. My second seat was in investment funds, which was a very different discipline to intellectual property; I received good experience of drafting and was also given quite a lot of responsibility. I spent my third seat on secondment to Google, where I did a mix of IP and commercial work – it was really good to experience things from the client’s side. My final seat was in IT and commercial, which helped to further develop my experience in drafting, research and litigation.
Please outline your area of expertise - what might you do in a typical day?
Intellectual property at Baker McKenzie is a broad practice - we cover both contentious and non-contentious IP, so you get to experience a wide range of work. On one day, I might be working on a large transaction, for example, advising a company buying a portfolio of IP assets from another; the next I’ll be working on an IP dispute over ownership or infringement - it is nice to have a varied workload.
How does your work differ now from the work you did as a trainee?
As a trainee, you have to look beyond what you’re doing for the associates, to see if a particular practice area is one that you want to be in for the long term. As an associate, there is a lot more responsibility and you’re a lot more visible both internally and externally. There is also more direct contact with clients.
Highlight of your career to date?
We have an annual football tournament between the firm’s European offices called the Fluency Cup, which I recently came back from. We regularly lose to the Germans - on penalties, as well! The London team came fifth this year, but it was really fun and also a great chance to meet people from the different offices - it’s definitely one of the highlights of the year.
What do you most/least enjoy about your career and why?
We’re generally involved with cutting-edge technology and innovative business models, which is an aspect of the role that I really enjoy. It’s also great to see how intellectual property, which sometimes involves the application of very old laws, applies to these new technologies and developments.
There are always some elements of a case that are less enjoyable than others. At the moment, we are working on a very large piece of litigation and, naturally, it involves a lot of paper and I’ve got bundles coming out of my ears!
What makes your firm stand out from the rest?
It sounds clichéd, but it’s the people; there’s a very friendly atmosphere and I get on with everyone I work with. It was the main thing I was looking for on my different vac schemes, when you can get a good feel for what working with different people every day will be like. My impression of Baker McKenzie was its particularly collegiate atmosphere and that has only been further confirmed since I joined.
Why would you recommend your firm to those currently applying for vac schemes/training contracts?
Definitely - it’s a great place to train and practise, post-qualification.
What skills/strengths do you need to be a top solicitor?
You need to be aware of your client’s objectives and the bigger picture, whatever you are doing. This is often called 'commercial awareness', although I’m not sure that’s the right term. It can be easy to think of a particular legal issue or dispute in an isolated way, but when you look more widely at your client and its market, it can completely change how you should approach the task at hand.
What advice do you have for budding solicitors who are contemplating a career in law?
Read as much current affairs coverage as you can and try to develop an understanding of the areas of business that you are interested in - it will really help you when you come to advising clients and understanding the challenges that they face.
Go to Baker McKenzie's website