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Meet the lawyer

Jack Salter

Jack Salter

University: University of Nottingham, University of Hong Kong
Degree: Law with Chinese law
Year of qualification: 2019
Position: Associate
Department: Energy, infrastructure and resources

What attracted you to a career in law?

I always enjoyed learning about how the law is part of, and impacts on, almost everything in our lives. In particular, I found the way that complex and important matters were settled by litigation fascinating and I wanted to experience that.

Why solicitor not barrister?

My experience outside of law made me realise that working in a team to deliver results on complex issues suited me better, so pursuing the solicitor route made sense. Now, it gives me a chance to work hand-in-hand with wonderful and talented colleagues globally, and collaborate on fascinating and complex issues on behalf of our clients.

How did you decide which firms to apply to?

I read up extensively on firms to identify what type of work they did, who the people were and what the trainees/associates said about the firm. I went to law fairs and spoke to the people there to get a sense of what was important to them and to me. I was fortunate to be introduced to some partners at K&L Gates, which was when I realised that firm culture was important to me – the atmosphere at K&L Gates felt right.

How much work experience had you had? Why is it so important?

I'd done some work experience with small, local firms near to my family before and had completed a couple of mini-pupillages. However, I never secured a place on a vacation scheme.

While I think that vacation schemes offer candidates great insights into what working for a firm is like, what they’re looking for, as well as giving the firm a chance to get to know them, I don’t regret not doing one. That said, I’d encourage students to apply to vacation schemes.

I think that experiences outside of law can also be pivotal in demonstrating what you have to offer. I’d spent time during and after my degree and Legal Practice Course managing restaurants, which gave me a huge set of different but complimentary skills. I’d also studied in Hong Kong for two years, which exposed me to a completely different way of life and doing business. Understanding that this non-legal experience was just as relevant as my legal experience made a big difference to me as a candidate.

What do you think made your application successful?

As I say above, it was understanding how all the different things I’d done in my life set me apart, whether they were directly linked to the practice of law or not.

Studying law in Hong Kong gave me an international perspective on the law, but also experience of working with colleagues from different nationalities, cultures and legal systems. It opened my eyes to what being a lawyer in an international firm might be like.

Running hospitality businesses – and especially ones with high aspirations – taught me about people and project management, dealing with challenging and time-pressured situations and getting used to high-intensity environments.

I also think it’s better to come across as honest – I tried not to look like the candidate who’d memorised the website, but rather as someone who was knowledgeable and willing to learn.

Which departments did you train in?

I started in our investment management team. Then I moved to the litigation and dispute resolution team, then corporate, and finally contentious construction and energy.

How does the qualification process work at the firm?

Departments will work with management to come up with a list of positions that’ll be available in around April to May each year. Trainees will then be given an opportunity to apply for one or more of those jobs, by way of covering letter and CV, and if successful will then be invited to an interview with two or more partners. The whole process takes a little over two weeks before offers are made.

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

You’ll be a part of the team from day one. So, expect to get up to speed quickly, hit the ground running, and be trusted by the partners and associates in your team to take responsibility early. The team wants you to succeed – not just for your sake, but because a trainee who can weave themselves into the team makes the whole team better. You can expect to be supported and challenged.

Please outline your area of expertise. What might you do in a typical day?

I work in the energy, infrastructure and resources practice area of the firm, primarily within the energy team, but also with our construction and infrastructure team. Most of my work is in disputes/international arbitration, although we also advise on contracts and projects as well.

I often work on very large disputes that’ll take up a lot of my time and involve working with a large number of colleagues. This might involve: working with our client, our e-Discovery teams and our experts and witnesses on understanding the huge volume of evidence that is usually part of construction and energy disputes; turning that evidence into pleadings and witness statements and presenting that evidence to the tribunal; or working with experts on the presentation of complex technical matters to the tribunal in a way that’s both accurate and persuasive. I often get involved in corresponding with the lawyers on the other side of cases and the tribunal – perhaps to work out a point of procedure or to advance our client’s case as best we can.

I’ll also work on smaller, but no less important matters, in which I might be the only associate. In those matters, I can expect to be responsible for all of the above, as well as assisting with budgeting, client care and managing the progress of the arbitration.

My work is entirely collaborative, and I work daily with clients and colleagues from Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Dubai, Doha, Houston and Seattle, as well as my own team here in London – we truly are a global firm with a global service.

Please discuss a current/recent specific deal/case outlining your role in the matter.

I’ve recently worked on a high-value, complex arbitration relating to a major piece of aviation infrastructure in a Gulf Cooperation Council country.

As part of the project management team, I’ve been responsible for marshalling the vast quantities of documents to turn them into meaningful evidence, including working closely with the client, external consultants and our in-house e-Discovery team. I’ve worked closely with our colleagues in four offices in the firm on a daily basis to take the matter from the Statement of Claim through to Closing Submissions.

I've also taken a lead role in corresponding with our opposing counsel and the tribunal, helping with the drafting of applications, serving statements and generally maintaining the progress of the arbitration.

I was also responsible for organising and running the first merits hearing, which was held virtually. This involved working with third-party vendors, our opposition counsel and the tribunal to ensure that a protocol was put in place and adhered to, generating a comprehensive hearing bundle, and dealing with any issues that cropped up during the hearing.

What do you most/least enjoy about your career and why?

Working on big international cases has both its benefits and drawbacks. On the plus side, it’s exciting and attractive to work on multi-million (sometimes billion) dollar cases about actual physical buildings, rigs or vessels. Working with my team is always a joy – they’re all very talented and bring something different to the table and I’m always learning from them and my cases.

However, sometimes there are gruelling stints in the office to make a deadline, complex issues popping up that require urgent attention and of course it’s never fun when you lose on an issue!

How involved are you with business development and promoting the firm?

At K&L Gates we’re encouraged to get involved with business development from the first day. Whether that involves drafting client alerts, handbooks or case summaries, attending events to represent the firm or being involved in pitches. And of course, every time you interact with a client, they’ll be thinking about how well you’re serving them.

What makes your firm stand out from the rest?

In London, we’ve managed to successfully retain the culture of the London firm that merged with our American colleagues – the people are extraordinarily friendly and approachable, the expectations and targets still reflect the London market, and it’s genuinely a good place to work. On a global scale, K&L Gates is impressive as a fully-interconnected firm that gives you the opportunity to work every day with colleagues all across the platform.

I’d also highlight that I think that the firm’s commitments to diversity and inclusion, pro bono work and innovation aren’t just tangential to our core mission – they’re an integral part of it, and are both practised and preached at every level.

What skills/strengths do you need to be a successful solicitor?

There’s no one type of solicitor, as far as I’m concerned. A good and solid understanding of the law is essential, as are good written and communication skills, the ability to work under pressure and a desire to learn. Each of my colleagues brings something different to the table, and I think trainees quickly start to realise what kind of lawyer they are.

Some of my colleagues are highly analytical, can delve into the most complex of issues and come up with a solution. Others are exceptional at pleading cases, negotiating, and persuading. Take the time to figure out what kind of lawyer you are because each type is important.

What advice do you have for budding solicitors who are contemplating a career in law?

Listen to your gut instinct – what kind of firm do you want to work for; what work do you want to do; who do you want your clients to be; what are the things that are most important to you when looking for a workplace? You’ll be better off matching yourself to a firm that fits that profile than if you just go for the firm with the most high-profile work or highest salary (not that that’s necessarily wrong). If you’re honest with yourself about what your skills and interests are, what you want to get out of a training contract and do your research on what firms can give you that, then you’ll find the right place.