University: Sciences Po, France
Degree: Bachelor of Arts (multidisciplinary humanities and social sciences)
Position: Trainee solicitor (qualifying in 2021)
Department: Litigation regulatory (arbitration team)
What attracted you to a career in law?
I didn’t know what I wanted to do professionally when I started university, so I chose to study law because it is a degree subject that leaves open a range of career options. But one opportunity led to another and I discovered my huge interest in international disputes, which made up my mind.
Although I was studying in France, I knew that I wanted to be an English solicitor rather than a French avocat because English law is more commonly used in international disputes than French law. And as English law is used for disputes around the world, becoming a solicitor would open opportunities to move around if I wanted. I moved to the UK and completed a LLM at the University of Cambridge, then the LPC at The University of Law.
What attracted you to DLA Piper?
The firm struck me as genuinely international, which I felt was important given my profile and experience. I applied after meeting some of the lawyers and the graduate recruitment team at the Cambridge law fair, and was offered a training contract before I started the LPC.
Did you do a vacation scheme?
Yes, at DLA Piper most of our trainee population have completed the summer internship.
What is training at DLA Piper like?
Trainees are enabled to dive deeper into their interests, which is a feature that I have found highly beneficial. On many occasions I have been able to put myself forward and volunteer to work on a matter that I was interested in and wanted to learn more about. My whole experience has been tailored around my skills and strengths, so every trainee’s experience is different. That means that it is so important to take responsibility for your own experience as well.
Being one of an intake of only 26 trainees in London is another advantage. For me the size of the trainee intake is ideal because it means you have plenty of responsibility and opportunities to shine, as well as the ability to get to know the other trainees well, which is important for networking and everyone’s professional development.
Which departments have you trained in?
My first seat was in the litigation & regulatory department, in the (re)insurance team. The (re)insurance team is small, so I was working closely with senior colleagues and partners on exciting cases that I was also reading about in the news, and I also had direct client contact.
I then moved to the energy and infrastructure projects department. As a transactional seat with a focus on major energy projects, it was a completely different experience – for example, I worked on financing innovative projects involving the sale and acquisition of solar farms. My second seat was different in other ways, too – the national lockdown happened when I was one month into my new seat, so I worked from home most of the time; even the majority of signings at the completion of a transaction were done remotely, which was a big novelty for the entire team. The situation could have been very challenging, but my supervisor and the whole team were very supportive, so overall, I have had an excellent second seat.
I am now in my third seat. I am working in the litigation & regulatory department again, in the arbitration team, which is also the area that I want to specialise in when I qualify. On the commercial arbitration side, I am interested in gaining more exposure to arbitrations in the energy sector after a great experience in my second seat, but I would also love to work on investor-state arbitrations, where high-profile cases are brought against countries through public international law mechanisms.
What is the biggest piece of work you have been involved in so far?
DLA Piper is very strong in the oil and gas sector, so in my second seat in the energy and infrastructure projects team, I worked on a transaction where the firm acted for an African national oil company on a $1.5 billion dollar pre-export financing. We were responsible for structuring the transaction and reviewing and negotiating finance documents and drafting and negotiating project documents, so we were working with all the different parties and their legal advisers that were involved in the deal.
I was responsible for drafting ancillary documents and supporting the team with the conditions precedent, but my highlight was going to the client’s offices in London for the signing of the documents, which took place physically but with social distancing because of the commercially sensitive nature of the documents, which shows the level of responsibility you can have at trainee level.
What do you most/least enjoy about your career and why?
The international work was one of the main reasons I wanted to join DLA Piper and I have been able to gain fantastic experience of working on international matters, even at trainee level. There is real scope to take on responsibility and participate in key activities such as client pitches, business development and publishing articles. And people at the firm are approachable and happy to share advice, which makes it the perfect environment to develop as a trainee.
With regards to some of the challenges of being a trainee, the sometimes-unpredictable nature of the workload on any given day can make it difficult to plan for dinners with friends or even an evening gym class. That’s why I started going for morning runs instead!
What advice do you have for budding solicitors who are contemplating a career in law?
It is really important to try to know the firm and understand that they are all different, which can be tricky because many firms seem similar when you are reading about them online. Circumstances are even more tough right now because of the pandemic, but my advice to students is to go and see a range of firms for yourself if you can. Attending different firms’ virtual events will provide a much better insight into the uniqueness of each firm and whether it is a good fit.
Where is your dream holiday destination?
I have wanted to go to Iceland and be there for New Year’s Eve since I found out that it’s possible to stay in an ice hotel and bring in the new year while watching the Northern Lights – that would be amazing!