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Meet the lawyer

Lucy Conway

Lucy Conway

University: University of Exeter
Degree: Law
Year of qualification: 2017
Position: Corporate associate
Department: Corporate 

What attracted you to a career in law?

I developed an interest in law from career fairs and speaking to a career liaison officer while at sixth form college. It became apparent that the skills required of a legal professional matched my interests – in particular, problem solving, analysis and clear communication.

I was also an avid reader of crime novels from a young age, and while at college attended a trip to a local crown court where I witnessed the power of advocacy first hand. This crystallised my desire to pursue a career as a lawyer. In addition, I was interested in the intellectually demanding nature of law and believed a legal career would be rigorous enough to challenge me.

Why solicitor not barrister?

When I initially applied to study law at university I wanted to become a barrister and envisaged practising either criminal- or human rights-related law. However, while at university I found myself (unexpectedly) drawn to contract and commercial law topics and so became more interested in the role of a commercial solicitor. I undertook several work placements and was attracted to the collaborative nature of a commercial solicitor’s work and the ability to build relationships with clients. As I thought about my future in more depth, I felt more drawn to a role in which I’d be working closely with corporate clients and as part of a team as opposed to going down the more solitary barrister route.

How much work experience had you had? Why is it so important?

I come from a lower socio-economic background and, in a bid to bring in some much-needed extra cash each month, alongside my studies, I worked in various part-time roles in retail, hospitality and cleaning from around the age of 14 onwards. By the time I began thinking about training contract applications in my final year at university, I’d had a lot of work experience. Although this experience wasn’t specifically legal, it helped shape me into a mature, reliable and hard-working individual and also provided me with an opportunity to learn softer skills, including attending job interviews, interacting and working with difficult customers (and/or colleagues) and building a genuine understanding of how businesses work. All of this helped me stand out in training contract interviews.

In terms of legal experience, I’d tried to get some in commercial law as I wanted to be sure it was the right career for me. I also knew I wanted to move to London but I wasn’t sure whether I’d prefer working for a smaller, boutique-style law firm or a larger City firm, so it was incredibly useful to experience various sized outfits and how the work (and culture) differs. I applied for several work placements and completed a two-week placement with a specialist law firm in Camden. I also undertook some work experience at Salford City Council’s legal department, trained as a gateway assessor for the Citizens Advice and worked at Clyde & Co in Manchester for a short time after graduating. I also signed up to Aspiring Solicitors, an organisation that supports diverse candidates in getting legal work experience. Through Aspiring Solicitors, I attended several open days at City firms and it was those experiences I later based my applications on.

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

I’m a corporate lawyer – I work on a broad range of corporate matters. I’m currently a generalist which means I don’t have an area of specialism. I work on private equity, growth equity, and public and private M&A transactions – it’s a real mix and the work I do isn’t specific to a particular industry or sector.

As such, my day is varied and the tasks I do depend on what I’m working on. Normally, I’ll check my emails in the morning and respond to anything that’s come in overnight. I might spend the rest of my morning reviewing and marking up a transaction document – for example, if I’m working on a private equity investment, this could involve marking up a shareholders’ agreement or subscription documentation; if it’s an M&A transaction, I might be reviewing a share purchase agreement (SPA), management warranty deed or a disclosure letter. We may also be running a legal due diligence process at the same time, so I’d oversee that process and discuss any findings with the junior lawyers acting on the transaction. I also oversee any warranty and indemnity process (if applicable) and all ancillary documents to the transaction, such as stock transfer forms, non-disclosure agreements, powers of attorney and deeds of indemnity for lost share certificates. 

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

I recently acted for Brown-Forman Corporation on its acquisition of the Gin Mare brands from Vantguard and MG Destilerías. Gin Mare is a Spanish gin sold in more than 70 countries and is the largest ultra-premium gin brand in the world according to IWSR (a leading source of data on the global beverage alcohol market). The client, Brown-Forman, is one of the world’s largest wine and spirits producers, and owns the biggest-selling American whiskey, Jack Daniel's. 

As a gin enthusiast, it was an interesting transaction to work on. We were responsible for advising the client on the transaction process from start to finish, alongside Spanish counsel Cuatrecasas, including negotiating key transaction documents such as the SPA, disclosure letter and other ancillaries.

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

As a transactional lawyer the most satisfying part of the job is successfully completing a transaction and getting a good result for the client. It’s then great to see our clients’ businesses expanding. One positive experience recently was acting for L Catterton and global fitness and lifestyle brand Sweaty Betty on the 2021 sale of Sweaty Betty to Wolverine World Wide, Inc. Following a successful completion, the Sweaty Betty team was kind enough to send us some complimentary workout wear!

The hardest part of the job is the demands that come with being a corporate lawyer and the need to effectively manage your time. When a transaction is busy, it’s often all hands on deck, which can be challenging to manage. So, it’s important to identify, early on, the best ways to deal with these busy periods to find a sustainable balance.

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

Outside of just getting as much experience as possible and speaking to people in the industry, the next most important thing is to build up your commercial awareness as it’s an invaluable skill for practising lawyers.

You should try to keep abreast of current events and understand how such events impact business (including any impact on the legal sector). It’s impossible to keep up to date on everything, so I’d suggest tracking your areas of interest. For example, I only read articles I genuinely found interesting (rather than trying to read each issue from cover to cover) and I’d keep a notepad in my bag so I could make notes. Over time I could start piecing certain trends and articles together. Writing down my thoughts helped me to retain the information better too. This process helped to prepare me for interviews and better weave the information I’d picked up into the interviews in an in-depth manner.

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

Gibson Dunn places a huge emphasis on the importance of diversity. In the London office, we have a Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) Executive Committee which looks at matters relating to sex, gender, social mobility, disability, LGBTQ+, race and ethnicity, and wellness and mental health.

I sit on the D&I Executive Committee and head up the LGBTQ+ initiative. In the past year, we've organised several LGBTQ+ focussed-events aimed at raising awareness internally about LGBTQ+ issues and fostering good relationships between employees. For example, we’ve hosted an event with the Rainbow Network who gave a talk on the recent changes to asylum laws in the UK and how they impact LGBTQ+ asylum seekers. We also organised an event for LGBTQ+ History Month last February – we had LGBTQ+ artists come to the office to showcase their artwork, with a focus on how art influences LGBTQ+ culture and organised a drag show Pride event in the summer. In 2021 we arranged a talk at the firm by Global Butterflies relating to trans and non-binary 101 training.

As a mixed-race woman, I also participate in several of the firm’s multicultural initiatives. For example, there’s a firmwide Black attorney’s network that enables Black lawyers to connect with each other (whether in the UK, US or elsewhere). Recently, there was a firmwide Black associates retreat in Palm Springs, which I, unfortunately, missed out on due to a conflict but hope to attend in the future.

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

The opportunity to work on some of the best transactions that are happening in the market. Since joining the firm, I’ve worked on several high-profile transactions with some truly excellent clients.

Where’s your dream holiday destination?

I’ve always wanted to go to Yellowstone National Park to see the wildlife and hot springs. Otherwise, the next place on my list is Singapore – I went on a secondment to Singapore as a trainee (at a previous firm) and since then I’ve been desperate to go back.