University: University of Birmingham
Year of qualification: 2016
Department: Financial services disputes
I have always had an interest in law; I enjoyed debating and academic subjects such as history that required analytical skills at school, and I knew that I wanted a challenging job where I did something different every day. After chatting to several different people, I felt that law would tick a lot of those boxes.
I did consider the Bar briefly, but I thrive on working closely with people, bouncing ideas off each other, and I felt there would be more of that as a solicitor than a barrister. I think this is especially the case in litigation, where you often have a close relationship with the client and work with a team on people on a daily basis; often barristers tend to get involved towards the end of the process.
I was very open minded about the type of firm I might join, so started to do some research in my first year. It was then that I realised how many different types of firm there are and how much they vary. I went to all the careers events, firm-sponsored drinks and mock interviews that I could – I signed up for everything! I was looking for a firm where I would be challenged, with people that I could imagine working with, and that I would be proud to say that I worked for. I went to an open day at Hogan Lovells, and everyone I met was really welcoming and took pride in their work, which seemed interesting and very broad – I didn’t want to specialise too early, so that appealed.
I was Hogan Lovells’ campus ambassador in my first year, which involved liaising between the firm and my fellow students – it was a great way to get to know the firm better. I then did a vacation scheme in my second year; I spent three weeks in three different departments, gaining a good overview of each. There were also numerous social activities, and plenty of opportunities to talk to, and work with, a wide range of people. Many of the partners that I chatted to were former trainees at the firm, so it was really nice to see that lots of people choose to stay on post-qualification.
I started in pensions, which was very interesting – lots of heavy black-letter law and research. I then joined financial services disputes (where I am now), after which I went on client secondment to Lloyd’s banking group. I had a lot of responsibility, but I learnt so much and it was probably the most insightful period of my entire training contract. I was keen to get some transactional experience, so my final seat was in our investment funds team. While there, I worked on a very challenging deal – it had to be completed before the Brexit referendum so we had a very tight timeline. It was a very busy couple of weeks, but it was a great team, very interesting work and brilliant experience. And when we met the deadline and there were celebratory drinks, it was all worth it!
You receive a list of available jobs in your fourth seat, which outlines which departments have spaces. You can then apply to as many or as few as you like. There is a formal interview process, followed by notification a couple of weeks later.
When I started, I was very nervous and worried that I would do something wrong. I should have realised that everyone knows what it’s like – they’ve been there too – and is willing to help and answer any questions. No one will judge you – it’s better to ask the question and be clear at the outset, than to blunder on.
I get in and check my emails, read around the news to see if there’s anything that clients may be interested in, and put my ‘to do’ list together for the day. The list itself varies greatly day to day, and sometimes a call with counsel or a client will mean the whole list is thrown out of the window! But I will normally be drafting, writing emails, attending meetings, and conducting research. The nature of litigation is that the hours can be very changeable and especially busy in the run-up to a deadline.
I attended a four-day arbitration challenge in court this summer. It was the first time I’d been part of a substantial hearing and there was a lot of work to be done; research, drafting letters between the parties, drafting court orders, figuring out the logistics for court (including supervising a lot of bundling), and then attending court every day, supporting the barristers, and updating the client on how everything was going.
The best part is the teamwork, especially working in small, close-knit teams. You can really learn a lot from working with senior people who are experts in their fields; I am often in awe of their knowledge, but it also feels great when they ask your opinion.
In terms of a downside, having to record all your time can be painful! But it is just part and parcel of the job, and you just have to remember to factor it into your day.
We are encouraged from a very early stage to get involved, including by attending events with clients and other professionals, and building up our network. In fact, client secondments are a great way of doing that as a trainee, as you are engaging in BD without even realising! The focus deepens when you become an associate, especially as you are more likely to have a direct relationship with clients, with whom we’re encouraged to socialise and provide information to beyond the strict legal brief.
Its inclusive nature and culture. Everyone is very supportive; you have a mentor to go out for coffee with, chat through issues and seek advice. People really seem to care about your development. There are also many award-winning pro bono initiatives to get involved with – I recently took part in “Legally Ballroom”, which involved 10 weeks of dance training followed by a grand dinner and performance, all to raise money for our charities of the year. I also love the international focus – I didn’t realise how much I would be working with overseas colleagues.
When you start out, be open minded – I never imagined that I would end up working in London at such a large international firm, but after doing some research and going to open days, I realised that was what appealed to me the most. Don’t limit yourself; do your research, go to events – the more you do at an early stage, the more likely you are to find a natural fit at a firm that you’re happy to go to every day!