University: Durham University
Year of qualification: 2017
Department: Financial litigation
Having read law at university, I quickly learnt about how it is central to the functioning of everything that we do. In that context, the chance to work with a variety of people and businesses and become a trusted advisor appealed to me.
The irony is that when I first became interested in law, I wanted to become a barrister. I completed a number of mock trials and mooting contests, and always enjoyed the preparation and theatre of advocacy.
However, after completing several mini-pupillages, I considered that a career as a barrister was quite a lonely one. I enjoy working in a team and working with clients; and I realised that a career as a solicitor would have allowed me to do those things.
In the end, I think I have achieved the correct balance. Having qualified in financial litigation, I am always keen to advocate at court and intend to apply for my higher rights of audience.
It can be so easy to take a scatter-gun approach when applying to law firms; it is such a competitive environment and you just want to make that first step on the ladder.
I completed a number of work placements and realised that given the commitment we make to our work, it was vitally important I applied to firms which felt right to me. I wanted to work for a firm that was exciting and forward thinking; had an inclusive culture; and would offer me the chance to become a well-rounded lawyer. DWF ticked all of those boxes.
I completed a number of unpaid voluntary work experience placements and vacation schemes before completing my training contract. These were either at large firms or smaller high-street ones.
I took something away from each placement. The placements got me thinking like a lawyer long before I became one. I started building my network, reading around the law and gaining practical knowledge. The placements cemented my desire to become a solicitor. They also helped me during the application stage as I was able to discuss practical issues I had dealt with.
It can be quite easy to make sweeping generalisations in applications and undersell yourself. You can slip into talking about how “hard working” you are, how you are a “perfectionist” and are attracted to firm “X because it has Y”.
This approach was not going to make me stand out. I had to be more specific. I had to give more detail. I had to provide examples by drawing on my experiences inside and outside of law.
I provided assistance on several corporate finance and real estate finance deals while sitting with the banking team. These sorts of deals can be particularly demanding as there are so many conditions precedents which need to be satisfied before a deal is completed. You are also working to tight deadlines. I was given a large amount of responsibility from the outset. This involved helping senior fee-earners draft key documents, keeping track of the progress of the condition precedents, communicating with the borrower’s solicitors and assisting the client with due diligence. Although such deals did involve a few late nights, completing the matter to the delight of the client was very rewarding.
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.
It sounds strange, but a saying from my old supervisor will always stick with me: “Listen, no one died.”
That was in response to me having made a mistake. That sort of perspective is invaluable. A mistake is not the end of the world. ’Fess up to them quickly. Apologise. Rectify them. Importantly, learn from them. Do not beat yourself up over mistakes - the best make them and the best use them to become better.
Don’t give up!
Training contract places are at a premium. It is likely that you will be unsuccessful more times than you will be successful when it comes to the application process. With this comes dreaded rejection - which is never nice.
However, you need to be able to have the resilience to use that rejection to motivate you. Learn from each experience. Keep improving. Do better next time. That strength of character will serve you well in a career which is full of setbacks and challenges.
As a NQ in the team, I support the entire team in a wide range of contentious financial services work.
This includes assisting on the investigations of complex fraud cases; drafting financial regulatory advice pieces; managing my own caseload of asset-finance recoveries work and mortgage-backed repossessions; and assisting clients in the enforcement of personal guarantees. I have also advocated at court on several occasions.
I can safely say that every day is different, and I am really enjoying the variety this area of law affords me.
I work in a very technical area of law and I enjoy the intellectual challenge that comes with it. Every case has its own nuance and you need to think on your feet and find ways to counter arguments raised by the other side. I am very competitive too, so getting the best for your client is always rewarding.
On the other hand, client expectations can be challenging at times given how technical the work can be. The pressure of meeting court deadlines can also be a stressful experience. Fortunately, the team I work in is great at recognising this and providing you with support if you need it.
As a NQ in the team, I am always encouraged to attend client meetings and events whenever possible. As a member of the Manchester Young Professionals Group, I'm involved in coordinating events for young professionals in Manchester. I am also an ‘innovation champion’, which involves me liaising with my team, wider members of the firm and clients to think of new ways to improve how we offer our legal services.
The legal profession can sometimes be seen as conservative and not open to new ideas. In contrast, DWF prides itself as being a progressive and innovative law firm which is not afraid of doing things differently.
"Disrupting to progress" is an integral part of our strategy at DWF. The essence of such a value is an understanding that just because something has been done a certain way for so long, does not mean it is the only way or the best way.
We continue to win awards for innovation as we strive to find new ways of supporting our clients to achieve their business objectives and provide the best possible service.