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Meet the lawyer

William Jay

William Jay

University: London School of Economics
Degree: Law
Year of qualification: 2023
Position: Associate
Department: Corporate (M&A)
Pronouns: He/him/his

What attracted you to a career in law?

I’m a lawyer because I love being in a career where I can mix international transactional work with the skills and attributes I enjoy using the most. In the summer after my GCSEs, I had a few weeks’ work experience at a global investment bank. During this time, I was exposed to a range of transactions that go on in the City of London, from simple corporate lending to international M&A and derivatives trading. I found learning about these types of deals really interesting. Each deal came with its own story, which really made me tick: why the parties wanted to transact; the risks of such transactions; and the cross-border issues to navigate.

I also learnt about the roles of the various parties involved in such transactions. When I learnt about the role of a lawyer, and the types of skills needed by lawyers, I was excited to hear that many of the skills I enjoyed at school (eg, problem solving, attention to detail, critical thinking and clear, precise communication) were needed by transactional lawyers.

The interesting context of the work, together with the skills I’d find myself using every day, meant I was convinced that a career in law, working on international transactions, would suit me.

How did you decide which firms to apply to?

First and foremost, I wanted to train at a firm with a smaller trainee intake and leaner teams. I’ve always learnt best by ‘doing’ and so knew that being at a firm where I could be hands on and really learn on the job would be best suited to me.

I also wanted to work at a firm with a broad client base, advising across numerous industries – and so not just exposed to the activity of one type of client. This was important to me because, as I have seen at Morrison Foerster (MoFo), I’ll always be kept busy because we have such a wide variety of clients, from start-ups to public companies and everything in between.

Finally, I wanted to work with market-leading lawyers on cutting-edge matters. Again, this was focused around my development as a lawyer, but I must also admit that there’s an immense sense of pride when you see matters you’ve been involved in on the front pages of the Financial Times!

Piecing all this together, MoFo gives its trainees and associates the opportunity to stretch themselves; it has a wide range of clients and a proven track record of working on cutting-edge matters, which makes it the perfect place for me to be – both for my training contract and my onward career as an associate.

Which departments did you train in?

In keeping with the rationale for my career in law, I secured seats in the core transactional teams of MoFo’s London office during my first three seats. In my first, I had a split seat (another great thing about MoFo!), working in the capital markets group and our leveraged finance team.

In my second seat, I worked in our real estate group. I acted on real estate debt finance transactions, private equity real estate transactions and some ‘pure’ real estate matters, such as leases and real estate due diligence.

I joined the corporate group for my third seat and worked on a range of internal restructurings, corporate M&A and venture capital work. A particular highlight here was working side-by-side with a partner advising the three shareholders of a tech business on the sale of their shares in an investment fund. I was able to get stuck in with drafting primary transaction documents, and ran the whole closing process; it was fantastic to have such responsibility so early on in my career.

For my fourth seat, I had a change of tack by going on secondment to a global insurance company, where I worked on data privacy and commercial contract matters. I also completed the litigation course alongside my fourth seat.

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

The value and importance of always asking questions. It’s so easy to take things as read and not understand exactly why aspects of a deal are the way they are. However, pushing yourself to ask questions of the team, or to research the questions you have, is a brilliant way to develop a deeper understanding of your practice area.

How involved are you with business development and promoting the firm?

My client secondment was, and continues to be, a great way to get involved with business development (BD).

Likewise, looking around the corporate team here at MoFo, I know that this is a skill that junior lawyers are always encouraged to develop. I see many of my colleagues attending closing dinners and pitches, which are great opportunities for people to fine-tune their own business development skills, as well as build MoFo’s relationships with its current and prospective clients.

Finally, I believe, in many respects, that I’m involved in BD every day. Given the regular client interactions I have on many of the matters I work on, it’s vital that I conduct myself in a way that develops our relationship with the client. This sort of BD can take many forms. At its most simple, it’s doing a great job for the client and reflecting the rigour with which we approach our work for them. It also means taking the time to speak to them to develop more personal relationships, be it through a quick chat about non-work-related matters, while people are dialling into calls, or staying in touch when matters complete.

What’s the wider culture like?

The core of MoFo’s wider culture is that people genuinely want to get to know and spend time with each other. This is evidenced by the attendance of the London office’s regular social events and the various sporting challenges MoFo colleagues take part in together. It was also felt strongly during a recent European office-wide off-site to Dubrovnik, where we enjoyed a long weekend of (re)connecting with our European colleagues. Activities included boat trips, hiking, yoga, strategy sessions and some fantastic dinners, both with the whole MoFo contingent under the same roof and split out into smaller groups for a more intimate evening.

MoFo also has a range of affinity groups, many of which are aptly prefixed with the word ‘MoFo’. These include:

  • MoFo Together, which aims to address the barriers facing ethnic minorities and underrepresented communities;
  • MoFo Women, which is committed to the advancement of women and regularly holds events for women and allies; and
  • MoFo Proud – MoFo’s LGBTQ+ affinity group, which provides a forum to discuss issues of concern to the LGBTQ+ community.

How often as a trainee were you communicating directly with clients (calls, attending meetings)?

This was something I was involved in right from the start of my training contract, from emails to calls to meetings. I recall leaving the house during my first seat ahead of my first in-person client meeting (a signing meeting); we were working on an international debt capital markets transaction for a national utility company in the UK. The sums being raised were into the hundreds of millions. The apprehension was real but the pride of being involved in this key part of the process (which marked the end of a lot of hard work) was certainly the overwhelming feeling.