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Meet the lawyer

Julie McGovern

Julie McGovern

University: University of Dundee
Degree: Bachelor of Laws (LLB), English Law
Year of qualification: 2017
Position: Associate
Department: Commercial and energy law
Pronouns: She/her

What attracted you to a career in law?

I always loved studying English and history in school and I felt those two subjects go well with the interpretation of language and attention to detail that a career in law offers.

Why solicitor, not barrister?

As a very client-oriented person, the role of a solicitor offered me the extended ability to invest in longstanding client relationships and assist clients in many aspects of their business success. I also like the idea of working in a large team delivering a combined service offering rather than being self-employed.

How did you decide which law firm to apply to?

After I graduated from university, I moved to Bristol to complete my Legal Practice Course and there I was given the opportunity to work for The University of Law in its business development team. This role involved liaising with law firms to ensure key strategic relationships were created and maintained. 

The experience enabled me to work with and get to know the culture of different firms and various departments on a professional basis rather than as a student or prospective applicant. I appreciated the insight this role offered me as I was able to develop a real understanding of each firm and could identify which 'suited' my working style most.  

How much work experience did you have? 

As a university student, I used my time off and holidays to gain some legal work experience (outside of my roles as vice president of the student's union and in the law school's society). I’ve interned in the legal departments of the Equality Commission for Northern Island, the Northern Ireland Assembly and at different law firms in Belfast. I also had a supportive lecturer at the University of Dundee who put me forward for a research position in a local law firm in Scotland assisting with intellectual property matters which was a great experience.

What do you think made your application successful?

A huge part of what made my application successful was because I had met the recruitment team and other lawyers through my job before applying so the firm knew what it was like to work with me already. On the flip side, I knew and appreciated the firms' direction and values. For those looking for advice on applying to law firms, I would advise being yourself and to not be disheartened if a firm doesn't 'select' you – it merely means that you might not necessarily have been the right fit for each other and you might not have been happy in the long run.   

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

The great thing about my job is that every day is different. Some days are filled with phone calls and meetings and other days are relatively quiet which allows for more in-depth contract reviews or drafting advice. My expertise lies in renewable energy and electric vehicle infrastructure so my team works on numerous projects and are currently very busy following the  government’s latest reports on Net Zero and COP 26. 

With my experience in project management and strong client relationships, I am often the first 'port of call' for some of my clients, whether I’m actively working on a specific piece of advice we are drafting for them or not. Therefore, naturally some of my day involves speaking with clients on how their projects are developing and liaising with the various teams at our firm who are part of the project delivery. I learn a lot from being able to work with team members across various disciplines and to see a deal or project from multiple angles. Around lunchtime, I usually have a call with a client to catch up on a contract I’ve been amending or drafting for them. I also have frequent support calls with the partners and other team members to catch up and share advice.

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

I was fortunate to have worked on the biggest geothermal energy project in the UK in Cornwall. My job was to conclude the partnering deals and secure funding for the drilling to commence. This was a hugely exciting project and I loved working with our client and many of our firm's different specialists to ensure that all legal bases were covered: from compliance with European state aid rules and procurement, to private investment funding agreements and the set up between the various project partners – all against a time crunch! Other than the project management side, my role as a lawyer involved drafting and negotiating various commercial contracts, including the arrangements with the various project partners, and ensuring that these contracts married together with other crucial deal documents. 

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

I love working in renewable energy and in the electric vehicle space because they are both part of a changing market and involve innovative projects and infrastructure across the world. I feel like I am a small part of exciting pioneering projects which are changing our environment for the better. I admire how passionate our clients are; they genuinely care about the developments they’re making. It’s exciting to work with such creative and energetic individuals who are driving ground-breaking projects and bringing out new technologies in the UK. 

On the other hand, while I love the variety which my job lends itself to, I suppose if I had to pick something I least enjoy, it would be the  administrative side that comes with being a lawyer, such as sending out confirmation of instructions and time recording. I’m very much a 'people person' and prefer client interaction and negotiating contracts. While we have fantastic legal assistants and brilliant technology to assist us, no lawyer can escape the admin requirements which, while not terrible, aren't something I'm passionate about!  

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

Having the ability to listen to what a client wants and how they define 'success', both in the short term and in the long run is important because a client's focus isn't necessarily always about immediate profit or working on a project for a long time. Each client is different and will want different things or be committed to achieving their goals in a certain way or with a certain ethos. Another important skill as a lawyer more generally is having attention to detail, and the ability to analyse is also important. A lack of passion for your practice area can lead to an unsuccessful career, so it’s important for aspiring lawyers to be passionate about the practice area they want to work in.

What is the work/life balance like at your firm?

We’re fortunate at Foot Anstey because the firm takes an interest in its people and strives to strike as much of a balance as possible. The firm is continually reviewing and managing its wellbeing schemes and incentives to ensure its people are content in the workplace. The firm operates a 'lifestyle hour' which encourages employees to take time out for themselves by giving us an extra hour a week to take a longer lunch or leave early for the day, workload permitting of course! Work/life balance comes down to the culture of the firm and I certainly feel that my own supervising partners are very supportive and encourage me to maintain a really good balance.  

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

I have been afforded many opportunities to work directly with clients and on big projects early on in my career, which speaks volumes of the trusting and supportive nature of the firm. More recently, I went on secondment to EDF for a few months in 2021; working with a large-scale energy company was a wonderful experience. I enjoyed the independence in handling projects (whilst still having support when needed) and seized the opportunity to get to know the client business in greater detail. This experience confirmed my passion for providing practical and commercial advice in line with each client's work culture and practice. 

What’s your guilty pleasure?

I'm a bit of a foodie and love cooking and dining out whenever I can – although the 'guilty' side of this is my insatiable appetite for chocolate and crisps! I'm also passionate about animals, in particular dogs and dog rescue. I often delay progress on a walk by stopping to ask owners if I can say hello/cuddle their dog!