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Meet the lawyer

Elizabeth Zang

Elizabeth Zang

University: University of Oxford
Degree: Law
Year of qualification: 2021
Position: Associate
Department: Cyber and tech
Pronouns: She/her

What attracted you to a career in law?

I work well in intellectually stimulating and high-pressure environments, and I enjoy solving problems, so I thought a career in law would suit me quite well.

I was also attracted to the variety that comes with working in the legal profession. You work with a wide range of clients (and sectors) and need to understand their business and the world they operate in, so you end up learning a lot of peripheral information in order to facilitate the legal advice. The legal work is also varied, particularly in my department. I do contentious and non-contentious work, with both large corporations and small businesses, on cases that could go on for many months or be done and dusted in just a few days. So things don't ever feel stale and I don’t get bored.

Why solicitor not barrister?

I’d probably reiterate the variety point again. In addition to the variation in terms of the legal work, working in a law firm rather than at the Bar means I can get involved in the business development and firm strategy aspect of things too, which I find interesting.

I also really enjoy the collaborative parts of my career, whether that's taking clients out for socials or working with my colleagues on a big case or attending industry events, which I don't think there's as much of an opportunity for when you’re a barrister.

How did you decide which firms to apply to?

There are lots of different law firms out there, so it helped to narrow it down based on my own interests. I wasn’t set on a certain practice area so I looked at full-service law firms rather than specialist boutiques, so I could have a broad experience during my training contract. I wanted to work in the City, but I also wanted to maintain a good work-life balance, so I didn’t apply to any of the law firms with a reputation for long hours. I was keen to train with a smaller intake – at RPC there are about 15 trainees in the London office each year – and at a firm with an international offering, so those factors narrowed the list further.

How much work experience had you had? Why is it so important?

I had a range of both legal and non-legal work experience, with my legal work experience being at both barristers' chambers and law firms. I think work experience – whether legal or non-legal – is important for developing soft skills such as communicating with (internal and external) clients, time management and organisation, and being able to conduct research and analyse your findings. However, it's also really important for informing your own decisions about your career. I found that it helped me to identify what I wanted from a career in the legal profession and enabled me to learn about the different types of firms that exist to help me decide what kind of firm I might want to train at.

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

I'm in the cyber and tech team, and we have a few different strands of work. Our main workstream is centred around data breach response. We have a cyber breach hotline that clients can call when they suffer a cyber incident. We then offer legal assistance in relation to the incident suffered and also rally together other relevant service providers that we work with depending on what’s within the scope of an incident. This will almost always involve bringing on board technical and forensic expertise, and it may sometimes involve public relations advice or credit monitoring and notification services.

There’s also data litigation work, which is becoming increasingly common. We frequently help clients defend claims brought by or on behalf of individuals impacted by data breaches. We often see these come in off the back of a cyber incident that we already worked on if that resulted in personal data being leaked. Although, we do get these as completely separate direct instructions too. We also regularly act for tech disputes work, assisting them in defending claims, including contractual disputes.

What do you most/least enjoy about your career and why?

The breach response work is particularly rewarding. The clients that call into our breach response service range from small and medium-sized enterprises to FTSE 500 companies. You end up working very closely with the client, having regular and sometimes daily calls with them, so it’s nice to be able to help them to manage these situations and get their business back in operation.

That said, the breach response work is also the part I enjoy least. When there’s a cyber incident we often need to react quickly, and there are a number of actions that may need to be completed within a short space of time. As a result, the breach response hotline operates 24/7, which means the team needs to be available outside working hours and over weekends. But it's actually very manageable. We have a rota in place for this, so although when it’s your turn on the rota you have to manage your own social calendar around that, the rota does get prepared in advance, so you know the dates you’ll be on call which makes it easier to plan around your social life. Also, the calls don’t come in outside of working hours very often, and even less frequently at the weekend, so it’s not too disruptive – I’ve only worked two weekends in the past year.

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

Within the cyber and tech team, there’s quite a lot going on. We work with a variety of insurer clients and other service providers so there are lots of opportunities for socials. I also assist with pitches and presentations to potential new insurer clients and write articles that increase the firm’s presence in the cyber market generally. I have also attended various industry events in this area which offer the chance to meet people from other firms within the industry.

I’m also involved with the firm’s wider business development, so I take part in interviews like this to promote the firm to prospective applicants, and I contribute to different publications, particularly the ones that focus on the firm’s tech offering. I also contribute to some really fun and interesting projects, recently helping at the firm's flagship Tech event (RPC London Tech Week) and being involved in RPC’s legal accelerator programme, Tectonic, which is focused on technology businesses that are addressing environmental, social and governance issues.

I'm quite interested in the business development and firm strategy side of law firms so it's great that there’s lots of scope for junior lawyers to get involved in these aspects.

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

I’d encourage aspiring lawyers to try to keep up with legal news throughout the year, rather than just immediately before application deadlines. This will help inform your applications – both in terms of knowing what firms you want to apply to and help tailor your application to the specifics of a firm.

As difficult as it may seem, try not to get discouraged by rejections. It’s likely that you’ll make a lot of applications and receive a lot of rejections before you secure the right role at the right firm for you. But candidates should hold onto the fact that there are lots of different factors that contribute to graduate recruiters’ decision-making process and a rejection is not necessarily reflective of your abilities. It might be that your personality doesn’t match that of the firm, or it might be that you're not a good fit for the firm's culture. Ultimately, being rejected for these reasons might be a good thing, as you want to work at a firm whose ethos matches yours. On the other hand, sometimes it does come down to pure luck. Firms receive hundreds of applications each round so it can sometimes be difficult to stand out. Either way, it's important not to take the rejections too personally.

Describe the firm in three words.

Fun, friendly and forward-thinking. 

What’s your signature dish?

I'm not sure if this really counts as it's a dessert rather than a dish but I’ve recently mastered the art of making macarons. It's one that gets everyone very impressed, so I'll often whip some up for special occasions.