University: University of Liverpool
Year of qualification: 2014
Department: Real estate
I didn’t fully know what I wanted to study at university, although had always had an interest in being a lawyer. I also knew that doing a law degree would give me transferable skills that would stand me in good stead for a range of jobs. Having enjoyed the intellectual demands of studying law at university, a career in the law felt like the obvious next step to explore.
I think with this decision, it often depends on the type of person you are. I wasn’t particularly excited or attracted to the idea of daily advocacy, and preferred the more structured and defined career progression that comes with being a solicitor. I also liked the idea of working closely with colleagues and clients, which although not exclusive to solicitors seemed more likely day to day.
I knew that I wanted to be either in London or close to where I’m from, so I looked at City and large regional firms in the East Midlands. I then looked at the type and quality of work each firm did by looking at their websites to get a sense of clients and deals, and to see if it was something that interested me and I could see myself involved with.
It is really important and I did a small amount while at school at a high street firm – it was good experience, in that it helped me realise that the high street wasn’t for me; I realised that I wanted a bit more cut and thrust. I didn’t in fact do any vacation schemes, which was a slightly risky approach as the recruitment process is so competitive, but I still went on to secure my training contract via an interview and assessment day.
I had also done a fair amount of non-law related work experience, which I believe helped my application and myself stand out. Freeths recruits people from all backgrounds and takes all experience into account.
I started in real estate, followed by a commercial seat in our Birmingham office. Freeths offers great opportunities to work in other offices and move around. My third seat was in corporate in Nottingham, by which point I had realised that I wanted to qualify into real estate, so I did my fourth seat there.
The firm acts on a really good mix of both national and local real estate work and even as a trainee in just a six-month seat, I was able to see some transactions through from beginning to end. I liked being able to drive past developments every day and be able to say I was part of making that happen. I knew after my first seat that I could see myself coming back.
About half way through your third seat you express a preference, which more often than not can be accommodated. At that point, you usually have a fairly good idea of what you want to do. It can also help to do your fourth seat in your preferred department, as I did.
Keeping an open mind. I had studied for an LLM in commercial law and thought that would be where I’d end up, but then I did my property seat and loved it.
Being a real estate lawyer is a mix of acquisitions, disposals, asset management, landlord and tenant, and development work, but it is all transactional. This means that I spend a lot of time drafting, reviewing documents, carrying out due diligence, and speaking to clients and other solicitors on the phone and in meetings. It is very varied.
I assisted on acquiring nearly 50 properties across the UK, with approximately 2,000 tenants in total across the portfolio; it was a very high-value and high-profile transaction. I was personally responsible for a handful of those properties. In addition, the partner leading the entire transaction was in my team, so I helped to coordinate the property aspects of the deal across our offices, making sure that everyone was pulling in the same direction.
I genuinely like speaking to and getting involved with colleagues and clients. With clients, you’re an extension of their businesses, so it always feels good to get a positive result for them; you’re helping them to achieve what they want.
On the flipside, it is a professional job and that can be demanding at times, especially when you have competing interests and deadlines, but everyone here is very supportive and helps one another out.
The partners here encourage you to go to as many BD events as possible, so that you can get your face and name out there – there are always dinners and client events to attend. The firm has also set up a scheme called “Initiate”, a BD event aimed at below partner level, which enables you to invite your contacts along to a firm-held event. It is great for meeting contacts at similar stages of their careers.
The quality of work is great and you have a real mix of excellent local and national clients, but it’s the people I work with that make the difference. Everyone is very supportive, and the senior partners are genuinely interested in seeing you develop as a lawyer. We are always asked if we are getting out of our careers what we want or if there is anything else we need, which is something that they will try to accommodate.
Do your homework on what you want to do and the sort of place that you want to work. You need to have concrete reasons for applying to a firm. You will have much more success with targeted applications; I was certainly guilty of doing too many in my early days! Also, try and get out there and do different things; aside from being good life advice generally, it also helps to show recruiters that you’re interesting and well rounded.
Probably anything by Bowie, but I’d probably go for The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.