Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher UK LLP
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University: University of Durham
Degree: History and politics
Year of qualification: 2013
What attracted you to a career in law?
At the age of 13 I was very lucky to see a civil trial in Budapest, Hungary where my father was representing the defendant. I found it fascinating to hear the lawyers develop their arguments and, following lots more research (and work experience), I concluded that I would thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to solve complex and multifaceted problems within a commercial environment. I was also always attracted to the idea of the role of a lawyer as a trusted adviser to his or her client and the obligation to always act in the client’s best interests while upholding the rule of law.
Why solicitor not barrister?
There are many aspects of the Bar that attracted me – having studied history and politics at university, I knew that I enjoyed researching particular issues and developing persuasive arguments. However, as I researched the legal arena, I concluded that I would be best suited to being part of a larger business and team. One of the aspects of my job that I enjoy the most is being part of a global team and, on a daily basis, working closely with colleagues and clients in many financial centres of the world. However, I have great respect for the Bar where many of my friends are developing fascinating practices.
How did you decide which firms to apply to?
I was very lucky to have a cosmopolitan upbringing that, for various reasons, involved lots of travelling to visit my family. I always embraced the opportunity to learn about different cultures and so, from a very young age, I always knew that I wanted my career – in whichever sector I end up – to be as internationally focused as possible. Consequently, when I decided to pursue a career in law, I only really applied to firms that focused on cutting-edge international work. I also knew that I would be better suited to firms that had a somewhat smaller trainee intake (I did not want to be one of 100 trainees!) and, as a result, I prepared a list of possible firms to target.
How much work experience did you do? Why is it so important?
I had a large variety of work experience – at various types of law firm (in both the United Kingdom and abroad), at an investment bank in London, at an auction house in London and at the United Nations in New York. I concluded that I was best suited to a career as a solicitor in the City. However, given the importance of the decision, it’s vital that you really take your time in considering what would best suit your interests, skills and personality. Also, the more experience you have – even if it’s in areas that may not be part of your long-term career plan – the easier it is to demonstrate to your firm’s recruitment team why exactly you have chosen law (and that particular firm).
What do you think made your application successful?
I think it’s really difficult to know exactly why an application is successful. I think I just did a good job in demonstrating why I was attracted to not only the law (and the quality of the work), but also to the firm’s culture and values.
Which departments did you train in?
Gibson Dunn unfortunately did not offer training contracts at the time I applied for training contracts (we welcomed our first trainees in September 2015). I joined Baker McKenzie in 2011 as a trainee where I sat in the banking and finance, corporate private equity and corporate finance departments. I was also seconded for six months to Standard Chartered Bank. From my first seat as a trainee I knew I was destined to be a transactional lawyer – I enjoyed helping to guide clients through complex transactions and trying to find practical solutions to tricky situations. Also, I was very lucky to have three fantastic supervisors and work with some excellent associates. I will always be very grateful for two terrific years at Baker McKenzie.
How did you join Gibson Dunn?
By the time I had completed the first year of my training contract I knew that I wanted to be a corporate associate. Although there were many aspects of finance work that interested me (in particular the more academic aspects of the practice), I knew that I would like to be in the driving seat of a transaction working with all the different specialist teams (and so getting great exposure to the big picture). I was due to qualify into Baker McKenzie’s corporate team, but I was really attracted to the opportunity of joining Gibson Dunn as an NQ. I thought I would be well suited to the lower-leverage model of teams (where you get lots of responsibility and great exposure to clients) and the entrepreneurial culture of a US practice. Also, unlike some other US firms in the City, I knew that at Gibson Dunn I would have the opportunity to experience a wide range of corporate work and would not have to focus solely on one specific area.
How does the training contract work at Gibson Dunn?
