Gowling WLG (UK) LLP

Lisa Boyle
Gowling WLG (UK) LLP

Gowling WLG (UK) LLP

University: National University of Ireland (Galway)
Degree: Law
Year of qualification: September 2017
Position: Associate
Department: Banking and finance

What attracted you to a career in law?

I always knew that I wanted to work in a client-facing role which was intellectually stimulating and challenging, as well as financially rewarding. I felt that law ticked all of those boxes. I also liked the structured career path and certainty that it offers. After I graduated, I worked in the in-house legal team at RTE, Ireland’s national broadcaster, for a year and that made me realise beyond doubt that I wanted to qualify as a solicitor.

Why solicitor not barrister?

I never considered becoming a barrister as a career involving advocacy and litigation was not something that appealed to me. I think I was always drawn to the structured career path of a solicitor and also I enjoy working as part of team.

How did you decide which firms to apply to?

In my second year at university, I did a two-week placement at a criminal practice in Dublin and although I really enjoyed the experience, I knew that it wasn’t the type of law I was interested in practising ultimately. I also spent a month at the Office of the Attorney General in Ireland, which was again really interesting and enjoyable, but wasn’t for me. During my time at Warwick, a friend recommended that I look at Wragge & Co (now Gowling WLG), which instantly appealed. I also attended various open days and law fairs held on campus and tried to talk to as many people as I could to get an insight into life at the various different firms.

For me, I found it really difficult to differentiate between firms based on their websites and promotional material, and I thought it was much more useful and informative to have a chat with the junior lawyers and trainees who represented the firms at the law fairs about their experiences, both positive and negative, of a particular firm. There is such a wide range of firms that when it comes to submitting applications, you simply have to narrow it down. It’s important to do your research and decide what you want in terms of the size of the firm, areas of work, location, salary, number of trainees in an intake, and so on.

How much work experience did you do? Why is it so important?

Aside from the work experience during my undergraduate degree listed above, I also did a month-long placement at a large commercial firm in Dublin and I completed a one-week Easter vacation scheme at Wragge in April 2014. It was a great experience and gave me a real insight into the atmosphere and firm culture; vac schemes are the best way to understand those things. The people here were genuinely approachable and friendly, and that was something that appealed greatly to me. By the end of the week I knew for sure that I wanted to work here and, in fact, I've just qualified into the team that I sat with during my vac scheme in 2014!

Which departments did you train in?

I started in September 2015 and did four six month seats in banking and finance, real estate (commercial development and investment), commercial litigation, and finally tax and funds.

Please discuss a specific deal/case that you were involved with, outlining your role in the matter.

When I was in banking, I was involved in the disposal of a large loan portfolio which was multijurisdictional and involved numerous sets of lawyers and financial advisers. There was a very tight timeline and the transaction was pressured, with a lot of late nights! But on a more positive note, I also felt like a key part of the team and that my contribution was valued by the senior fee earners. Although it was quite an intense transaction, I actually liked the adrenaline and sense of urgency as I think I work better under pressure. It also helped being part of a supportive team that got on really well. It was while working on that transaction that I decided that banking was what I wanted to do.

How does the qualification process work at the firm?

Generally as qualification approaches, you will have informal conversations with members of the team(s) that you’re interested in and then a jobs list is published towards the end of April/beginning of May. The formality of the process depends on how many jobs are available in each department and how many trainees are interested in each of the available roles – if the position you’re interested in is uncontested and you've had positive feedback from the team concerned during your time there, then you are likely to get the NQ job. If however there are a number of trainees applying for the same position, as if often the case with NQ roles in our IP department, then there will be a more formal interview process.

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

It’s important to keep an open mind – I came into the process absolutely certain that I didn’t want to be a contentious lawyer and was reluctant to even do a contentious seat during my training contract. However, as it’s a compulsory part of the firm's training process, I did a six-month litigation seat and had a fantastic experience. I worked on a very high-profile case which meant that I was in the High Court in London for most of the last month of my seat in the litigation team. It was an amazing opportunity that would have been a real shame to miss. It's also important to bear in mind that you may not always get your first choice when it comes to seats, so it’s important to be flexible and just give everything your best shot!

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

The day usually starts by checking my inbox and catching up on any emails that have come in overnight, as well as updating my ‘to do’ list that I will have made the day before. It’s good to have a plan – even if it can quickly get blown apart! As a junior lawyer, a lot of what I do is drafting documents that are ancillary to the main loan agreement, such as intercreditor agreements, corporate authorisations or security documents. As a junior lawyer in the banking and finance team I'm also generally charged with running the CP process on a transaction, which involves a lot of organisation and project management. Very often, I’ll have client meetings or calls, especially at the outset of a new transaction to run through the instructions and to plan the phases of work involved. I will also usually have time in the diary to catch up with the senior fee earners who I am working with on a particular matter.

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

I particularly enjoy that I am learning every day; I may be qualified, but I’m by no means a wealth of knowledge! As an NQ in the banking and finance team, I love having the opportunity to draft more complex documents that I wouldn’t have had exposure to before. Although I did spend six months in the team as part of my training contract, in many ways it’s a completely new experience. I also really enjoy building client relationships, as many of our clients are the same time and again so it’s possible to develop really good working relationships with them.

The hours can occasionally be long, but I think when you choose to qualify into a transactional team you know it comes with the territory. I also think I'm lucky as my team are all willing to work hard and put in long hours when the need arises. Equally, the team places importance on people having a work/life balance insofar as possible and there is definitely not a culture of staying late to be seen.

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

The firm is very good at getting everyone involved in BD, even at a very junior level. As a trainee, there are organised events to help you network with other professionals at the same stage. In the banking and finance team we’re really encouraged to get out there and meet clients and keep developing client relationships. We will usually have some client networking or BD event in the diary every week – or when December hits, maybe two or three times a week! I think that it is much easier to work with people when you know them and building long-term client relationships is definitely encouraged.

What makes your firm stand out from the rest?

I think the quality of the training is what sets it apart. From the very beginning I was given a lot of responsibility, with real fee-earning work to do and a lot of client exposure. The firm also invests heavily in both internal and external training during your training contract and when you're qualified. Another thing that makes this firm stand out is the people and the culture here – people are approachable and sociable, and that creates a really friendly atmosphere. It's nice to work somewhere where I am genuinely friends with my colleagues and there is always someone around to go for a drink after work with on a Friday!

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

I think work experience is crucial as it allows you to decide what areas of law and what types of firm you might be interested in applying for, thus also allowing you to be more targeted in the applications you make. As I said before, I think vacation schemes are really invaluable in that they help you to understand what you’re signing up for and provide you with a much more beneficial insight into a particular firm than any recruitment brochures or websites. Finally, I think it’s about being selective once you've done all the work experience and research you can and thinking about where you ultimately see yourself training and progressing through your career.

What’re you reading at the moment?

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara – it's taking me a while as it's quite lengthy, but totally engrossing and often results in me staying up later than I should as I can't put it down.

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