Ben Richards


University: University of Liverpool
Degree: Law (LLB)
Year of qualification: 2016
Position: Solicitor
Department: Commercial and intellectual property

What attracted you to a career in law?

In addition to the variety of work and gaining an insight into how different types of businesses work, being seen as a valuable legal and commercial adviser attracted me to a career in law.

Why solicitor not barrister?

Having completed a number of mini-pupillages, I felt that a career as a barrister could have been a lonely one. I enjoy working in a team and working with clients to help them achieve their commercial objectives. Although I did consider becoming a barrister, I think my character is suited to a more commercially-focused, non-contentious role.

How did you decide which firms to apply to?

When I was applying, DWF was going through a period of growth and change and seemed like an exciting firm to be a part of. DWF's innovative approach and commitment to "doing things differently" also really appealed to me.

Ultimately, however, I applied to firms based on what felt right to me at the time. DWF has some fantastic commercial and intellectual property lawyers in Manchester, and ended up being the perfect firm for me.

How much work experience did you do? Why is it so important?

In addition to volunteering at the Citizens Advice Bureau, I completed a number of vacation schemes before completing my training contract. The vacation schemes helped me decide that I wanted to become a commercial solicitor at DWF, while my time at the Citizens Advice Bureau helped me during the application stage as I was able to discuss the practical issues I had dealt with while volunteering.

What do you think made your application successful?

In addition to legal work experience, having lived and worked in Canada and Switzerland as a ski instructor gave me the ability to stand apart from other candidates and talk about experiences I've had outside of law. Ultimately I think my desire to become a commercial solicitor and work for DWF specifically really helped.

Which departments did you train in?

During my training contract I completed seats in business restructuring, real estate litigation, group legal, corporate and a double seat in commercial and intellectual property.

Please discuss a specific deal/case that you were involved with, outlining your role in the matter.

I provided assistance on several connected share purchase and asset purchase deals while sitting with the corporate team. This was a particularly demanding deal and I was given a large amount of responsibility from the outset. This involved helping senior fee-earners draft key documents, communicate with the sellers' solicitors and organise the data room. Although the deal did involve a few late nights, completing the matter to the delight of the client was incredibly rewarding.

How does the qualification process work at the firm?

During your penultimate seat with DWF, the NQ job list is issued to the second-year trainees. You apply like you would do for a normal seat rotation. Depending on the competition for jobs in a particular area, you may also end up having to interview for the role (as I did!).

What do you wish you’d known about being a trainee before you started that you now do?

Simple skills such as organisation, attention to detail and enthusiasm will go a long way.

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

I'm currently working in the commercial and intellectual property team in Manchester. While this area involves a lot of drafting, it also requires you to be very commercially aware.  A typical day will involve speaking to clients to understand what they want to achieve and how you can help them - it's then your job to translate the client's instructions into a contract.

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

I'm the main junior commercial contact for an exciting technology company that is seen by many as being one of the top tech start-ups in the country. While I'm supervised on everything we send to the client, I have a high level of responsibility and client contact, and have been involved in drafting a number of complex intellectual property agreements. Playing a large part in helping the client protect and commercialise their intellectual property at such an early stage is particularly rewarding.

What do you most/least enjoy about your career and why?

While I'm really enjoying being qualified, client expectations can be challenging at times given how technical the work can be. Not only are you often expected to work to tight deadlines, the client is paying you for your legal expertise, so you need to ensure the work you do is always completed to the best of your ability. Fortunately the team I work in is great at recognising this and providing you with support if you need it.

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

As a NQ in the team, I'm always encouraged to attend client meetings and events whenever possible. As a member of our IT law sub-team, I'm also currently involved in coordinating speakers and attendees for a client event we're hoping to hold in January.

What makes your firm stand out from the rest?

DWF is seen as being a modern, progressive law firm. "Disrupting to progress" is an integral part of our strategy at DWF and we've won several awards for innovation over the years, both in terms of how we work as a firm internally and how we support clients in achieving their business objectives.

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

Don't be too hard on yourself! Given how over-subscribed the profession is at the moment, it's incredibly unlikely you will be successful with your first training contract application. As a result, you'll need to be able to learn from your mistakes and move forward. Although nobody likes being rejected, if you can't handle rejection or disappointment at this stage, then perhaps a career as a solicitor isn't for you. While obtaining a training contract is obviously a massive achievement and the career can be really rewarding, life as a solicitor is full of setbacks and you need to be sure you can handle that.

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