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Meet the lawyer

Evan Whyte

Evan Whyte

University: University of Sothhampton 
Degree: Law
Year of qualification: 2019
Position: Associate
Department: Finance

What attracted you to a career in law?

I’ve always been interested in law. It seemed like a fun profession from the TV programmes and films I watched as a child. My family also put an emphasis on education and encouraged us to pursue traditional careers in law, medicine or engineering (although I’m the first of our family to do so). As I progressed through university, I developed a wider interest in energy work and when I started looking for legal jobs, I was drawn to financing, and M&A.

I took a bit of a weird path into the profession itself because I had a variety of jobs before moving into law, including working in recruitment, communications and as a teaching assistant. The real pull to law came from the idea of working on interesting transactions and deals with people who are incredibly knowledgeable, which means you’re always learning.

Why solicitor not barrister?

Originally, I wanted to be a criminal law barrister but the work of a transactional lawyer appealed to me for a long-term career given the nature of the work and the fact it more closely aligned to my skill set.

How did you decide which firms to apply to?

A large part of deciding which firms to apply to was word of mouth. I had friends who’d also completed vacation schemes who shared their personal experiences, which provided insights into firms’ cultures. Knowing that I was interested in energy and finance also shaped my decision because it meant I could narrow my search to City firms that ranked highly within these practice areas.

The feel of a firm was also important to me. I was focused on joining a firm with a diverse and accommodating group of people and this really came across during my vacation scheme at Latham. My cohort was made up of people who’d all taken different paths into the profession, which not only meant we all thought differently, but that I also didn’t feel out of place because there was no defined mould for what a Latham lawyer should be. That felt unique to Latham, and I valued that.

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

People can put a real focus on legal work experience, but the key is understanding how to work in an office and take on responsibility (in addition to understanding what the role of a solicitor is). During my time at university, I was elected vice president of the student union, which was a very commercial role as I worked on the commercial sub-committee and managed a large budget. I sat on the board of trustees, led large teams, and learned to manage my own time which was crucial because I didn’t have a supervisor or manager. Applying the commercial experience to the transactional realities of a career in law, but also working independently, has helped me as a Latham lawyer.

I’d also been a teaching assistant, which was my favourite role before my career in law and easily the most rewarding. Looking after children is incredibly demanding – the work taught me to think on my feet, communicate clearly and be personable, which all proved to be crucial skills required as a commercial lawyer. It’s not something you’d typically think would prepare you for law but by learning to break down concepts and find different ways to communicate them, I’ve learnt to tailor explanations to whoever I’m talking to, whether that be clients or more junior lawyers. 

What do you think made your application successful?

For me, it was the diversity of my work experience. The biggest challenge prospective trainees face is communicating why they want to do the job and truly grasping what the role of a lawyer entails. You can solve the latter by participating in vacation schemes, open days and speaking to people who already work within the industry. The first is harder to articulate, especially without experience. In my case, I’d had so much varying work experience that by the time I came into law, I knew it was the career I wanted.

Which departments did you train in?

My first seat was in project finance, which was great. My second seat was in banking, which is where I qualified, and my third seat was in the corporate team focusing on M&A, where the team was brilliant. My final seat was a secondment to the Los Angeles banking team– it was such a fantastic experience because I was able to practise law in a different environment (plus there was nicer weather) and meet lawyers at Latham I may have never otherwise worked with.

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

I worked on a deal recently which involved an acquisition of a publicly listed company, with financing at two different levels of the structure. My role involved drafting and revising the main finance documents and supervising the conditions precedent process. It was a hands-on transaction involving the London, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Madrid and Milan offices, which offered a lot of opportunities to draft documents, attend and lead meetings with clients and take the lead on working through issues lists from both a commercial and legal perspective. This transaction was particularly interesting because I was given the opportunity to lead on workstreams usually run by more senior associates. I had significant client interaction and liaised with a wide range of team members across offices. It was a lot of work but a brilliant experience, and I’m sure I’ll regularly look back on this transaction and revisit everything I learnt.

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

Be proactive and ask questions. It’s about being brave, not worrying about being wrong or thinking people are too busy. Now I’m supervising more junior lawyers, I’m always most impressed by those who ask intelligent questions because it shows how they’re approaching a challenge and what their line of thinking is (and also whether I’ve explained something clearly). The more questions you ask, the more you’ll learn and the better your understanding will be.

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

I’m currently working on a lot of infrastructure finance, so the days are slightly less typical than they used to be, but that’s also a reflection of me taking on more responsibility and more senior pieces of work. On a typical day, I check my emails before I get to the office so that I can arrive prepared, even if I’m only mentally mapping out my day. I also ideally respond to any outstanding emails that came in the night before so that I arrive to the office with all loose ends tied up and ready for a new day.

I expect to have calls throughout the day, so I schedule in time to review documents on the transactions I’m working on around these. At the beginning of a transaction, I dedicate a significant portion of time to drafting documents, cross checking these against precedents and updating in light of ongoing commercial negotiations.

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

I most enjoy the people I work with. What I love about Latham is that everyone within the firm is incredibly impressive, driven, friendly and will take the time to explain things. There’s so much to learn so your career never feels stagnant. I also appreciate knowing where I stand in terms of my development and performance, which isn’t always the case in other roles.

Other than the firm’s culture and its people, I find the context of the transactions I work on incredibly interesting. It’s a great feeling knowing that my work is market shaping and impacted by what you might see happening in the news.

I least enjoy the unpredictability of the work at times. There’s often an unexpected element to legal work so it’s important that you can manage your time and ensure you schedule in activities outside of work.  

What makes your firm stand out from the rest?

The composition of people – not only the diversity of paths and backgrounds, but also the diversity of thought. There’s a unifying desire to help each other within the firm. Everyone I’ve come across has a strong drive to help juniors and ensure that trainees are happy within their career development. There’s a culture of checking in on each other and ensuring everyone’s consistently learning and feeling happy with where they’re at in their work. 

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

Spend time thinking about the area of law you’re interested in. Consider how firms differ from each other and what you want to do long term. It can be easy to apply to lots of firms that do different work in very different markets, I recommend against doing this. It’s vital that you know the firms you’re applying to, their specialisms and your own interests.

I’d also encourage aspiring lawyers to get any work experience (whether that’s in the legal sector or not). My background is a testament to the fact it doesn’t have to be strictly legal work experience – get a taste for different sectors to develop a range of crucial skills and use this experience to help you identify whether law is the career you want.

What’s your signature dish?

My grandparents on my Dad’s side are Jamaican – I love spicy Jamaican food, so I’d say my curry goat, rice and peas is my signature dish given I cook it regularly.