Year of qualification: March 2020
Department: Intellectual property and technology
What attracted you to a career in law?
At school I was always interested in philosophy and maths – I liked the problem-solving aspect of maths and philosophical dilemmas. A law degree made sense because it involved both of those topics. It was at university that I became interested in commercial and business law.
How did you decide which firms to apply to?
I graduated without a training contract, so had the classic student panic that comes with not having a job secured after university. I took a proactive approach, however, and eventually secured a paralegal role in the employment team at Baker McKenzie. During this time, I applied for a training contract at the firm. I was well supported throughout the process and, having spent a number of months working at the firm and developing strong relationships, finally managed to get my training contract.
It was always the global, bigger firms that appealed to me. When I was at university, I was unsure what to look for and what I wanted from a firm, which probably played a part in my initial applications being unsuccessful. A lot of my applications were based on the information provided on firms’ websites, which everyone has access to. The experience I had at Baker McKenzie enabled me to write a much more tailored application because I had exposure to what it is actually like working at the firm and its culture, which you can't obtain from just reading the firm's website.
Which departments did you train in?
My first seat was in the IP team, which at the time was its own department; it later merged with the IT/commercial department to become IP tech. The IP seat was my preference seat. My second seat was in corporate finance and then I completed two secondments – one of which was a client secondment at Unilever (this was with the IP team) and the fourth seat was an international secondment to Dubai. In Dubai I was mainly sat in the dispute resolution and arbitration teams but I also did some IP tech work too.
What work did you do on the secondments?
The Unilever secondment was an interesting experience because it helped me to understand what the in-house team of lawyers do daily. The type of work we do in private practice when we are advising them is very different from what they do on a day-to-day basis. It was a steep learning curve because I was working on issues that I hadn’t worked on before.
From an IP perspective, it was great to have this experience in such a brand-heavy business because I could see their strategies and understand what issues are important to the business.
It is quite common for trainees to do at least one secondment with Baker McKenzie, whether that’s international or client. I would 100% recommend it – I was lucky to be given the chance to do both the international and client secondment. Everyone says that the client secondment is great experience for your career and your general development, while the international one is great life experience.
Please discuss a specific deal/case that you were involved with, outlining your role in the matter.
The main deal that I worked on as a trainee was the sale of Unilever’s baking, cooking and spreads business, which includes brands like Flora. As a first-seat trainee, it was interesting to work on famous household brands that I have heard of and use. The work we did was primarily on the IP side (ie, the trademark portfolios) – we helped to prepare the trademark and other IP schedules for the deal. That was probably the biggest deal I worked on as a trainee and it was a great experience and introduction to my Unilever secondment later in my training contract.
What do you wish you’d known about being a trainee before you started that you now do?
I was in quite a unique position because I had previously worked for a year as a paralegal at the firm, so had worked quite closely with trainees during that year. I felt that I was quite prepared in that respect, which was a huge benefit for sitting in my preference seat for my first seat. I don’t think there was anything that I was particularly surprised by when I started the training contract.
I do think it is nicer to join a smaller intake of trainees because when you’re studying together, for example, you become quite close friends and then you build a nice network with the other trainees. I would always advise trainees to develop a network like this because it helps you both in terms of work and on a social level – an aspect that the lockdowns have made difficult for the current trainees.
Please outline your area of expertise. What might you do in a typical day?
In our team, we work on all aspects of IP law – transactions, advisory and contentious.
That’s one of the reasons I wanted to work in IP tech; you don’t get bogged down doing just one type of work. In the past year, I have done a lot of transactional work with big brands. The work usually involves one of our clients purchasing or selling a brand. One of the biggest named brands I’ve worked on in the past year was the purchase of Charlotte Tilbury. It was an interesting deal to work on and I enjoyed helping with the big IP aspects of it.
We also do a lot of advisory work on IP matters generally. For example, there has been a lot of focus recently on the new copyright laws that are being published around the EU in relation to big tech companies, including social media platforms. It’s been an interesting period to work in the IP tech department because we are seeing how the law is reacting to developments in technology and culture, and it is fascinating to see how the changes in law will affect consumers' day-to-day use of those technologies.
What makes your firm stand out from the rest?
The culture is genuinely great and is one of the reasons I chose to stick around as a trainee and then an associate. I have made genuine friends at the firm. It’s a sociable and supportive environment, which has been key during lockdown. The international experience is also excellent and it’s great to work closely with colleagues around the world.
What advice do you have for budding solicitors who are contemplating a career in law?
First, I would encourage candidates to not get disheartened when their applications are rejected – I had a lot of rejections when I was applying. I think it’s important for candidates to get as much work experience as possible because it helps you to work out what you want to do and it makes it easier when you’re making applications.
I managed to get one week of work experience in an employment law firm after finishing university, which later helped with my application to Baker McKenzie because there happened to be an opportunity in the employment team. They were interested in the week-long experience I’d had, which resulted in me securing my paralegal role, the training contract and eventually qualification as a solicitor.
So, my advice would be to take all the opportunities you can get.
In terms of dealing with rejections, it is normal to feel deflated (I certainly did), but the right opportunity will come even when it feels like it’s not going to happen for you. There are an incredible number of people applying for these jobs, so luck also plays a part.
What is the wider culture like?
The diversity groups are quite big at Baker McKenzie – the events have taken a different format over the past year, but it was great that these events continued to go ahead virtually during the pandemic. For example, the BakerEthnicity network created a firm-wide event off the back of the Black Lives Matter protests, to enable staff to talk through their experiences. Hundreds of people attended. It was an incredibly powerful discussion, which generated further events.
There are a number of sports teams which provide a great way to meet and socialise with colleagues. I'm personally involved in the firm's football and tag rugby teams which are great fun.
What’re you reading at the moment?
My friend and I have been a bit obsessed with Brandon Sanderson’s fantasy series The Stormlight Archive – the books are very long, but definitely worth it!