Simmons & Simmons LLP

Phoebe So
Simmons & Simmons LLP

Simmons & Simmons LLP

University: University of Cambridge
Degree: Law
Year of qualification: 2014
Position: Supervising associate
Department: Corporate

What attracted you to a career in law?

I’m one of the rare few who knew I wanted to be a lawyer from an early age (apparently around the age of 10) and happily, the more I learned about working in the legal profession, the more interested I was in pursuing it as a career. I enjoyed studying law as an academic discipline and after doing some work experience, enjoyed the practice of law as well – so I knew it was the right choice for me.

Why solicitor not barrister?

For me, the teamwork aspect of my job is one of the best parts of being a solicitor – and it is also something which you do not always get to experience as a barrister. I’ve also grown up internationally and moved around a lot throughout my childhood, so it was important for me to have a job which didn’t restrict me to working in one jurisdiction and was more transferable.

How did you decide which firms to apply to?

I started with a lot of research – I went to graduate recruitment fairs, law firm events hosted by my university and sites like LCN to gather as much information as I could about the various law firms. After that, it was about narrowing the choices to those which ticked the important boxes for me. I wanted to join a firm with international reach, a breadth of interesting practice areas and a great reputation not only in the work on offer, but also as a place to work.

How much work experience did you do? Why is it so important?

I did a number of vacation schemes, open days and internships at a variety of firms including US and magic circle firms. For me, this was useful in helping me differentiate between them and ultimately decide what type of firm I wanted to join. Also, a lot of firms look similar on paper, so it’s important to meet and speak to the people you would actually be working with on a day-to-day basis and to experience the job first-hand.

What do you think made your application successful?

It’s a tough question to answer – my international background and some of the leadership roles I held at university hopefully helped me stand out from other candidates. However, ultimately, I think it was my interest in coming to Simmons & Simmons and being well informed about the firm which made my application successful.

Which departments did you train in?

My first seat was in the funds sub-team of our financial services practice, where I also did a three-month client secondment. My second seat was in corporate, which is where I eventually qualified. My third seat was in commercial litigation with a focus on investigations and lastly, my final seat was in capital markets.

Please discuss a specific deal/case that you were involved with, outlining your role in the matter.

As a trainee in the corporate department, I worked on a very large renewable energy acquisition which allowed me to take on a lot of responsibility from the beginning. I was lucky enough to be the trainee involved from the negotiations through to signing and then to completion several months later. I drafted a number of documents, attended meetings, had a lot of client contact and was in charge of running the completion process, with assistance from the rest of the team. It was a very rewarding experience –complete with champagne at the end!

How does the qualification process work at the firm?

During your fourth seat, the entire intake meets with HR where the list of available vacancies across the departments is provided. You then provide a list to HR of the roles you want to apply for and rank the roles in order of preference. The departments won’t know the ranking you’ve given them. The departments then give out job offers and you’ll get to accept the offer for the department you’ve ranked the highest in your preferences. In my intake, almost everyone who stayed qualified into their first choice.

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

Enthusiasm goes a long way. Be willing to roll your sleeves up and get stuck in from the first day and you’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll learn on the job.

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

I’m a general corporate lawyer, so I have a broad practice covering both private and public M&A, equity capital markets, private equity and asset management. Every day is different and it largely depends on the deals I’m working on at the time. I’ve been doing more work in the asset management sector as I’ve recently been on a client secondment to one of the world’s largest asset managers. I’ve also been busy advising on a number of M&A transactions.

Please discuss a current/recent specific deal/case, outlining your role in the matter.

I’m working for a seller in a private M&A transaction in the infrastructure sector where the target company is being sold as part of the auction process. As the main associate on the transaction, I’ve been drafting the share purchase agreement, working with the business to prepare for the sale, taking conference calls and going to meetings with the business, the investment bankers and the accountants, and supervising the rest of our internal team.

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

The part I enjoy the most is working with great people – my colleagues here have really become friends over the years and they’re intelligent, supportive and generally just good fun.

The job can be stressful at times though. There’s always a lot to do and not always enough time, especially in M&A where in the run up to exchange or completion, there can be some late nights! However, it’s part and parcel of the job and there’s always a rush of adrenaline and a feeling of achievement when it all goes through.

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

All trainees and associates at Simmons & Simmons are encouraged to get involved in business development. The firm truly believes that it’s never too early to start thinking about it – and that includes keeping in touch with people you went to university with because you never know where they might end up down the line!

What makes your firm stand out from the rest?

The firm is ambitious with a truly global reach and a wide breadth of practice and a sector focus – but manages to maintain a collegiate atmosphere which makes it an enjoyable place to work. In my experience I’ve also found that you get given a lot of responsibility from day one, so the work is interesting and challenging right from the beginning.

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

Try it out first – getting experience of being a City lawyer first-hand is invaluable both in terms of building your CV but also in terms of helping you decide whether this is the career path for you. This job isn’t for everyone but if you decide it is, it can also be one of the most rewarding.

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