Farrer & Co LLP
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University: Trinity College, Dublin
Degree: History and political science
Year of qualification: 2014
What attracted you to a career in law?
Although I knew I didn’t want to read law as an undergraduate, I became interested in it when I took part in the Model United Nations group at school. I went to the conference in The Hague a number of times and sat on a mock Security Council one year when we were representing China. A judge from the International Court of Justice came to speak to us, as did Kofi Annan another year. I think it was listening to these speeches that I first became properly interested in the law and in particular in international justice. A very idealistic 16 year old!
After my GDL and before my LPC, I spent a year in Argentina studying international public law and working with a human rights lawyer and in a women’s shelter. I had a wonderful, fascinating and at times very challenging year. After Argentina I worked for PILnet (the global network for public interest law) in Budapest for a period and then for InterRights, which dealt with third-party interventions in international human rights cases.
I found the practical experience of working in a variety of different organisations incredibly valuable and it taught me a lot about the type of work I enjoy and find challenging, and also the type of work I don't enjoy. Although I had always thought that I might work in academia or policy, actually working in these environments made me realise that it wasn’t what I was looking for.
How did you decide which firms to apply to?
The first person I met in the legal world was a partner at Clifford Chance, who kindly showed me around the firm. I was impressed, but I got the sense that it wasn’t the right fit for me.
I knew that I wanted to work in family, employment or charities, especially where they might overlap, so I narrowed it down to mid-size firms specialising in these areas. I also used student guides to see how firms were rated on aspects like work/life balance and interesting work. Farrer & Co came first place in a number of these categories in Lex100, which uses trainees to rate their own firms. It sounded like a really lovely firm and so I applied.
How much work experience did you do? Why is it so important?
I did a vacation scheme at Farrers and I really enjoyed it. Everyone was very friendly and I just really liked the atmosphere.
Which departments did you train in?
I started in September 2012. The firm runs a six-seat system, which gives trainees greater breadth, and allows trainees to do at least one seat in their top two choices. I sat in the following seats: commercial property; employment; financial services; family; private client; and employment.
Please discuss a specific deal/case that you were involved with, outlining your role in the matter.
There are two that stand out. The first was an unfair dismissal claim in the employment tribunal. We were acting for a couple who were being sued by a former domestic employee. It was an emotive and personal case involving children and human relationships. I was lucky as it came in just as I started my seat, and the partner gave it to me to run. I learnt a huge amount from it and it will always stick in my mind.
The second was working on an independent review into child sexual abuse committed by a teacher who was found to have drugged and abused students on a school trip. The abuse was discovered after the teacher left the school when indecent photos of students were found on his computer. The teacher subsequently committed suicide. We assisted a QC who was commissioned to carry out an independent review of the case.
How does the qualification process work at the firm?
This process is handled very well. In around January of the second year each trainee has an informal meeting with the trainee partner to talk about where we might like to qualify. The partner then speaks to the teams to see where there are spaces. Each trainee has a second meeting in about March to see if our choices match availability. In our case, nine out of 10 of us stayed at Farrers and qualified into our first choice seat.
Please outline your area of expertise. What might you do in a typical day?
On the employment side of things, my work is divided equally between employer and employee. On the employer side we act for a lot of institutional clients such as schools, museums, universities and newspapers. We handle tribunal claims and carry out advisory work, such as redundancies and disciplinaries. On the employee side I do quite a bit of senior executive contract work and I also act for individuals bringing employment claims or being invested by regulatory bodies.
The other half of my work is around safeguarding and child protection. I have assisted on several investigations into cases of abuse or neglect. We act for a wide range of organisations working with children including schools, sports bodies, charities and religious organisations. My work ranges from updating policies to delivering training, from handling live cases of abuse (including peer-on-peer abuse) to delivering training. We also host and speak at seminars and conferences and publish articles about safeguarding.
What do you most/least enjoy about your career and why?
I love the variety. Safeguarding appeals to the side of me that was initially attracted to law at school but I also love the employment work, instructing counsel to look at complicated areas of law. The industries we work in are very interesting and you get a real and fascinating insight into a variety of different worlds. This for me is one of the great privileges of being a lawyer.
You do get a lot of responsibility from a very early stage, and you are often handling highly sensitive information. Both employment and child protection are very emotive areas, so the pressure increases. Learning how to manage this is important.
What makes your firm stand out from the rest?
Two things! First, the culture – it really is a wonderful firm and everyone is so friendly. There is a real sense of camaraderie and huge support among colleagues and it is a great working environment, which is a big selling point. Second, the nature of the work – I think in terms of my interests, I am in exactly the right place and I feel very lucky to be here, doing the work that I love in a firm that I respect.
What advice do you have for budding solicitors who are contemplating a career in law?
Do interesting things with your summers. Do what you love doing, rather than just work experience in a firm, like learning a language – something that will set you apart.
Lots of people fall into law as the obvious option, but then realise it’s not for them. That’s fine and it is better not to resist that, as you may find yourself unhappy several years down the line.
What’re you reading at the moment?
The Question of Red by Laksmi Pamuntjak.
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