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University: Trinity College Dublin
Year of qualification: 2019
Department: Global disputes
What attracted you to a career in law?
From my study of law at university, I realised that I'd greatly enjoy a career that involved being part of a team that was charged with advising clients on complex legal issues, in a manner that would also support their commercial aspirations. In particular, I understood that working in a global law firm, such as Jones Day in London, would provide me with the opportunity to advise on both domestic and cross-jurisdictional issues, which would be both challenging and rewarding. In addition, I understood that a career as a solicitor also brought with it the opportunity to work on pro bono matters. At Jones Day, we're strongly encouraged to engage in one of the pro bono initiatives, and for more than five years now I've been advising people who've had employment issues as a result of their cancer diagnosis through an initiative run by MacMillan.
How did you decide which firms to apply to?
I'm from and went to university in Ireland – and, naturally, I originally thought that I'd train in Dublin. However, I realised through my degree that a lot of case law derived from English common law and that London, as an international centre of practice, would be a more dynamic place to work.
In short, I rejected a training contract offer in Dublin in order to train in London because I wanted to do more complex work. Based on this decision, I researched companies that undertook such work and would allow me to have a lot of responsibility, and Jones Day fit that profile.
Which departments did you train in?
At Jones Day we have a non-rotational system. This means trainees can seek work from any department throughout their training contract without the restriction of a seat system. To ensure trainees gain sufficient experience, they all are expected to complete what are known as ‘checklists’ in a range of areas. While I sampled a wide range of work from a number of departments, I undertook checklists in global disputes, M&A and intellectual property.
Please outline your area of expertise. What might you do in a typical day?
My area of expertise remains quite general within the firm, but I'd consider commercial/contractual disputes, fraud and insolvency to be my area.
The work I do day to day varies, but typical tasks involve drafting correspondence and witness evidence, preparing for and attending client meetings and conference calls, preparing for and attending court hearings (which is one of the most exciting aspects!).
Please discuss a current/recent specific deal/case, outlining your role in the matter.
In 2019, we were instructed by a well-known Australian bank in respect of a claim for breach of an exclusive jurisdiction clause.
As a newly-qualified associate in global disputes, I was charged with running that matter (with a partner overseeing my work). The core team was two partners, myself and a trainee. My role involved undertaking pre-action analysis and case assessment. I also undertook research that informed our case strategy and drafted pre-action correspondence (including the letter before action). I instructed counsel, and attained experience in defending a jurisdiction application and a security for costs application (and the security for costs process). Even as a junior lawyer, I was afforded a high level of responsibility and quickly became an integral part of the team.
We successfully defended a jurisdiction application. I (along with the trainee on the matter) drafted witness evidence, reviewed and amended skeleton arguments for counsel, reviewed and organised bundles and attended the hearing. This case ultimately settled, and the trainee and I were involved in all aspects of this – I drafted the settlement agreement and assisted the partners in negotiating key aspects of the settlement with the defendants' lawyers.
There was a lot of client contact, which (along with the complexity of the case) was one of the main highlights for me. For example, I attended a board meeting of this client and gave an overview of the settlement agreement’s provisions, stated which provisions had yet to be agreed and outlined why the outstanding provisions should be approved.
What do you most/least enjoy about your career and why?
I most enjoy the legal drafting aspect, especially when we feel that our clients have the better of the legal argument because it’s nice to feel like you’re winning. At Jones Day, we have a strong commitment to client service and given the nature of the work, there can sometimes be tight deadlines because the case is moving fast. This can inevitably lead to stressful periods, which involve longer hours.
What makes your firm stand out from the rest?
At both the trainee and associate level, it’s the non-rotational system. For people like me who want to craft their own development, this system is key. In comparison, a four-seat system might mean you experience an area for only six months, whereas by now, I've completed more than five years of global disputes work (as a 3PQE) and I've been able to stay on the cases I was on from the first day of my training contract. This provides a much steeper learning opportunity.
The firm also has an open-door policy, so trainees feel comfortable walking into partners’ and associates' offices to ask questions – so it would suit those individuals who don’t just want to be told what to do, and can show initiative. At Jones Day trainees seek out the work they want to try, rather than wait to be given it.
What advice do you have for budding solicitors who are contemplating a career in law?
Try to get as much experience as possible. In order to get through the interview process, it's crucial that you understand what the role of a solicitor entails. There’s a lot to be said for getting in contact with boutique firms (or companies that have a legal department) – most people don't have contacts in the legal industry so start to build these networks yourself.
There's also so much content online; nowadays, there’s really no excuse for not knowing what a solicitor does or what individual firms' unique selling points are.
Finally, I’d recommend getting as much experience as possible to identify whether a role is for you – be that in law or in another sector. I did a six-week managing consultant internship, which was incredibly helpful because it helped me decide that I didn’t want to be a managing consultant. To be able to properly answer the question “why do you want to be a lawyer?”, it'll be useful to show that you actively considered other areas and be honest about it.
Does your department largely work independently, in support of another dept or is it routinely supported by other depts?
We're a standalone department and most of the work we do is for clients that come to us with legal cases. However, we do work somewhat with other departments, such as corporate to provide them with litigation support on M&A transactions (but this is very rare). We also work cross-practice with departments other than corporate, on contentious matters – for example, at present we're currently working on a few matters with the business restructuring team.
What’s the biggest opportunity you’ve been given since joining the firm?
My biggest opportunity was being given the chance to attend and run a mediation on behalf of a client. It was a contractual dispute – I'd expected the partner on the matter to attend the mediation with me (and represent the client from our side) but was fortunate enough that the partner felt comfortable having me represent the client (with him being on-call, should any assistance be required). Sometimes trainees and associates get thrown into the deep end, but it’s for our own learning and development. Running the mediation was such an exciting experience and it ended in a good settlement outcome for the client.
Where is your dream holiday destination?