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Meet the lawyer

Zum Mohammed

Zum Mohammed

University: Nottingham Trent University
Degree: LLB Law
Year of qualification: 2015
Position: Partner
Department: Corporate
Pronouns: She/her

What attracted you to a career in law?

I’d always been interested in the way companies worked – growing up my Dad bought and sold companies so that really shaped my business mindset from an early age. The initial exposure I got to entrepreneurs and how businesses work through my Dad meant I understood companies at a high-level early on. I witnessed how diverse he was as a business owner, he owned a petrol station, laundry mat and even an ice cream shop, he was a serial entrepreneur. I liked the idea of being a businessperson but wanted a structured (and less risky) career, so law seemed like a logical fit. 

Why solicitor not barrister?

I was always more interested in the contract and deal making side of law rather than advocacy, which is why I chose to become a solicitor. The idea of documenting commercial deals appealed to me more than making arguments in court.

How did you decide which firms to apply to?

The firms I applied to were all commercial, full service law firms. I looked at all the firms in Nottingham (where I was going to law school) and chose ones that had well known corporate teams and that I aligned with most in terms of culture.

How much work experience had you had?

I graduated in 2008 when the economy was in recession and firms were cutting training contracts, so I tried to get as much exposure as possible by volunteering in the Citizens Advice Bureau. Through this work I was lucky enough meet someone who had a friend who was the head of HR at a local law firm and I was able to get a work experience placement. What was initially meant to be a two-week stint turned into three months of work experience that was unpaid. On realising I was persistent, they offered me a paralegal role and worked there for a year before moving with a partner to another law firm. I worked as a paralegal for three years before I got my training contract.

What do you think made your application successful?

I think undoubtedly my work ethic. I was working as a paralegal for two years (while studying for my Legal Practice Course (LPC)) before I got a training contract with the firm. I was one of the first paralegals to get a training contract with the firm after it started giving them out again post-recession. It took a lot of determination to convince the board to start offering training contracts again after some difficult recession years.

Which departments did you train in?

I did three seats: corporate, commercial property and insurance litigation – my favourite seat was definitely corporate. I was able to qualify early because I had time to count from my time as a paralegal.

How does the qualification process work at the firm?

For external law and non-law graduates we offer two routes to qualification: the first, the traditional training contract structure; and the second, a graduate solicitor apprenticeship. We recognise people will be used to the traditional structure where you complete all vocational study upfront before joining the business, so we’ll continue to offer this pathway, the only change being that future trainees will undertake a Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) preparation course, and the SQE assessments, as opposed to the LPC. Our second pathway, the graduate solicitor apprenticeship, will be suited to people who wish to work alongside studying. Following this route, graduates will start employment with us two years after their offer (like training contract candidates) but will work four days per week as one day will be dedicated to studying towards their qualification and SQE assessments.

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

I’m the training principal for our London office and I always pass on the same advice to our incoming trainees. Your training contract is yours – you won it! Although you’re in each department to learn how to be a lawyer in that practice area, don’t be passive about it. You should seek out the work that you want to do and try to get as much exposure as possible to the work that interests you. Of course, you don’t have complete control over the work that you’re given but your supervisors and the team will respect you for taking an interest and trying to mould your own experience.

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

I’m a corporate lawyer so every day is different compared to the next! We’re mid-market private equity and corporate lawyers, so we can act on sell side for individuals, buy side for corporates or investment side for private equity houses, it really is a mixed bag. We have a few large corporate clients that are consolidators in their sector so we usually have three/four deals on the go at any one time.

What I do in a typical day completely depends on how close we are to a deal closing. If we’re closing a deal my work revolves around negotiating the final bits of a contract And helping the team get the deal over the line. Outside of this, it’s a mixture of supervision, checking on deal progression, business development, alongside keeping existing clients happy with the work we’re doing.

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

I most enjoy helping people realise the potential of their business, whether that’s selling it or helping to buy other businesses to grow theirs.

I probably am going to age myself a bit here, but I least enjoy the number of emails that there are now because of the emergence of smartphones and people having access to their inbox 24/7. There are less in-person meetings and calls, and way more emails and texts. I sometimes think things would happen way quicker if people just picked up the phone!

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

Once you’re a partner one of your key responsibilities is origination. As a corporate lawyer you rely heavily on referrals as a source of work. Our referrals can come from anywhere – corporate finance advisors, accountants and tax advisors. It’s also crucial to keep existing clients happy as they’re your biggest advocates when it comes to passing on recommendations. Never underestimate the power of word of mouth!

What makes your firm stand out from the rest?

As a legal business listed on the London Stock Exchange, we offer lawyers a different career path distinct to that of a traditional LLP environment. Our lawyers have the opportunity of combining excellent legal training with on-the-job learning and exposure to a strong, commercial client base working alongside other professionals, including professional support lawyers, patent attorneys, tax consultants, surveyors and people consultants. We have a diverse range of clients like Manchester City FC, Gymshark, Transport for London, the Arts Council and the BBC, and I like to think we take a commercial and pragmatic approach to the advice that we give, finding ways to maximise opportunity and mitigate risk.

Working for a listed business, there’s also greater financial transparency at all levels including the opportunity to buy shares in the business from day one through our Sharesave scheme. You’re encouraged to be entrepreneurial with a growth mindset and to take part in our networking community groups that support people at different stages of their career.

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

  1. Persistence, because it’s a hard career.
  2. Versatility, because clients will expect you to be versatile before they expect you to be really technical. Deals move incredibly quickly and you have to be able to move with the deal.
  3. Attention to detail, being able to spot when things aren’t right quickly.

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

If you want it – be persistent. It took me three years as a paralegal before I got my training contract. The profession has really progressed and there are now so many different routes to entry. Explore all your options and find the path that best suits you and your requirements. It’s rewarding when you get there!

What diversity and inclusion initiatives does the firm have in place?

We have five network groups that have really expanded in importance and significance over recent years.

  • Pride network group works with the Gateley LGBTQ+ community to make sure that everyone within our business feels confident in being themselves in the work environment.
  • Thrive network group supports the health and wellbeing of all employees across Gateley to promote high levels of performance both physically and mentally. 
  • Inspire network group was set up to develop and provide support to all of employees with a particular focus on career milestones and helping colleagues get to where they want to in their careers, for example run mentoring to help with this.
  • Unity recognises, celebrates and supports employees from all different cultures, religions and backgrounds.
  • Ability is our newest group and has been established to support employees with disabilities and raise awareness of neurodiversity and disability-related issues across our group.

What’re you reading at the moment?

I recently read Shantaram which was long, but amazing. I don’t get very much time to read but it was one of those books you become obsessed with and just can’t put down, which is exactly the kind of book I need to keep me engaged!