Back to overview

Meet the lawyer

Emirali Mustafa

Emirali Mustafa

University: University of Nottingham
Degree: Latin BA
Year of qualification: 2020
Position: Second year trainee
Department: Financial markets (regulatory)

What attracted you to a career in law?

I studied Latin at university, which I loved because it always felt like solving a puzzle by virtue of the fact that you are required to take a set of rules and apply them to pages of jumbled information. I have always really enjoyed using my mind in this way.

When I graduated, I spent a year at a business intelligence firm. While this was a great experience, it didn't provide me with the opportunity to solve problems, which was something I realised I wanted from my career. From speaking to people in the industry, I realised that a career in law would offer great exposure to complex problems, as well as the chance to help solve them.

Why solicitor not barrister?

I enjoy working with other people and from my research, the role of a solicitor always seemed more collegiate because of the team working aspect. I also enjoy staying up to date with the business and commercial world. As a solicitor, you become close to a client’s business operations and maintain this relationship over a long period of time, rather than only coming in during a dispute or to opine on a specific area of the law.

How did you decide which firms to apply to?

While this is easier said than done, I tried to gain experience at different types of firm. I secured work experience in a boutique media firm in West London by emailing firms in my final year of university when I was exploring whether law was for me. It was a great experience, but I realised that this type of law was not as suited to my interests.

When I considered a career in law again, I secured work experience in some City firms that specialise in commercial work, which I much preferred. This also provided an insight into the type of firm I wanted to work in – predominantly US firms with small trainee cohorts that offer the opportunity to get involved in international work. I was also attracted to firms that placed an emphasis on early responsibility and found there are a few firms, including Jones Day, that really promote this.

What do you think made your application successful?

I was able to communicate clearly, concisely and effectively: why I wanted to do law, why I had chosen that firm, and why I was suited to being a solicitor. If you can nail those three points, I think you’re in a strong position.

Which departments did you train in?

You share an office with another first-year trainee and are expected to find your own work. Subject to meeting certain Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and firm requirements, you are free to find work in whatever area you want. I focused on investment funds, mergers and acquisitions, dispute resolution, and financial regulation – the latter being where I have chosen to qualify.

The non-rotational system suited me because I enjoy working with people and forging relationships. There were many opportunities to get involved in interesting matters, simply by asking. I quickly got to know a lot of the associates and partners across the different practice areas due to the open and collegiate atmosphere around the office.

There is an element of pressure to take control of your career at an early stage, which can be quite daunting. You have to be quite robust. It is your responsibility to balance your workload and if you have opposite and competing deadlines, this can be challenging.

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

I recently worked on a complex application to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) regarding a change-in-control of a regulated entity. These situations come about where a client is proposing to gain control of an entity regulated by the FCA and needs the FCA’s approval to do so. A lot of my work involves interceding with the regulator on a client's behalf.

It was a small team so I had a lot of responsibility with this matter. This meant that I had a lot of client exposure and scope to produce first drafts of most of the documents. I also got to see up-close how a very experienced lawyer deals with the FCA, clients and complex legal questions.

How does the qualification process work at the firm?

Subject to certain requirements, you have free reign for two years to work with the departments you choose. By the middle of the second year, people tend to have settled into certain teams. Qualification therefore feels slightly informal because it is clear from the type of work you’re doing, and the teams you’re working with consistently, where you want to qualify. Ultimately you have a (slightly more formal) discussion with the training principal about which team you would like to qualify into. Now that I have completed all of my SRA and firm requirements, I now exclusively focus on financial regulation work with the team I will be working with as a newly-qualified lawyer.

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

To have enough self-confidence to trust that even if you don’t know the answer to something straight away, by being thorough and resourceful, you will reach the right outcome. I think when you first start as a trainee alarm bells ring with every email, especially where you're working on an area of the law you've not seen before. However, what you learn over the course of the training contract is how to get to the heart of legal issues and spot what you need to do to solve them.

What makes your firm stand out from the rest?

We have a flat hierarchy and the non-rotational training structure encourages trainees to communicate with everyone in the firm from partners to associates, as well to have a voice on matters.

Also, due to the nature of our training, some trainees might be involved in the same matter throughout a large part of their training contract, and so become the expert within the team on certain elements of that matter. In this situation, a trainee will often be involved in strategic discussions because they have been able to build that expertise. This is a hugely unique offering for City trainees.

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

The work-life balance varies. If you plan effectively and manage expectations, then you will have periods of balance. However, we are a professional services firm, which tries to do top-tier work in the market, so there are times when you work late. It’s also why we do it – we want to work on things that are important and will make a difference for our clients, so leaving at 5:00pm every day is unrealistic.

In terms of working from home during lockdown, the firm has gone out of its way to make people feel connected.

What is the wider culture like?

Your trainee cohort is probably your biggest support system at Jones Day. The reason for this is because the firm fosters an environment in which you become close to the people you work with and which encourages collegiality rather than competition. I also think that trainees become such good friends at Jones Day because we spend so much time together and because no one else understands the ups and downs of a training contract quite like someone going through it with you.

I also like the culture at Jones Day as there is a real element of everyone mucking in when the time calls.

What’s been the highlight of your time at the firm?

Each year Jones Day sends its new junior lawyers from its 42 offices worldwide to Washington for a conference about the firm’s culture and practice areas. It is an opportunity to meet all your colleagues around the world and start fostering those relationships. In addition to being a chance to get to know your counterparts in different offices, it is a great way to see Jones Day's One Firm Worldwide ethos in practice.

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

I generally have quite a bit of scope to work directly with clients – for example, there’s a financial services pro bono matter that we’re working on for a start-up fintech company which I am taking the lead on. While this doesn’t sound particularly exciting when you write it down, the fact that the firm is giving its trainees the opportunity to take projects and run with them is great. This is symptomatic of the wider firm culture of opportunity and entrepreneurial spirit.

What’s your signature dish?

My family are Turkish so if I see a BBQ and a grill I have to get involved – my signature dish is barbequed chicken shish.