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Meet the lawyer

Gajendran Balachandran

Gajendran Balachandran

University: Cardiff University
Degree: Bachelor of Laws
Year of qualification: 2014 (Malaysia) and 2018 (Australia)
Position: Associate
Department: Litigation and regulatory
Pronouns: He/him

What attracted you to a career in law?

I drew inspiration from my uncle, who was a lawyer when I was in school. I recall conversations with him about what his work was like and when I’d finished my GCSEs, I shadowed him for a day. During this experience, I was exposed to the life of a litigation lawyer and was completely enamoured by it all, from the courtroom exchanges to client meetings and just the general vibe of working in a large corporate setting (bearing in mind that I was 17!). My uncle went on to be a judge in Malaysia, so I think it’s fair to say I had a good guide for my career choice.

Why solicitor not barrister?

I was initially qualified in Malaysia where the legal profession is fused. In that sense, I was both a barrister and solicitor during my time in Malaysia, and thoroughly enjoyed the advocacy exposure that came from the barrister side of the profession. When I opted to move to Australia and subsequently England, the requalifying routes meant that it was more straightforward to obtain recognition as a solicitor in those jurisdictions. In practical terms as well, chances of securing employment as a foreign-qualified lawyer were always going to be higher as a solicitor rather than a barrister.

Please outline your area of expertise. What might you do in a typical day?

I’m a commercial litigation lawyer, with a particular focus on financial services and corporate disputes. In a typical day, I juggle between administrative tasks, such as internal billing matters, and filing of documents and emails; and substantive work, such as client correspondence or calls, reviewing client or court documents, and drafting court documents or notes of advice for internal discussion or external-facing ones for the clients directly.

Please discuss a current/recent specific deal/case, outlining your role in the matter.

I recently assisted in a scheme of arrangement for a family-owned company that runs a brewery and more than 250 pubs in North West England and Wales. I was the lead associate on the matter, from a litigation perspective, as it also involved significant input from our corporate colleagues. The mandate was to guide the company in respect of an internal share buyback scheme for its members, which was intended to allow the members (being members of the family) a once-in-a-generation opportunity to divest their shares for a premium. The scheme of arrangement was carried out over a period of three months, culminating in a court hearing for the sanction of the scheme. As the lead associate, my role included drafting witness statements in support of the application to court, liaising with senior counsel in respect of the court documents and hearing arrangements, and corresponding with the client in respect of general matter management.  

What do you most enjoy about your career and why?

The thing I enjoy most about my career is that it’s taken me places. As a law student, I’d never have imagined being able to work as a lawyer in three different jurisdictions. I’m extremely grateful for the opportunities that have come my way, as I’ve been able to learn a lot from them, and have collaborated with some great colleagues and clients along the way.

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

I regularly volunteer to represent the firm at external events, particularly those involving schools and students who may one day endeavour to pursue a career at law, and potentially at DLA Piper as well. Additionally, I contribute to written publications that are shared externally on LinkedIn and the firm’s website.

What makes your firm stand out from the rest?

As a global firm, DLA Piper has an incredible footprint across the world. This international presence has enabled lawyers to work collaboratively with each other in a seamless manner, and provided great value for money for our clients, who can access lawyers from numerous jurisdictions without too much hassle. DLA Piper is also a very modern firm, as it’s constantly on the lookout for new ways of improving its lawyers’ working experience as well as the end product that’s delivered to a client, be it from a technological, artificial intelligence or legal resourcing perspective.

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

Broadly speaking, I'd say:

  • a good eye for detail;
  • good communication and writing abilities;
  • a good understanding of the law; and
  • being a good team player.

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

Go for it. I’d highly recommend that anyone considering a career in law should undertake a summer clerkship or paralegal role as soon as possible, preferably while they’re still at university. These experiences will help budding solicitors understand what the working environment is like, as well as what qualities they should inculcate in themselves so they’re ready to take on a career as a solicitor in the future.

What’s the work/life balance like at your firm? How often do you have late nights/work at weekends?

The firm has a good work/life balance. Speaking from my experience of working in Manchester alone, I’d say that late nights at work are an exception rather than the general rule – I’ve not had a late night (which to me is after 7pm) more often than two or three times a month. Working on weekends on the other hand will depend on what your workload for the week is like but I’ll stress that there’s never been any compulsion to work at the weekend. In fact, I’d say I’ve worked no more than one weekend a month in the past 18 months.

What diversity and inclusion initiatives does the firm have in place?

The firm’s Mosaic group is a people network that aims to celebrate the differences and increasing awareness of the various cultural backgrounds, race, ethnicity and faith of the firm’s employees to aid the improvement of representation and progression at the firm. Mosaic’s presence has steadily grown over the years and is now a prominent group within the firm. The group regularly hosts key events across the UK offices, such as in celebration of cultural and religious festivals. Most importantly, Mosaic has ensured that education and awareness of various cultures have been an ongoing theme within the firm, which to me, is the most important aspect of diversity and inclusion.

What’s the wider culture like – for example, are there sports teams/trips out? Is there an LGBTQ+ group, women’s group etc?

The firm is fairly active socially. For example, in the Manchester office there’s a five-a-side football team that competes in several leagues in the city. The firm is also proudly represented by Iris, its LGBT+ and ally people network that has a presence across the international offices, not just in the UK. Iris’ primary aim is to provide and promote an inclusive environment within the firm, and regularly supports projects that promote justice for the wider LGBT+ community.

Does your department largely work independently, in support of another dept or is it routinely supported by other depts?

A large part of my work is carried out within the litigation and regulatory department alone, but I regularly work with colleagues in the corporate team as the subject matter and client base for both teams regularly overlap.

Describe the firm in three words.

Innovative, diverse and global.

What’s the biggest opportunity you’ve been given since joining the firm?

I’ve been fortunate to have been involved in several pro bono initiatives during my time with DLA Piper. In particular, I was selected as a secondee to the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR) in November 2022. For two weeks, I worked with the GCR lawyers in Athens on various matters involving refugees who were displaced from their home countries and had arrived on Greek shores undocumented. GCR has for years been championing the rights of such refugees by representing them in legal proceedings where necessary (eg, to prevent deportation) and by providing legal advice on various issues, such as the right to education and healthcare while in Greece. It was certainly an eye-opening experience to witness first-hand how the GCR lawyers went above and beyond the call of duty to make a difference to the life of a refugee who’d otherwise be left in an abyss in the detention camps, where they regularly go months without any form of contact or update from the authorities on the progress of their asylum applications.

What are you reading at the moment?

My choice of books is unfortunately very typical of a lawyer. They’re almost always crime thrillers written by John Grisham or David Baldacci. At the moment, it’s Long Shadows – a murder mystery involving a sitting judge with plenty of twists by David Baldacci.