University: University of Nottingham, University of Hong Kong
Degree: Law with Chinese law
Year of qualification: 2019
Position: Senior associate
Department: Energy, infrastructure and resources
What attracted you to a career in law?
The law is part of, and impacts, almost everything in our lives. I enjoyed studying how and why that’s the case in theory, and wanted to put that into practice. In particular, I found the way that complex and important matters were settled by litigation fascinating, and wanted to experience that.
Why solicitor not barrister?
I’ve always valued working as part of a team to deliver results on complex issues, so pursuing the solicitor route made sense. Now, I get to work hand-in-hand with talented colleagues globally, and on fascinating and complex issues for our clients.
How did you decide which firms to apply to?
Plenty of research. I read up on firms to identify the type of work they did, who the people were and what the trainees/associates said about the firm. I spoke to people at law fairs to find out what was important to them and me. I was fortunate to be introduced to some K&L Gates partners, which was when I realised that the firm’s culture is important to me – the atmosphere at K&L Gates felt right.
How much work experience had you had? Why is it so important?
I completed work experience with small, local firms and a couple of mini-pupillages. However, I never secured a vacation scheme spot.
That said, vacation schemes offer candidates great insights into what working for a firm is like, what they’re looking for, and give the firm a chance to get to know candidates – I don’t regret not doing one but I’d encourage students to apply.
Experiences outside of law are also pivotal in demonstrating your skill set. During and after my degree and Legal Practice Course I managed restaurants, developing different but complementary skills. I also studied in Hong Kong for two years, which exposed me to a different way of life and doing business. Understanding how this non-legal experience was relevant made a difference to me as a candidate.
Please discuss a specific deal/case that you were involved with during your training contract, outlining your role in the matter.
During my corporate seat, I was part of a team supporting an AIM-listed North Sea oil and gas client that was the target of a hostile takeover bid. I was given high levels of responsibility to liaise with the client and its other advisors in our response to the bid. I helped ensure the response was coordinated, accurate, and met market rules and standards. The partners were supportive and on hand to answer questions and talk things through, but they also gave me the space to complete tasks and trusted my suggestions.
How does the qualification process work at the firm?
Departments work with management to compile the positions that’ll be available around April to May. Trainees can then apply for one or more of those jobs, by way of covering letter and CV, and if successful will be invited to an interview with two or more partners. The process takes around two weeks before offers are made.
Please outline your area of expertise. What might you do in a typical day?
I work in the energy, infrastructure and resources practice area, 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.
I often work on large disputes that take up lots of my time and involve working with a number of colleagues. This includes working with our client, our e-Discovery teams and our experts and witnesses on understanding the volume of evidence that’s part of construction and energy disputes; turning that evidence into pleadings and witness statements and presenting it to the tribunal; or working with experts on the presentation of complex technical matters to the tribunal in a way that’s accurate and persuasive. I get involved in corresponding with the lawyers on the other side of cases and the tribunal, including on important interim applications, perhaps to work out a point of procedure or to advance our client’s case.
I also work on smaller, but no less important, matters where I might be the only associate. In those matters, I can expect to be responsible for all the above, as well as assisting with budgeting, client care and managing the arbitration’s progress.
I work with clients and colleagues daily from Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Dubai, Doha, Houston and Seattle, as well as my team in London – we’re a global firm with a global service.
Please discuss a current/recent specific deal/case, outlining your role in the matter.
I recently worked on a high-value, complex arbitration relating to a new-build programme for a North Sea drilling contractor.
I’ve been fully immersed in the team and all aspects of the dispute. I was given primary responsibility for marshalling the vast quantities of documentary evidence, both from our client and our opposition, to review and digest it, so it can be meaningfully used as evidence, including working closely with the client, external consultants and experts and our in-house e-Discovery team.
I've taken a lead role in corresponding with our opposing counsel and the tribunal, helping with the drafting of applications, serving statements and maintaining the arbitration’s progress.
I was responsible for organising and running the hearing, which involved working with third-party vendors, our opposition counsel and the tribunal to ensure a protocol was put in place and adhered to; generating a comprehensive hearing bundle; ensuring counsel had everything required to present the case fully; marshalling and supporting experts and witnesses so they could give evidence (including assisting witnesses in giving evidence remotely from overseas); and dealing with any issues that cropped up.
What makes your firm stand out from the rest?
In London, we’ve successfully retained the culture of the London firm that merged with our US colleagues – the people are friendly and approachable, the expectations and targets still reflect the London market, and it’s a great place to work. On a global scale, K&L Gates is impressive as a fully interconnected firm with opportunities to work with colleagues all across the platform.
It has an impressive, almost borderless, reach and always strives to lead the way on emerging issues for our clients (eg, energy transition and hydrogen) or in new jurisdictions.
Plus, the firm’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I), pro bono work and innovation aren’t just tangential to our core mission – they’re an integral part of it, and are 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 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.
Some of my colleagues are highly analytical, can delve into the most complex of issues and find a solution. Others are exceptional at pleading cases, negotiating and persuading. My colleagues each offer something different, and trainees will quickly realise what kind of lawyer they are.
While it’s important to put your all into a training contract, you must also learn from your weaknesses and strengths; knowing when to ask for help or say no is vital; struggling on will only be detrimental to you, your team and your client.
What advice do you have for budding solicitors who are contemplating a career in law?
Listen to your gut instinct:
You don’t have to have all the answers yet, but you’ll be better off matching yourself to a firm that fits your profile rather than applying for the firm with the most high-profile work or highest salary (not that that’s necessarily wrong). If you’re honest about what your skills and interests are, what you want to get out of a training contract and do your research on which firms can give you that then you’ll find the right place.
What diversity and inclusion initiatives does the firm have in place?
DE&I is part of the firm’s core values, not an add-on. The firm has a diversity committee, comprising diverse lawyers from all over the world. It has both an internal and external facing role, tackling initiatives such as recruitment and pronoun respect policies, running educational series including our Conversations about Race series, running diversity retreats, and ensuring our clients are serviced by diverse teams.
The firm has achieved Mansfield 5.0 certification, so it’s required to affirmatively consider diverse lawyers for leadership and governance roles, promotions, client pitches and lateral hires. In London, we work with benchmarking and recruitment organisations to ensure we’re attracting, considering and retaining diverse talent.
In London, the DE&I committee is highly active. The main committee is supplemented by sub-groups covering LGBTQ+, women in the profession, multicultural society, new parents and mental health, and work on both internal priorities such as recruitment, mental health support, and support for parents, as well as external events including our pride celebration.
Does your department largely work independently, in support of another dept or is it routinely supported by other depts?
K&L Gates encourages collaboration between teams and working in silos is virtually unheard of. Eighteen of the firm’s top 20 largest clients used lawyers in 10 or more of our offices in 2022. In my role, I’ve consistently worked with colleagues in offices around the firm, including Singapore, Dubai, Doha, Houston, Seattle, and with other teams around the firm, including corporate and IP. If a client had a need that my team couldn’t meet directly, we’d always look to our colleagues around the firm to see whether there’s someone well-suited to take this on.
What’s your signature dish?
I love to cook all sorts but I make a mean carbonara.