Syed Mahbub Murshed
Kirkland & Ellis LLP
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University: King’s College London, UCL
Degree: LLB, LLM
Year of qualification: 2016
Department: Corporate M&A
What attracted you to a career in law?
I was interested in studying law at university and the career was a natural progression, and a chance to develop my analytical and professional abilities. I was attracted by the mix of technical and interpersonal skills involved and the ability to work in a profession which offered involvement across a wide variety of industry sectors.
Why solicitor not barrister?
As I went through my undergraduate degree, I developed more of an interest in international and commercial law. The solicitor route was more appealing from that perspective, as it offered the chance to work in an international law firm across multiple jurisdictions and a diverse client base.
How did you decide which firms to apply to?
Given my interest in commercial law, I attended a number of open days and decided that I wanted to look for experience in firms with an international focus, with a larger network of contacts and clients who needed cross-jurisdictional advice. Kirkland fit those categories well.
How much work experience had you had? Why is it so important?
I completed a number of vacation schemes and open days at various firms in London. I think it’s very important to get hands-on experience, as it helps narrow down the work which interests you. For instance, I did vacation schemes at UK firms, mid-sized international firms and US firms before deciding on the latter.
What do you think made your application successful?
Every application is different but what was important for me was to highlight the reasons why I wanted to work at Kirkland, including the international focus of the firm’s work, the private equity client base (including the significant exposure to the clients’ operating portfolio companies) and the ability to get involved in deals from the outset. I also drew upon the experiences I had with work experience at other law firms which allowed me to narrow down the areas of exposure I wanted to get as a trainee.
Which departments did you train in?
Debt finance, restructuring, international arbitration and litigation, and corporate M&A. I then qualified into my final seat which was corporate M&A.
How often as a trainee were you communicating directly with clients (calls, attending meetings)?
Often. Trainees are given as much responsibility as they can handle and hands-on experience is encouraged. Trainees are supervised at all times, but are expected to communicate with clients on calls and emails and attend meetings.
Please discuss a specific deal/case that you were involved with, outlining your role in the matter.
I was involved in an accelerated process for one of our private equity clients who were looking at acquiring a business in Northern Europe. I was involved in the process from start to finish, including conducting due diligence with specialist and international legal advisors and negotiating documents, as well as completion and execution of the transaction. I was fortunate to be involved in every aspect of the deal and carried this experience forward on future transactions.
How does the qualification process work at the firm?
The process is fairly informal. Each trainee is asked to provide their top choices (or single choice if that is the case) during their final seat and these choices are sent to the partners for consideration. Decisions are usually made quickly and the trainees are informed well in advance of completing their final seat.
What do you wish you’d known about being a trainee before you started that you now do?
That even if you’ve got a good idea of where you want to specialise, you shouldn’t be deterred from trying different trainee seats and departments. The skills you learn are all pervasive and you never know which department you may ultimately choose to end up in!
Please outline your area of expertise. What might you do in a typical day?
My role primarily involves offering legal advice in connection with mergers, acquisitions and sales of operating businesses for our private equity sponsor clients. A typical day can involve negotiating and drafting documents relating to current transactions, liaising with specialist and international legal advisors on technical aspects of the transaction, liaising with clients on calls and emails, transaction implementation planning and internal meetings and discussion.
Does your department largely work independently, in support of another department or is it routinely supported by other departments?
We work very closely with the other departments and specialist teams. Collaboration is key when dealing with high-value transactions in a short period of time. While we will complete the key M&A and transaction documents within the corporate team, we will also work closely with our IP, litigation, anti-trust, debt finance and tax colleagues to advise on various aspects of the deal.
What do you most/least enjoy about your career and why?
I most enjoy the ability to develop my analytical and technical ability working in a firm where I am given a lot of responsibility. I also enjoy working on large, complex and international matters where we are advising the client not just on legal aspects, but ensuring that we add value in their decision making as part of the wider deal process.
What is the work-life balance like at your firm? How often do you have late nights/work at weekends?
This depends on the transaction work flow. There is no obligation to come in early or work late if there is no pressure to meet deadlines. Working remotely is encouraged. When a deal is in full swing, there are of course late nights.
What is the wider culture like – are there sports teams/trips out? Is there a LGBT group, women’s group and so on?
The firm is very social. We have a football team which plays league matches with other firms/ organisations in the City every week. There is also an annual retreat in a resort and spa just outside London to which all of the associates, partners and trainees are invited. The firm also encourages involvement in various diversity network groups, including our Women’s Leadership Initiative and our LGBT group.
How involved are you with business development and promoting the firm?
In terms of graduate recruitment, I try to attend a number of law fairs and graduate open days throughout the year. We also do training and legal updates for clients, which we are encouraged to contribute to on a regular basis.
What’s been the highlight of the last month at the firm?
We have had the new cohort of NQs join across the board and it is great to see all the teams grow and see new faces at firm socials.
What makes your firm stand out from the rest?
The early responsibility, the non-hierarchical work structure, our varied and international client base and the ability to make partner at a much earlier stage than on offer at most other international law firms.
What skills/strengths do you need to be a successful solicitor?
I think one of the key skills is learning to balance the need to give clear, concise and accurate advice in a set time frame. As a practitioner you may be restricted both for time and the chargeable fee, and it is important to be able to strike a balance and be able to advise the client efficiently.
What advice do you have for budding solicitors who are contemplating a career in law?
I would encourage aspiring solicitors to attend a variety of legal recruitment events, including university law fairs and firm open days, and in particular ask questions to existing trainees and junior solicitors at these events. It’s the job that you are going into, so there are no better people to hear from.
Describe the firm in three words.
Driven. Meritocratic. Powerhouse.
Where is your dream holiday destination?
New Zealand. Mountains, sea, astonishing scenery and a short trip to the South Pole. It has everything!
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