University: Royal Holloway, University of London (BA) and University of Oxford (MSt)
Year of qualification: 2012
Department: Mergers & acquisitions (M&A)
As a child I was a voracious reader and was incredibly inquisitive, so law was a logical career choice! I also really enjoy puzzles and problem solving. One of my favourite parts of the job is the satisfaction of being able to solve a tricky issue for a client.
At school and university I was involved in a lot of debating societies and drama productions so on one level the Bar was very attractive. However, I knew that I probably wanted to do transactional work and a vacation scheme at Jones Day showed me how interesting transactions can be. As an M&A solicitor (particularly in your junior years) you can really get into the detail of the deal, which is hugely satisfying.
Applying to law firms can feel overwhelming – all of the recruitment websites look very similar and they all claim to be the ideal place to work! I went to a law graduate recruitment fair when I was at university which gave me the opportunity to meet people from the various firms. From there, I applied to firms that I thought looked interesting and would be a good fit for me. I think it is always worth picking a few firms and making each application as good as possible. Focus on making your personality shine through and explaining what attracted you to that firm.
I did a broad variety of work experience. One of the most difficult things about deciding on a career in law without having studied law at university is that it is hard to know which area of law to pursue. I did work experience in a variety of places: I shadowed a barrister in employment tribunals, worked in a high street firm for a week, sat in the legal department of a big four accountancy firm and undertook a couple of vacation schemes at City firms. While all of these experiences were interesting and incredibly varied, it was obvious to me at the end that I wanted to pursue a career in the city.
It's really difficult to know what makes a successful application, so I hope that it was my enthusiasm for the firm and the career. I really tried to get as much of my personality into my cover letter as possible. At this level, our academic achievements tend to be similarly impressive, so I concentrated on showing Jones Day why I was a good fit for them.
Jones Day has a non-rotational training system, which means that we can seek work in any department throughout our training contract. Over the two years I did a fairly substantial amount of M&A, private equity, capital markets, banking, intellectual property, litigation and real estate. One of the best things about our system is that it is possible to see a transaction through to completion as a trainee; therefore I was able to do some M&A consistently for those two years (in addition to other practice areas), setting me up well for qualification in M&A.
We recently completed the acquisition of a UK retailer for a client which is headquartered in France. The Brexit vote happened in the middle of negotiations, which prompted a few interesting conversations between lawyers and principals! My role on the transaction was to supervise the trainees who were conducting due diligence and drafting ancillaries, liaise with specialists from other practice areas and draft the main transaction documents with the partner. As the associate on a deal you can often be the main point of contact for the client, so I would speak to our client on a daily basis on everything from small diligence queries to key commercial points of negotiation.
Qualification at Jones Day is actually pretty simple – due to our unique training system, there is very little difference between your last day as a trainee and your first day as an associate! As with most things at Jones Day, the process is personal and fairly informal – when you are a few months away from qualification you send an email to the graduate recruitment partner telling him which practice area you would like to qualify into.
Take a notepad everywhere with you, always ask what the deadline is so that you can make sure you meet it or manage expectations if you think there is a chance you won't meet it, and sleep as much as you can in the first few weeks – it will be far more tiring than anything you have ever done before!
I am an associate in the M&A team and have also started working with our funds practice. A typical day for me would involve:
The most and least enjoyable parts of the job tend to come at the same time: completion! There is always a big rush of adrenaline in the few days before completion and much relief when the funds transfer and the documents are signed. However, the weeks before a big completion can be fairly stressful and lacking in sleep. The great thing about transactional work is that no two deals are ever the same so it keeps things interesting.
Business development is a crucial part of the job and as associates we are very much encouraged to participate in it, particularly with our peers. At the end of a deal, it's nice to take the team, clients and/or fellow advisers out for a drink.
We have a non-hierarchical system – you genuinely cannot tell from the name on the door of an office whether the person inside is a trainee, associate or partner. We also have an open-door policy, so everyone is encouraged to talk to each other, ask questions and seek work. The relaxed atmosphere this promotes makes it a great place to work.
If you're still at university or law school, seek out opportunities to broaden your legal skills and commercial awareness. For example, one of our current trainees volunteered with the Citizens Advice Bureau throughout university, which was a great introduction to consumer law issues, advising clients and problem solving. Other than that, just work hard and remember to maintain a social circle outside of law – it's good to socialise with people who don't make law jokes!
I have two books on the go at the moment: Hamilton by Rob Chernow (since studying history at university, I still read history books in my spare time) and a John Grisham page-turner. My family laugh at my love of John Grisham novels, but they're just as entertaining to me as to everyone else – law in popular culture is far more entertaining than the real thing!