University: University of York
Degree: Philosophy, politics and economics
Year of qualification: 2016
Department: Antitrust and competition
The combination of academic skills and business really appealed to me. I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in the commercial world that was intellectually challenging and rigorous. Law is highly structured and logical, which suits me perfectly.
Like most people, I started by weighing up my options. The Bar seemed very appealing at first, but the more I understood about what being a barrister entailed, the more I realised that my skills and personality were better suited to a career as a solicitor. I prefer to work in a collaborative, team-focused environment over spending long periods working on my own. I also enjoy the direct interaction with clients that comes with being a solicitor – I work with clients from the start of matters through to their conclusion, which enables me to form strong client relationships. This often leads to working with the client again on a different matter.
As a non-law graduate, the process was all new to me, so I tried to find out as much as possible from my university’s law society about how it works. My university’s law school was quite new at the time I was studying and I was one of the students that worked with the careers service to set up the university’s law fair. It was a great way to learn about and interact with different firms.
Following this initial exposure, I started researching the firms that interested me to work out what differentiated them from each other – I found that just reading their websites didn’t tell me what really sets one firm apart from another. I knew that I wanted to be part of a full-service firm with a global footprint and I was also interested in reading about the cases that different firms advised on. I then combined all that research to make a list of firms to apply to.
It seems today’s applicants do a lot more vacation schemes than when I was applying! Now it is common to meet candidates who have multiple vacation schemes lined up. I did internships/work experience schemes and worked as a paralegal for almost three months in between finishing the LPC and starting my training contract – I spent the other three months travelling. The experience was important for me because I was able to gain a much greater level of insight into what I would be doing as a trainee, particularly as I was placed in the litigation department to work on a large matter and the first seat of my training contract was also in litigation.
Since I started, the litigators who previously sat in other teams have been unified within the main litigation practice, but when I started, my first seat was in commercial dispute resolution - restructuring, bankruptcy and insolvency. I then went on to do a seat in construction and engineering (mostly non-contentious), followed by a client secondment to the transaction liability underwriting team of a large insurer. My final seat was in antitrust and competition, which is where I ultimately qualified.
I always wanted to do a seat in antitrust and competition and was able to make the case that it should be my final seat before qualifying. Luckily, I liked it as much as I thought I would! There is a selection process for trainees approaching qualification, which involves submitting a form to your chosen department out of those you trained with before attending an interview with two partners. The interviews take place around three to four months prior to qualification.
I wish that I had known that there is no need to worry about being completely new to everything when you start a new seat. This is completely normal and people will be happy to guide you.
Competition is a fascinating area because it combines law with economics and policy, with a focus on ensuring that there is fair competition in markets. I regularly work on cases with economists, such as those involving merger control. It is policy driven both at national level and EU level, and various aspects become more important as the times change. For instance, there is now a big focus on digital markets and artificial intelligence, and how this affects the competitive environment.
It is also an area of law that requires you to really delve into your client’s business and the sector in which it is operating, which is incredibly interesting. By the end of a matter, you’ll know a client’s sector and business inside out. As part of my work I consider national competition authorities' and the Commission's decisional practice, in order to see how authorities have looked at specific sectors.
A good example of what I do day to day would be work on a merger control case, which often comes to us from the corporate department. We would work with the corporate team to understand the deal structure, transaction documentation and the parties involved. We would then perform a multi-jurisdictional assessment to determine which jurisdictions are relevant for merger control purposes.
I love working in the area that I do – I have always had a strong interest in economics and policy-making, and my work feeds that curiosity. The application of the law and its subsequent impact on the economy is incredibly interesting. I like seeing the issues that I work on in the press and generally discussed.
I’m active in a number of BD initiatives and associates are always encouraged to bring our ideas forward if we want to do something, such as organise or lead an event. Lawyers at Mayer Brown are exposed to clients from trainee level upwards. We are also invited to the business development events put on by the firm.
Late nights happen sometimes – we all know what we sign up for – but they are not the general rule. My weekends are usually free, unless something extremely urgent comes up, so I would say that overall, my hours are good for the kind of work that I do.
We are a very friendly and supportive firm and I mean that sincerely – in the London office, everyone is approachable from the senior partner on down. We are truly international – I work with colleagues in our offices from Paris and Brussels, to Hong Kong and those in the US on an almost daily basis. The firm is also very diverse.
Research firms seriously to work out what is right for you and use that information to tailor every application. You need to be able to convey why you want to work at a particular firm. Your research should ideally also include some face-to-face conversations with people who already work at the firm – open days and vacation schemes provide the best insights.
South Africa – I have been wanting to go forever, but haven’t made it there yet.