University: University of Sussex
Year of qualification: 2012
What attracted you to a career in law?
At school I was quite academic, but I wasn’t drawn to any subject in particular. Law was suggested to me by a careers adviser in sixth form. After doing some research, I settled on a law degree, as the ability to balance academic thought and practical problem solving was appealing, as was the idea of working in a high-profile global industry. I enjoyed reading John Grisham and other crime and legal novels (like many aspiring lawyers!) so originally thought I might prefer working in criminal law. While doing my degree, I considered becoming a barrister, but soon realised after some work experience in both that I was much more suited to transactional work and the team environment of a solicitor’s practice.
How did you decide which firms to apply to?
I applied to several silver circle and US firms because I liked the idea of working somewhere with global reach but a smaller trainee intake. I didn’t know which area of law I wanted to qualify into, so I focussed my applications on full-service firms that would provide a broad range of training. The vacation schemes and open days I undertook gave me a sense of the personalities of different firms. I ended up accepting the offer from Latham due to its relaxed environment and collegiate feel, which was evident during my vacation scheme, alongside the opportunity to work with high profile clients. Another attractive factor for me was international work and the prospect of an international secondment during my training contract, and I was lucky enough to spend six months in Latham’s Singapore office as a trainee.
What do you wish you’d known about being a trainee before you started?
Everything gets easier! I felt a little out of my depth during the first week of my training contract. I did a corporate seat first and the team was incredibly busy, which was an exciting experience, but there was a lot to learn – from getting to grips with the new office, to learning how to use the IT systems and all the new names and new lingo. But it does get easier, and as you get to know people you realise that everyone is in the same boat and they’re all there to help you. I also wish I had known that mistakes are inevitable as a trainee and that is totally fine, and expected – it’s just how you learn from them that counts.
Please outline your area of expertise. What might you do in a typical day?
It’s clichéd to say, but there really isn’t a typical day in my job. I am in the corporate department and specialise in strategic M&A and general corporate work for both public and private companies. It’s very varied, which is what I love about my job. I might be acting company-side on a big intra-group reorganisation, or I might be acting for a buyer who’s acquiring a target in the same industry, for example.
Looking at my calendar for today, I had a call this morning with a client on a term sheet, which is a summary of proposed terms for a new acquisition. We discussed the terms which the seller had sent over and decided if we agreed with them, or what changes we would make. Then I reviewed some documents that my trainee had drafted on another transaction in the pharmaceuticals industry and we went through my comments and changes together. Later, I had a call with a partner and junior associate in my team about the status update of a new deal we are working on.
What do you most/least enjoy about your career and why?
I most enjoy working with my team – so much so that, despite me being convinced as a Latham trainee (and, admittedly, as a partner) that someone would realise I had no idea what I was doing and frogmarch me to the door, I’m still here after more than 10 years! There is a great team atmosphere and as no two deals are the same, we are always doing something different which is exciting. That also means you are often looking at a deal, or your client’s challenges, with a fresh pair of eyes and so it’s always a school day.
What makes your firm stand out from the rest?
Because of the firm’s Californian history and US influence, there is a very pervasive relaxed attitude, and everyone is genuinely nice and great to work with – there’s a real focus on diversity, inclusivity and lifting everyone up. We also have an associates committee which is made up of partners and associates from across the firm. The committee is responsible for various aspects of associate life, including the performance review process, pay and promotion. I was on the committee for two years which meant that I had a say in who got promoted to partner and counsel during that time, which was an incredible experience. This is great for team spirit as it means those who are promoted are truly well-deserving and respected within the firm. It’s very rare for associates to have such a high level of involvement in firm management, from what I have heard from people who join Latham from other firms. We are also given a lot of client-facing responsibility at early stages of our careers, including as trainees.
What skills/strengths do you need to be a successful solicitor?
As a junior lawyer, organisation is very important. As a junior lawyer at Latham, you are quite often the linchpin of a deal and must keep track of a large number of documents and workstreams. Showing initiative is also a key attribute. Some of the best trainees and junior associates I’ve worked with have taken control and run work streams without having to be told explicitly what to do (although always ask questions when they need to). Enthusiasm is always important too, especially if you are working long hours or on a busy deal.
What’s been the highlight of the last month at the firm?
We have worked with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) on a number of transactions and recently closed a deal with them which we had been working on for a year and a half. They sold a number of products to another healthcare company, including the anti-snore nasal strips, Breathe Right. I know the client well and was able to run the deal acting in the role of a junior partner, so that was a highlight for me.
What’s your signature dish?
Brownies – using the amazing Konditor & Cook recipe! I make them far too often and always (selfishly) send my new trainees the recipe in the hope that they bring them into the office too – I’ve had to make do with photos in the last few months though!