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Meet the lawyer

Christopher Weale

Christopher Weale

University: University of Oxford
Degree: Modern languages: French and Spanish
Year of qualification: 2020     
Position: Associate
Department: Corporate/M&A
Pronouns: He/his/him

What attracted you to a career in law?

The chance to have a backstage pass to some of the most interesting commercial transactions and trends has always appealed to me. The job blends intellectual rigour, interpersonal connections and excellent opportunities for personal and professional progression. I still find that the job, as a whole, attracts very intellectually curious people and being surrounded by ambitious and driven peers always felt like a good place to be.

Why solicitor not barrister?

The most rewarding parts of the job tend to be rooted in collective achievements, most frequently having delivered a successful transaction for a client under challenging circumstances. I always felt that a commercial law path would provide those opportunities to be part of an institutional product offering for clients that I wanted to advise, rather than be part of a chambers which is a collection of self-employed legal practitioners. Although perhaps maybe in another life, I may have gone to the Bar as the job certainly has appealing features!

However, in the round, I’m very happy with my decision to have pursued the solicitor path and to be part of a law firm that’s developed me professionally and given me high-quality legal training.

How did you decide which firms to apply to?

I knew I wanted to apply to US law firms from the outset; the smaller cohorts, combined with the clear meteoric growth of certain US firms in London (of which Kirkland is a strong example), was more appealing than the magic circle firms. I therefore completed vacation schemes at several US firms and, ultimately, decided that Kirkland was the best option.

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

By the time I’d accepted the training contract offer from Kirkland, I’d done a number of work experience placements, including vacation schemes. In addition, I’d worked at a law firm in Paris during the third year of my degree,  attended shorter insight programmes and even completed a mini pupillage.

The collective experiences from these experiences were invaluable and the most important reason in me achieving a training contract. Vacation schemes offer the chance to not only experience the sort of work you do on the job, but also to speak to the people in whose footsteps you’ll be following (which is equally as valuable). Relatedly, the experiences gave me anecdotes and evidence on which to draw during interviews.

Which departments did you train in?

Investment funds, debt finance, corporate and antitrust and competition. I then qualified into the corporate team.

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

We recently advised a long-standing client on the disposal of a student accommodation business. I was involved from the beginning, attending initial client strategy meetings, conducting the vendor due diligence exercise, liaising with management and various other workstreams. The deal had a bit of everything and was a valuable learning experience.

How does the qualification process work at the firm?

During their final seat, trainees are asked to provide their preferred qualification team. The process is relatively informal and the preferred choices are sent to the relevant group partners for consideration. Decisions are made quickly and trainees (soon-to-be-newly-qualified lawyers) are given lots of support in integrating into their teams.

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. That’s of course quite a broad remit that can involve, on any given day, calls with a client to take instructions on a particular part of the transaction, drafting documents, negotiating those documents with other counsel or team meetings to discuss a particular issue or challenge that’s arisen. The job is extremely varied and, although a cliché, no two deals are ever the same which means that every deal has its own nuances and points of interest.

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

Kirkland is excellent at giving young lawyers the freedom and responsibility to carry forward the business development of the firm. Young lawyers should never underestimate the importance of relationships even at the junior level and Kirkland has given me lots of exposure to clients both day to day and at events and meetings. This reinforces the approach taken by the partners that business development is a collective effort.

What makes your firm stand out from the rest?

The dedication to delivering a first-class experience for the client, the meritocratic culture and early responsibility.

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

As with any role in M&A, the ebb and flow of deals fluctuates throughout the year. When the job requires it, the default expectation is that we do everything required to get the job done well for our clients as that is our principal responsibility. However, there’s no face-time culture at Kirkland and the partners promote treating everyone at the firm as adults so that, if there’s a lull between deals or during the day, the team can use their time as they see fit.

What diversity and inclusion initiatives does the firm have in place?

Kirkland has a number of diversity and inclusion initiatives that are promoted within the firm including the:

  • Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI) which regularly organises events and networking opportunities in the London office;
  • Race & Ethnicity Professional Network which offers our diverse communities an opportunity to meet and connect with allies and one another; and
  • Pride Affinity Group (our LGBTQ+ network) which meets regularly for awareness-raising events such as dinner and drinks, hosting guest speakers internally, and other networking opportunities throughout the year.

There are also periodic celebrations for social and cultural occasions that are meaningful to people at the firm.

Does your department largely work independently, in support of another dept or is it routinely supported by other depts?

Not at all – the brilliant thing about the corporate team is that the work is intertwined with other teams in the firm. We have strong relationships with almost every other team in the London office which demonstrates the collaborative approach that feeds through Kirkland.

Describe the firm in three words.

Ambitious, dedicated and transparent.

How often as a trainee were you communicating directly with clients (calls, attending meetings)?

Regularly: if not daily then multiple times a week. The firm is excellent at giving trainees early deal experience and they’re given the responsibility to reflect their experience and ability.

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

The chance to work on some market-leading transactions and to run my own workstreams. I know this doesn’t happen at every firm but it’s a real strength at Kirkland. I’m also, in the same breath, always amazed by the quality of mandate that the firm continues to bring in.

Where's your dream holiday destination?

Costa Rica – a mixture of natural life, jungle and surfing. I’ll be going this year!