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Meet the lawyer

Lucia Bizikova

Lucia Bizikova

University: Sciences Po, France
Degree: Bachelor of Arts (multidisciplinary humanities and social sciences)
Year of qualification: 2021
Position: Associate
Department: Litigation and 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 contracts. This means that English law ends up being used in disputes around the world, so becoming a solicitor would open opportunities to move around if I wanted. I moved to the UK and completed an LLM at the University of Cambridge, then the Legal Practice Course (LPC) at The University of Law.

What attracted you to DLA Piper?

I researched firms that had well-known litigation and arbitration practices. DLA Piper struck me as genuinely international, which I felt was important given my profile and experience. I applied to the firm after meeting some of the lawyers and the early careers recruitment team at the Cambridge law fair and was offered a place on the International Graduate Programme before I started the LPC.

Did you do a vacation scheme?

Yes, I completed the summer internship programme. At DLA Piper, the only way to secure a place on the International Graduate Programme is through the internship. We don’t hire graduate trainees directly onto a training contract. The internship  is a great way to see first-hand how the firm operates and get a sense of the people, and the environment.

Which departments did you train in?

My first seat was in the (re)insurance team. The (re)insurance team is small, so I worked closely with senior colleagues and partners on exciting cases that I was also reading about in the news. I also had a regular contact with our clients.

I then moved to the energy and infrastructure projects team. 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 most signings at the completion of a transaction were done remotely, which was a big novelty for everyone. The situation could have been very challenging, but my supervisor and the whole team were very supportive, so overall I had an excellent second seat.

My third seat was in the arbitration team, which is where I ended up qualifying. During this time, I was actively involved in two big arbitrations and some smaller cases on an ad hoc basis. One of them was a commercial arbitration involving Chinese and Spanish parties. This case was in the pre-hearing stage and involved a lot of document production and strategic work in preparation for the hearing. We even faced a very late, aggressive Christmas application, which was challenging for the entire team. It involved very complex legal issues, but it was a fantastic learning experience.

My fourth seat was a client secondment at the Premier League – I was working as a member of the regulatory team. I was responsible for assisting with the enforcement of the Premier League rules, the UEFA club licensing process and project managed the process of amending the Premier League handbook, which includes key documents for running the season.

What is the biggest piece of work you have been involved in so far?

I was on my secondment at the Premier League when the announcement of the European Super League happened – and took the world by storm. That was definitely the most media-focused, high-profile and public ‘case’ that I’ve been involved with. There were occasions when I helped with the response to the announcement and dealing with the aftermath, mostly by researching various novel points. The opportunity to witness how an institution like the Premier League dealt with such a high-profile issue is something that I’ll remember for the rest of my career. It goes without saying that I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the Premier League.

How does the qualification process work at the firm?

The qualification process starts approximately two months into the fourth seat of the  International Graduate Programme. The trainees submit their top three practice areas and a CV – the firm shares a template for you to follow but this is not compulsory.

Your three preferences are then considered separately by the partners in each group, so it’s possible for graduate trainees to receive multiple offers for an associate role at the firm.

The selection process is dependent on each team. All teams will consider each applicant's CV and performance review feedback received during each of the four seats. However, some teams might hold interviews or even ask the trainees to prepare a case study. Decisions and offers are made fairly quickly – I received mine only one week after the interview took place.

 Subsequently, there’s then a clearing stage, in which the roles that haven’t been filled are advertised again and those who didn’t receive an offer initially  can reapply.

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’ve been able to gain fantastic experience working on international matters. There’s real scope to take on responsibility and participate in key activities such as client pitches, business development and publishing articles. I’ve really enjoyed having the opportunity to take ownership of products and receiving the recognition for that.

With regards to some of the challenges of being a graduate 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!

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

This is one of the aspects of life as a lawyer that graduate trainees often forget about. There are lots of business development opportunities at DLA Piper, and many of them are run by some of our networking groups. This includes the Leadership Alliance for Women, the Mosaic network which focuses on diversity and inclusion, or Iris, which is the firm’s LGBTQ+ network. Pro bono is also a very important part of what we do and how we develop our practice.

Each of the groups organise projects and events. There are so many opportunities for trainees to get involved and take on responsibility and ownership of certain projects. For example, when I was a graduate trainee, I helped to organise and run the Poppy Day fundraising at the Blackfriars station and support the work of the Royal British Legion. I inherited the role from an associate during my second year on the International Graduate Programme.

Trainees should make the most of these opportunities because they’re fantastic ways to develop important soft skills, such as project management, and network with other members of the firm outside of your immediate team. For example, I met a partner during one of these events who then played a pivotal role in me securing a client secondment opportunity.

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

You must be organised and be able to prioritise your work – it does take time to develop this skill. Persistence, excellent attention to detail and good people skills are also key; one can be a brilliant legal mind but if you don’t know how to speak to your colleagues and clients, you won’t get very far!

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

It’s important to try to know the firm and understand that they’re all different, which can be tricky because many firms seem similar when you’re reading about them online. If you can, go and see a range of firms for yourself. Attending different firms’ in-person and virtual events will provide a much better insight into the uniqueness of each firm and whether it’s a good fit.  

You must be resilient too. A career in law is cyclical – there will be busy times, but they will pass, and you’ll have the chance to get involved in different work. New opportunities will arise so stay motivated.

Describe the firm in three words.

International, collaborative and a disruptor.

Where is your dream holiday destination?

I’d love to go to Mexico during the Day of the Dead celebrations. It’s a holiday that’s fascinated me for a long time so is definitely on my bucket list.