Mayer Brown International LLP
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University: University of Leeds
Year of qualification: 2016
What attracted you to a career in law?
No one in my family had any connection with the legal industry, so it was only when a teacher at school suggested I look into a career in law that I even considered it as a degree subject. Throughout my degree and after spending a week’s work experience in a small law firm, I was drawn to the combination of academia and practical commercialism particularly required for a career in law. Clients will rarely just need you to know the law – they will also look to you for your advice on how to practically and commercially solve their problems by using your legal knowledge.
Why solicitor not barrister?
While there are many aspects of the Bar I found appealing, I quickly realised that I would find the more collegiate atmosphere of a law firm a better fit for my personality. Working at an international firm, I am able to work in different teams within my own department, with other advisory departments in the office and with Mayer Brown's international offices. It is for this reason and the more dynamic nature of transactional work that I chose the solicitor role.
How did you decide which firms to apply to?
I knew I wanted to work in a firm which offered a full legal service to interesting clients. I knew variety in my career was very important and therefore I chose the firms that could offer a broad range of services, clients, industries and jurisdictions.
I knew that as part of the role (wherever I went) I would be spending a lot of time in the office and therefore it was very important to me that the firms I applied to had a good working environment so that I would enjoy, rather than resent, being in the office.
How much work experience had you had? Why is it so important?
Before getting my training contract at Mayer Brown, I took part in two vacation schemes, first at a high-street firm and the second at a magic circle firm. It is only through work experience that you can get a clear understanding of the different types of law firm, the different practice groups and exactly what is expected of a solicitor.
Getting a training contract is a big commitment from the firm, but also from you and it should not be something you go into without understanding precisely what is entailed. A vacation scheme is therefore a perfect experience to really get to grips with what it would be like to work in that firm and whether it is a good fit for you.
What do you think made your application successful?
Many people submit their applications based on internet research only – just visiting the firm's website, Lex 100 and so on. Most of the time they are written so generically that you could substitute the firm's name with another and the application would still make sense.
I think mine was successful because I was incredibly specific. I referred by name to the Mayer Brown lawyers I had met at law fairs and described the different events I had been to and the positive impressions they had given me. This demonstrated an effort and commitment that other applicants may not have put in.
Which departments did you train in?
I first sat in construction litigation before working in our corporate & securities department during my second seat. My third seat was in Hong Kong on an international client secondment with Moody's Investment Services, which was an amazing experience. Mayer Brown offers a wide range of client secondments both internationally and domestically, which each trainee is encouraged to take advantage of. My final seat on return from Hong Kong was in our tax team.
What do you wish you’d known about being a trainee before you started that you now do?
One of the most important skills for a solicitor is the ability to get on with others – both people within the firm and with clients. A legal career will often throw up demanding situations and you will be expected to work long hours in the office. Firms therefore look not only for people who are academic, but who also have some personality and will be able to gel well with the team, even in high-pressure situations.
From a client's perspective, in theory they should be able to receive correct and high-quality legal advice from any number of different firms. What sets firms apart are those individuals who the client has developed strong and enjoyable working relationships with.
Please outline your area of expertise. What might you do in a typical day?
I focus on a wide range of corporate transactions including private M&A, outsourcing, private equity and equity capital markets. At any one time I can have a number of ongoing matters, each requiring me to progress various things each day. It is a cliché, but no two days are the same and the type of work you are doing (along with the hours) will depend on the client, jurisdiction and timeline of the deal. A lot of my time will be spent on calls or in meetings with clients, coordinating with advisory teams, answering discreet client questions and turning transactional documents.
What do you most/least enjoy about your career and why?
I most enjoy the working culture in the firm and being part of a team that is working towards a specific goal, which is very rewarding. On the flipside, you need to be very responsive and available to deal with the client's needs whenever they require – this means having your Blackberry on you at all times!
How involved are you with business development and promoting the firm?
I am very involved in business development, aseveryone at Mayer Brown is encouraged to be. On the client side, I will help put together pitch documents, training sessions, draft articles for the legal press and attend social events with clients. I also do a lot with our graduate team by attending law fairs and other university events to promote Mayer Brown to prospective applicants.
What makes your firm stand out from the rest?
One point that I think sets Mayer Brown apart is the amount of time and attention we spend on our existing client base. All law firms will work hard to attract new clients, as they should do, but Mayer Brown is also keenly focused on ensuring our existing clients are happy. This means that we get a lot of repeat work from the same clients, with whom you develop a good working relationship over a number of years.
What skills/strengths do you need to be a successful solicitor?
Team work, dedication, excellent organisation skills, attention to detail, confidence to admit when you don’t understand something and personal motivation.
What is your dream holiday destination?
I would love to take a couple of weeks kayaking and camping in the Great Lakes of Canada.
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