University: University of Liverpool
Degree: Law LLB
Year of qualification: 2019
What attracted you to a career in law?
I liked the idea of a fast-paced, challenging career in a dynamic working environment. The legal profession offers the opportunity to find solutions to problems and allows me to ‘think outside the box’ in many respects. The law is a highly technical area and the idea of working within a firm of legal specialists, and the opportunity to learn from them on a daily basis, appealed to me.
Why solicitor not barrister?
I was interested in pursuing law as a career since studying the subject at A level, but always intended to be a solicitor rather than a barrister. I knew from an early stage that I was more interested in dealing with clients than with the courts, and that a non-contentious, transactional area of law was more suited to me. I was also keen to have a degree of security in my career, so the idea of being employed as a solicitor, rather than self-employed as a barrister, appealed much more.
How did you decide which firms to apply to?
At university I was part of a professional mentoring scheme whereby I was assigned a mentor from Hill Dickinson. We’d meet on a fairly regular basis, and I was able to obtain some work experience as part of the process. Following the work experience, I knew that Hill Dickinson had the right culture, plenty of opportunities from the start and was somewhere I could see myself working. I didn’t apply to any other firms and have been at Hill Dickinson for nine years now.
How much work experience had you had? Why is it so important?
I’d worked in the health business group at Hill Dickinson for four years prior to starting my training contract. I initially joined the firm as a legal administration assistant in the health litigation team where I worked for 12 months. I then took a job as a paralegal in the healthcare team which involved a two-year secondment in the Lake District with an NHS trust. I found this experience invaluable when it came to going through the application process as I already understood how the firm worked, its clients, the people and could see how others in the health business group that I’d worked with had progressed throughout my time as a paralegal.
My work experience made the transition from paralegal to trainee much easier because I was accustomed to working in an office environment and had previous experience completing tasks expected of trainees as well as navigating the IT systems! My time at the firm also meant there were a lot of friendly faces when I started my training contract.
Which departments did you train in?
I started my training contract in the health litigation team and dealt primarily with defending claims brought against the NHS for clinical negligence. I then moved to the corporate team in Manchester where I was quickly exposed to mergers and acquisitions, private equity investments and group reorganisation work. My third seat was with the property team in Liverpool acting for several different clients on their commercial property arrangements before returning to the corporate team in Manchester for two more months before qualifying early into the corporate team – I had the benefit of ‘time to count’ given my prior legal working experience.
What do you wish you’d known about being a trainee before you started that you now do?
I spend a lot of time with trainees supervising work that’s given to them – there’s a recurring theme that every piece of work that’s produced must be perfect. The reality is that when you’re a trainee, you’re in the team to learn and nobody expects you to know everything. It’s important to take a step back and put slightly less pressure on yourself – the training contract is challenging enough!
Please outline your area of expertise. What might you do in a typical day?
As a corporate lawyer my expertise is primarily in mergers and acquisitions, private equity investments and group re-organisations. The corporate team specialises in advising a range of clients, from listed companies and private equity funds to smaller start-up and owner-managed businesses and management teams on the full range of transactions – both domestic and cross-border.
A typical day might involve reviewing and discussing transaction documents, speaking to clients on approach and having all calls with clients/lawyers on the other side of a transaction to cut through commercial issues. I’d be expected to lead on transactions from start to finish and be responsible for the overall project management.
Please discuss a current/recent specific deal/case, outlining your role in the matter.
We recently acted on a private equity transaction relating to an investment into a new created environmental services group. The group provides holistic environmental consultancy services to support the development of UK infrastructure and services, for example, include air quality, ecology, environmental services, landscape architecture and water services.
My role was to lead the transaction on the ‘acquisition’ aspects, which involved negotiating the share purchase agreement, reviewing the disclosure letter and being heavily involved in the legal due diligence workstream.
What do you most/least enjoy about your career and why?
I enjoy the constant challenges and the fact that no two days are the same. There are lots of opportunities to take on responsibility, work with clients across different sectors and progress within the team. I have a good amount of client contact and have my own clients and transactions. My days are always busy and I’m never left clock-watching!
In terms of what I least enjoy, with responsibility comes a certain degree of pressure. I can find myself working long days when transactions are completing. I sometimes struggle to switch off from work, but I always make sure I take a break at the weekends and reset in time for Monday.
How involved are you with business development and promoting the firm?
There are lots of opportunities at the firm for business development and I often take part in golf days and charity events with our clients. It’s always good to mix with clients in person and to get to know each other outside of the office.
Once a transaction has finished, we often have completion dinners with our clients. This gives everyone the chance to reward each other’s efforts and celebrate on a personal level in a more relaxed environment.
I’m also involved with promoting the firm internally and working with colleagues to make positive changes at Hill Dickinson as part of the firm’s mental health policy group.
What makes your firm stand out from the rest?
Clients don’t instruct based on technical ability alone – this is expected and something any firm can offer. Showcasing expertise and offering added value is something Hill Dickinson does well. I don’t need to look any further than a recent testimonial about the team that I work in:
“The team is fantastic in all aspects. They are hugely passionate about the job they do, pragmatic, super knowledgeable and dedicated. They are hands down the best legal company we have ever worked with. They get the job and go above and beyond to make sure everything is not only done brilliantly, but also done with passion and care.”
What advice do you have for budding solicitors who are contemplating a career in law?
It takes a lot of resilience and determination to be awarded a training contract or equivalent with a reputable firm. It’s important to persevere but also to be realistic – you must make sure you put yourself in a position where you can evidence what it is that firms say they want, whether that’s academic grades, work experience or particular competencies.
What is the work/life balance like at your firm? How often do you have late nights/work at weekends?
In my experience, there’s an expectation that you’ll put in the long hours when necessary but that you should also make the most of any downtime. I usually choose to get in the office for 7:45 and aim to finish at 18:00. I try not to work at the weekends unless necessary.
There have been prolonged periods of working long days when working on a transaction that’s close to completion. This is expected and other members of the deal team would also be working the same number of hours.
What diversity and inclusion initiatives does the firm have in place?
The firm’s aim is to empower its people and it believes that integrating a clear diversity and inclusion agenda is the way to achieve this. The firm ensures that we’re always encouraging and enabling our people to be themselves at work by celebrating individuality, giving every colleague a voice, and helping them achieve their goals no matter their background or identity.
Our equality, diversity and inclusion policies are enforced throughout the firm and across all senior leadership roles with board-level commitment. We’re expected to promote our values in all that we do and ensure that we’re challenging unacceptable behaviours to shape a truly inclusive culture.
What’re you reading at the moment?
Seven Steps from Snowdon to Everest by Mark Horrell.