Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe (UK) LLP
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University: Southampton Solent
Year of qualification: 2013
What attracted you to a career in law?
I found law to be a fascinating subject to study and, to my surprise, I found that many of the attributes I had developed during my military career were easily transferable and applicable to a legal career.
Why solicitor not barrister?
This was a difficult decision as I originally intended to pursue a career as a barrister. I knew that I would enjoy life as an advocate, but I was concerned that I would not enjoy the isolation associated with life at the Bar. My role as an associate in the litigation team at Orrick has allowed me the opportunity to conduct my own advocacy in the Employment Tribunal and the County Court while working as part of a wider team on high-value and complex litigation. I have found this to be the perfect balance.
How did you decide which firms to apply to?
I was looking for a firm which I felt was genuinely invested in diversity and would seek to utilise the skills and attributes I had developed during my military career. Particularly, I was looking for a firm that would allow me enhanced levels of responsibility and the opportunity to use my initiative at an early stage of my career.
How much work experience had you had? Why is it so important?
At the time of making my training contract applications, I had no legal work experience whatsoever, but I had served in the military for almost 15 years. I personally feel that any work experience, whether legal or not, is a huge competitive advantage in making an application. You are undoubtedly more aware of your strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes and how you are likely to cope with responsibility and life in a highly pressured environment if you have already had some real life experiences. While applying for a training contract, it is very likely that at some stage you will be asked to explain how you would cope in a particular situation - unless you have had life experiences, your answer to such questions can really only be your best guess.
What do you think made your application successful?
I completed my degree in law while serving in the military. I sat exams in Iraq and wrote my final thesis while on operations in Afghanistan. I think that this route to qualification was attractive to employers not only because it was clear that I was committed to a career in law, but also because it was indicative of a very determined and focused mindset.
Which departments did you train in?
Finance (split between general finance and energy & infrastructure); financial services/regulatory; employment; and dispute resolution.
Please discuss a specific deal/case that you were involved with, outlining your role in the matter.
In my third seat I acted for a Fortune 500 company in its defence of a complex claim for unfair dismissal and whistle blowing, which had been brought by a senior executive of the company. My involvement included drafting applications to the tribunal; assisting with the witness interview process and drafting witness statements; reviewing evidence in order to advise on the strengths and weaknesses of certain elements of the case; assisting counsel in identifying points for cross examination; and attending the tribunal throughout the 10-day hearing in order to support counsel and to explain the proceedings to the client and to the witnesses. I have continued to work on this case post qualification and recently attended the Employment Appeal Tribunal.
How does the qualification process work at the firm?
Informal discussions are held throughout your final seat and particularly at your final mid-seat appraisal where you are asked for your preferences as to qualification. There are no formal interviews or selection tests. To some extent the onus is on you as a qualifying trainee to speak to the team you are interested in joining and discuss how you see your role developing. This is indicative of the firm's expectation that trainees will embrace responsibility and use their own initiative to engage with the firm.
Please outline your area of expertise. What might you do in a typical day?
I work in the dispute resolution team. My practice is focused on commercial litigation with an emphasis on professional negligence. I have acted for major professional services firms and financial institutions on a wide range of matters including High Court litigation, regulatory investigations and disciplinary matters. My role at Orrick is synonymous with that of a litigator in that there really is no such thing as a 'typical day', particularly because the type of work I am engaged in will depend largely on the stage of proceedings. That said, my day-to-day tasks may include legal research; drafting correspondence, advice, applications or pleadings; reviewing or preparing documents for disclosure; and/or advising clients as to their rights and options. Prior to a hearing, I would also expect to be involved in the interview and preparation of witnesses.
Please discuss a current/recent specific deal/case, outlining your role in the matter.
I recently acted for the defendant in a high-profile dispute in the High Court concerning ownership of property between members of a wealthy family. My role included reviewing and drafting correspondence; identifying gaps in the documents provided to our client and drafting applications for the specific disclosure of those that were missing; reviewing the merits of applications and legal arguments and drafting a response; reviewing evidence; assisting with the preparation of witnesses and assisting counsel during the trial.
What do you most/least enjoy about your career and why?
I enjoy the human nature element of dispute resolution and the fact that every single day is different. Our clients come to us because they need our help to resolve a problem and I thrive on the confidence that they have in the advice we provide. The work can be very challenging but this is more than outweighed by the satisfaction of achieving a satisfactory result through negotiation or a favourable judgment from the court.
What makes your firm stand out from the rest?
Orrick will offer trainees as much responsibility as they are willing to take. I am not aware of any other firm in the City that offers trainees the opportunity to undertake client-facing work on high-profile matters from their first day at the firm and my experience at Orrick was unsurprisingly incomparable to that of my friends at other law firms who largely complained that their work was mundane and generally administrative. Life as a trainee here is perhaps best described as being 'reassuringly challenging' and it certainly prepares you well for qualification.
What skills/strengths do you need to be a successful solicitor?
Academic ability, attention to detail and the ability to communicate effectively are unquestionably all key attributes for a career in law. However, there is also an underlying ethos of hard work and ultimately you will need the determination to get things right despite external pressures. You will therefore need to be robust, self-confident and very self-disciplined in order to succeed.
What advice do you have for budding solicitors who are contemplating a career in law?
The best advice I was given was to be sure I knew what I wanted to do before I applied to do it. Training contract places are highly competitive and those who succeed will almost certainly have demonstrated a clear understanding of what they want to do and why they want to do it. Life as a solicitor in a dispute resolution team is not in any way comparable to life in a transactional team and is (I assume) also nothing like life in a criminal defence firm. Life at the Bar or as a legal executive would be different again. There are many roles in the legal profession and you cannot possibly decide which is best suited to you if you have not first considered why you are you are pursuing a legal career.
Where is your dream holiday destination?
I have always wanted to visit Mozambique, particularly the Bazaruto Archipelago. The diving there is said to be phenomenal.
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