University: University of Bristol
Year of qualification: 2017
What attracted you to a career in law?
Becoming a lawyer was always at the back of my mind. Coming out of high school, I had an inkling toward the sciences and – knowing that there were many ways to enter the legal profession – I chose to study mathematics instead. After my undergraduate studies, I realised that I wanted to enter a challenging and intellectually stimulating profession, so I decided to study for a Graduate Diploma in Law and pursue a career path in the legal field. What also motivated me was my desire to find a dynamic, client-facing role in an international environment.
Why solicitor not barrister?
I really enjoy working as part of a team and I knew from my previous work experience that a career as a solicitor would provide this opportunity. I also enjoyed interactions with clients and the corporate environment within which a law firm operates. Having considered which route would be best for me, I realised that I would not prefer a career in the courtroom and that I was well suited to the solicitor route.
How did you decide which firms to apply to?
I started my career at Charles Russell Speechlys LLP as a paralegal in the private property department. Having worked at the firm for 18 months before I applied for my training contract, I knew that this was the firm for me. Although I was in the private property team, I knew that the firm was excellent in other areas of law as well and the idea of being part of any of those teams was very appealing to me. Having the opportunity to train at such a great law firm that also has a reputation for being a friendly place to work was the ideal combination.
How much work experience had you had? Why is it so important?
Although I wanted to be a lawyer from a young age, I thought that it would be a good idea to experience different professional environments before making a decision. I spent a summer working for a law firm in Cyprus and I also did a summer internship at a ‘big four’ accounting firm. Just before starting at Charles Russell Speechlys, I also worked at a small high street law firm in London, where I experienced a variety of legal work. My experience at different law firms exposed me to other areas of the legal profession, such as family law, property law and immigration, and it was during that time that I realised that I preferred more transactional areas of law. During my time working for an accounting firm, I realised that I enjoy being part of a larger corporate team. At Charles Russell Speechlys, I am lucky to have found a team where I can combine the two! Having this work experience was very useful as it gave me an insight into how bigger and smaller corporations work, how teams operate and the differences between the career options I could pursue. It was then that I became sure that I wanted to be a lawyer.
What do you think made your application successful?
I think the most important thing was that I successfully conveyed my personality in my application, as well as my commitment to train with Charles Russell Speechlys. Many applicants, myself-included, fall into the trap of applying to many different law firms without really thinking whether they would like to work there –this makes their applications uninteresting. I realised that it was important to set out in my application what attracted me about the firm and why I was also a suitable candidate for them. If I could give one piece of advice to candidates, it is to think that the person reading the application really wants to understand who you are and whether you would actually want to work at Charles Russell Speechlys, or if it is just one out of 100 applications you made.
Which departments did you train in?
My seats were private property, corporate and corporate restructuring, and insolvency. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to train in a variety of different areas which helped me decide into which team I wanted to qualify.
How often as a trainee were you communicating directly with clients (calls, attending meetings)?
In all three departments that I was a trainee, I had direct contact with the clients from day one. This gave me the opportunity to improve my skills when dealing directly with a client, as well as my confidence. I was of course always supervised, as appropriate!
How does the qualification process work at the firm?
We have a relatively formal application process. A list of available jobs is published and trainees have a month or so to submit a covering letter and CV outlining why we want to join the department and what work we’ve done throughout our training contract. For most departments, including mine, there was then a formal interview with the department head and another member of the team.
What do you wish you’d known about being a trainee before you started that you now do?
That it is acceptable not to know everything and to have questions! No one gets upset if you ask questions or if you do not know everything, as you are not expected to. People would get more upset if you do not understand what is required and do not ask any questions.
What’s the biggest opportunity you’ve been given since joining the firm?
To start as a paralegal with a fixed term two-month contract and become a qualified solicitor!
Please outline your area of expertise. What might you do in a typical day?
Being a corporate lawyer, although people may think it is repetitive, you never have the same day twice. Depending on the number of transactions you are working on and their level of urgency, the variety of work can change dramatically. On a usual day I would be involved in conference calls in relation to ongoing or new transactions, meeting with the clients and drafting documents for ongoing projects. On more exciting days, when there is a signing meeting, you may spend the whole day with the clients finalising and signing documents.
How involved are you with business development and promoting the firm?
As a junior lawyer, although we are encouraged to take part in business development activities and promoting the firm, this is not one of my primary objectives. As trainees we organised a junior networking event where we all invited two contacts for wine tasting which was a very good event to understand why BD is so important. I do enjoy taking part in events organised with intermediaries or clients and I look forward to opportunities to be more involved.
What makes your firm stand out from the rest?
As a firm, we are focused on people and their growth. I am now in my sixth year at the firm and I have been encouraged and supported at every stage and role that I have had. The firm spends a lot of time and effort in making sure that trainees get the best out of their two years. The partners acknowledge that stress levels can be high and ensure that you are supported and that you are growing as a lawyer. The recently launched Skills Academy provides broad training to make us leading lawyers, but also well-rounded individuals.
Describe the firm in three words.
Friendly, collaborative, human.
What advice do you have for budding solicitors who are contemplating a career in law?
Don’t be disappointed if you are rejected by a law firm, it means they weren’t a good fit for you either. Be open minded in relation to the area of law you want to specialise in. You will not be sure where you want to qualify until you have tried different areas of law and have real exposure to the daily work. Focus on your goals, be yourself and work hard!
What’s your guilty pleasure?