Although I have not been a trainee at Gibson Dunn, I regularly work with our excellent trainees and helped to put together the training contract programme. I also help with the induction that trainees receive when they join the corporate team. So I can report that, in many respects, training at Gibson Dunn is much like training at another top City US (or UK) firm – you experience at least four different departments, and there are opportunities for both client and overseas secondments. However, unlike some other practices in London, I think the trainees at Gibson Dunn are required from a very early stage to take on a lot of responsibility and, due to the size of our teams, the quality of work that trainees are given is very high. We had our first set of trainees qualify in September 2017, which was a very exciting moment for the firm and its growth in London.
What do you wish you’d known about being a trainee before you started that you now do?
I think the key to a successful training contract is to show a willingness to work hard and a desire to learn. Also, I think it’s massively important to be as attentive as possible. Much of what you learn about the practice of law (and the business of a law firm) is through listening to others and seeing how they handle certain difficult situations. To this day, I vividly remember being a first-seat trainee faced with what seemed like a complete and utter crisis on a tricky transaction. I turned to the senior partner I sat with and I remember how calm and collected he was when we discussed the issues and, together, came up with a solution. I still remember that moment when things seem to be getting out of control!
Please outline your area of expertise. What might you do in a typical day?
I’ve been a part of Gibson Dunn’s corporate team for just over four years and I’ve had exposure to a wide range of work – primarily private M&A, private equity and corporate reorganisations. I’ve also had some regulatory and funds exposure and have had the chance to do some capital markets work. I’m a big believer in that a corporate lawyer should be able to try to handle all the stages of growth of a business – from its inception through to its development into a large organisation. Different types of business have very different needs and I thoroughly enjoy trying to always get better at not only reacting to a client’s requests, but also anticipating what the requests might be. I wouldn’t say that I have a typical day – it’s the variety of my days that is one of the aspects of the job I most enjoy.
Please discuss a current/recent specific deal/case, outlining your role in the matter.
I was very lucky to help represent Towers Watson in connection with its $18 billion merger of equals with the Willis Group. I was involved with both the UK corporate aspects of the transaction and, additionally, the global regulatory workstream. This transaction had a huge amount of moving pieces and it was a real challenge (and so very rewarding) to keep on top of everything and help the client reach its goal. Also, the team I was a part of was awarded the ‘Team of the Month’ award by The Banker, an international financial affairs publication. It was very special for the team to be given some international recognition for its efforts.
What do you most/least enjoy about your career and why?
I think it’s the variety of my practice I most enjoy – both in terms of the work I do and also the sorts of clients I represent, from large corporations to smaller private equity houses and, sometimes, even individuals. I feel like I’m constantly learning and I also feel very lucky to work with some of the best lawyers in their respective fields. I least enjoy the unpredictable hours and deadlines – it’s sometimes quite difficult to plan your life outside of the office, but that’s simply the nature of the job.
How involved are you with business development (BD) and promoting the firm?
As I mentioned I was immediately attracted to Gibson Dunn’s entrepreneurial culture. All trainees and associates are given their own BD budgets that we are encouraged to use to entertain our clients and contacts. I regularly meet clients and contacts on my own and I’ve introduced some of my contacts to partners in the firm. In my department, we have weekly lists where both partners and associates report their BD activities. This is quite unlike many other top firms where BD is pretty much exclusively run by the partners.
What makes your firm stand out from the rest?
I hope that I’ve been able to demonstrate how Gibson Dunn is really quite different to many of its competitors. In London, the firm offers the opportunity to do the very top end of transactional, litigation and regulatory work in an environment where you are encouraged to take on lots of responsibility and have the pleasure of working with some terrific lawyers. Also, given the global nature of our practices, you will have the opportunity to build up some strong relationships with colleagues and clients all around the world. The London office has seen considerable growth since I joined in 2013, and it has been a privilege to have been a part of the firm for the past four years.
What advice do you have for budding solicitors who are contemplating a career in law?
You should do lots and lots of research – read a lot and speak to as many people as possible. Also, do your very best to get a range of work experience in different types of practice so that you can really try to work out what sort of firm would suit you. I regularly interview candidates for both our graduate programme and for lateral associate hiring. I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to clearly demonstrate why, in particular, you are attracted to your chosen firm. Be very careful of the scattergun approach to applications!
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