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Meet the lawyer

Laura Bridgewater

Laura Bridgewater

University: University of Nottingham
Degree: Law
Year of qualification: 2014
Position: Senior associate
Department: Litigation and dispute resolution
Pronouns: She/her

Why solicitor not barrister?

Having completed work experience placements in both law firms and chambers, I found I was attracted to the teamwork and client-facing aspects of a solicitor’s role. I wanted to be in a profession where I’d be working as part of a team on a daily basis and where I’d have regular interactions with commercial clients. This type of role felt like something I’d excel at and enjoy.

How much work experience had you had? Is it important?

Work experience was invaluable in helping me to decide my career path and work out the type of law firm at which I wanted to train. I completed two formal vacation schemes in the summer of my second year at university and attended lots of open days and law fairs.

Prior to the vacation schemes, I’d never worked in an office environment, let alone in a City law firm. Taking part in the schemes was therefore an important introduction to what the job really involves and a great way to find out if it was something that I’d enjoy and could see myself doing in the long term.

I’d had part-time jobs growing up which were important in terms of building the transferable skills necessary for any career outside of full-time education. I also utilised the opportunities at university to become involved in the various societies, in particular, the law society and various social clubs. All of these experiences were helpful in broadening my network and shaping my career ambitions.

Which departments did you train in?

I trained in four practice areas across the firm: corporate and M&A; litigation and dispute resolution; private client; and financial services and products.

These seats provided an excellent base for my training. While each seat was different, they were complementary to each other and provided exposure to the vast array of work the firm does. Macfarlanes is well known for its market-leading private client team and this practice area is a big draw for many applicants so it was a great experience to spend six months there. My seat in the financial services and products team gave me the chance to work in a smaller team, which offered a different dynamic and helped me to identify where I thought I’d fit best.

I enjoyed all four of my seats but knew following my six months in litigation and dispute resolution that it was the area I wanted to specialise in – the work aligned most with my skill set, and I enjoyed the tactical and strategic aspects of advising on contentious issues.

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

I wish I’d known two things.

Firstly, that it’s ok to get things wrong. It’s important for trainees to take each day as it comes and try not to worry about things they wish they’d done differently the day before. It’s all a learning process and resilience is key. Remember that the firm wants to see that, as a trainee, you’re developing and taking on board the lessons learned – they don’t expect you to know everything (it’s impossible to know everything in this profession and that’s what makes it so interesting).

Secondly, I’d urge trainees to be authentic to who they are. It’s important for trainees to remember that once they’ve been offered a training contract, they’ve clearly demonstrated that they’re capable and the firm has seen the potential in them. Self-belief is really important. Remember: you’re your own biggest advocate. 

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

I’m in the litigation and dispute resolution team and I specialise in complex financial services investigations and regulatory enforcement action. I regularly advise large financial institutions in relation to contentious regulatory issues faced by them – this may be in the context of a formal investigation brought by a regulatory authority (such as the Financial Conduct Authority) or an internal investigation into an issue identified by the firm.

I also work on complex corporate litigation and employment litigation – for example, shareholder and/or director claims.

I have a broad practice which keeps the work interesting and challenging and which also provides exposure to some of the most politically and globally important issues facing the business world today. For example, advising clients on the litigation and regulatory risks associated with environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues.

Although every day is different, on a typical day I’ll have several calls with clients on ongoing or new matters and internal team catch ups. I’ll also draft correspondence and/or reports and memos. I regularly attend court hearings on behalf of clients and liaise with barristers and third parties in relation to case preparation. I have a trainee that I supervise and share an office with, so I make sure they feel supported and that I’m delegating work to them. Another big part of my role is marketing and business development, which involves attending conferences and events, speaking to journalists about important topics (eg, ESG) on behalf of the firm and supporting recruitment events/activities.

What do you most enjoy about your career and why?

I most enjoy the people side of my job. Being able to help a client resolve a dispute where its reputation and business is at stake is hugely rewarding. I also enjoy the teamwork element and have the privilege of working with some of the top-rated lawyers in their fields.

What makes your firm stand out from the rest?

Culture. Firms talk a lot about this topic but, speaking from my experience, there’s something about the culture at Macfarlanes that makes people want to stay at the firm long term.  For me, it’s the collegiate, friendly and down-to-earth environment combined with high-quality work and supportive colleagues.

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

Research is important because candidates can’t be expected to explain why they want to be a solicitor or why they want to work for a particular firm if they’ve never researched the industry or the various cultures, practice areas and structures at different firms. Until they’ve done this, it’s difficult to authentically answer those questions. 

What diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiatives does the firm have in place?

D&I is an important focus within Macfarlanes and there are many internal opportunities to get involved in D&I initiatives. We have five internal staff networks, including the Race Ethnicity and Cultural Heritage (REACH) network and the Pride network, which each provide a forum for networking and peer support, as well as hosting activities throughout the year.

The firm also runs a reverse mentoring programme where senior leaders are paired with mentors aligned with our staff networks, and has a Legal Women’s Network – this is an informal network for all female fee earners which meets every 6-8 weeks.

The firm has committed to gender and ethnicity targets, and diversity and inclusion is a strategic priority for the firm.

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

I’ve been fortunate enough to undertake two external secondments during my career at Macfarlanes.

The first was at the Financial Conduct Authority where I spent nine months as a legal adviser to an independent panel within the organisation. This was an invaluable opportunity to gain a unique insight into how the regulator approaches cases and exercises its decision-making powers.

The second secondment was with a banking client where I assisted them with a regulatory investigation. Working client side was a great opportunity to get to know the client and its processes and to see things from the perspective of its various internal stakeholders.

What are you reading at the moment?

I’m reading a book on how to potty train my two-year-old! As a parent, I balance my job with looking after my two young children. The firm’s been really supportive in this respect and its agile working policy means that I have the flexibility to balance the demands of work and family life.