Back to overview

Meet the lawyer

Charlotte Dean

Charlotte Dean

University: University of Manchester
Degree: Politics and international relations
Year of qualification: March 2020
Position: Associate
Department: Commercial IT and outsourcing

What attracted you to a career in law?

I wanted a career that was going to challenge me, as well as one that had clear progression. I find it motivating knowing that there are clear steps up the ladder and I really enjoy being challenged all the time – if I was in a career that wasn’t fast paced and didn’t involve challenging work, I would get bored.

The opportunity to sample different areas of law during the training contract to find the best fit for you was also appealing.  

What do you think made your application successful?

I think it probably had a lot to do with my paralegal experience. I worked as a paralegal for a barrister for six months and then as a paralegal at Gowling for six months before I made my application. Having the knowledge of how a commercial law firm operates was really helpful. From the experience I had, I understood that the service a lawyer needs to provide must go beyond just the academic understanding of the law – it’s vital that you understand the client’s industry and business as well. A commercial outlook is key.

Which departments did you train in?

My first seat was a secondment to Oxfam, which was a great experience. I did mostly commercial and intellectual property (IP) matters, with most of my time spent working on the Charity Commission’s investigation that Oxfam was subject to at the time. It was great to be embedded in a business and see how everything works from a client’s point of view.

My second seat was in IP, which covered contentious and non-contentious work, and my third seat was in commercial development and investment, this was really fast paced. I was given a lot of responsibility in this final seat, which helped to boost my overall confidence.  

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

When you’re a trainee, you are exposed to so many different working styles and ways of communicating that sometimes you can get caught up in comparing yourself to others, and  can feel that the way you process or communicate information might be wrong. I realise now, having been qualified for 10 months, that everyone has different styles and strengths and weaknesses, which adds to the variety in the team and overall creates a better team dynamic. I am now much more comfortable and confident with the way that I approach things. You don’t have to mirror the way that those around you are working – clients feed off your different approaches.

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

I qualified into commercial IT and outsourcing, but since becoming an NQ I have been on secondment to the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. Gowling is the Games’ exclusive legal provider. My current role is really commercial and involves a range of commercial contracts, data protection issues, non-contentious IP issues, procurement law, and – as I am working in-house – whatever lands on my desk.

As a result of covid-19 and the fact I am on secondment, a typical day is slightly different at the moment. My day starts off with a Zoom meeting either with the in-house legal team or colleagues at Gowling. I am involved in quite a lot of different types of project across the business, from logistics to marketing and communication projects, so I always set out my priorities for the day and work through them based on the organisation’s strategic priorities. My typical day can include responding to emails, drafting and reviewing documents, and attending meetings – it is a fast-paced role.

Please discuss a current case, outlining your role in the matter.

While on my secondment, I am the legal lead for the Games’ mascot programme. So far, this has involved orchestrating and executing the legal elements of the children’s mascot drawing competition, as well as the virtual mascot makers’ forum, which was live-streamed with well-known athletes taking part. There are obviously lots of considerations to take into account, for example, around filming with children. Although the process was manic, seeing it go live and all the children’s entries come in was fantastic.  

What makes your firm stand out from the rest?

My experience alone shows how many secondment opportunities there are at Gowling. These are really encouraged and available at all levels of the firm. The secondment to Oxfam was just one of the secondments on offer throughout the training contract; there were other opportunities in transport, banking, construction and automotive industries. There were also international opportunities in Dubai and China. My experiences on secondments have really helped me and I think they are a fantastic way to build relationships with clients and colleagues in other offices if you do an international one.

What is the work-life balance like at your firm? How often do you have late nights/work at weekends?

At the moment, I have a deadline so my working hours are slightly longer than they normally would be. There is no getting away from the fact that you must work hard in this profession and sometimes you will be working long hours, particularly in the run up to a contract being signed or a project launch. That said, the firm does not expect you to work late or on weekends. In every team I have experienced, I have found my supervisors and colleagues to be really understanding. There’s a real sense of teamwork when there is a lot of work on –if you do ever find yourself working late, it is a real team effort.

What is the wider culture like – eg, are there sports teams/trips out? Is there a LGBT group, women’s group etc?

We have several networks and forums to promote inclusion, including our BAME network, which celebrates diversity and More Women, which organises talks and events aimed at women at all different levels at the firm to encourage women to partnership. We also have an LGBTQ+ network called Open House, which hosts events that are open to everyone. The firm always has its own float at Pride in Birmingham and during Mental Health Awareness Week there are several events relating to this. The firm makes an effort to put on events outside of industry and sector talks, and things that were able to be moved online during lockdown have been.

In terms of the firm’s wider culture, we have a sports club where you can get discounted tickets, which I used all the time pre-covid-19. We also have a trainee committee that organise socials and in Birmingham we have a team that play in the Birmingham Trainee Solicitors Society Netball League.

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

The secondments – I am so proud to be able to contribute to the delivery of the Commonwealth Games in my home city. I am also proud of the firm for playing such a big part in securing such a great legacy of sport in the region – it will benefit so many people.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

When I am not working, I am constantly looking at houses I cannot afford on Zoopla and Rightmove. I also love scrolling through interior design websites and find myself trying to convince my partner that we need ridiculous things like a live plant wall.