University: Durham University
Degree: Philosophy, politics and economics
Year of qualification: 2017
Department: Commercial litigation
The most attractive aspect was the intellectual challenge – the fact that every working day involves problem solving and analysis. Lawyers never stop learning and are always developing their skills.
I enjoy working as part of a team and the support structure that brings; being part of a big office enables you to develop a strong network of colleagues. Working as a solicitor also provides more opportunities to work internationally.
When I was applying for a training contract, I tried to narrow down where I was applying to a group of firms with some key similarities. I knew that I did not want to be one of hundreds of other trainees in a large intake, and that the intense working environment often associated with US firms was not something I was interested in. I was searching for firms that do top-calibre work in a collegiate environment and Simmons & Simmons was one of the few that fit the bill.
I did a week-long insight scheme at Simmons the winter before I joined. My experience on the scheme was one of the main reasons that I decided I wanted to work at the firm. I met lots of friendly, down-to-earth people and that spoke volumes to me about what it would be like to work at the firm.
After completing the winter scheme, I was invited to an interview during the summer and was able to secure a training contract, so the insight scheme was an important part of the process all round.
I started in litigation, then moved to capital markets, then corporate, and for my fourth seat, I went on an international secondment to a global bank in Hong Kong, which was a fantastic experience. The opportunity arose because I knew by then that I wanted to qualify into litigation and was looking to complete another seat in that area. My first seat supervisor had moved out to Hong Kong and I secured the litigation seat there. After that, he also put me forward for the client secondment.
My team deals with a very broad range of contentious work – pretty much anything that is not financial or insurance litigation. That means our clients are from a wide variety of sectors, from pharmaceutical to tech, and we also act for individuals. In a typical day I will usually work on three to six different cases, switching between matters of varying urgency. My work includes drafting inter-parties correspondence, pleadings, witness statements and other documents, as well as providing advice directly to clients on issues as they arise.
At Simmons & Simmons, you are encouraged to take on these responsibilities, on merit, very early after qualifying and even as a trainee. Partners will expect you proactively to spot issues before they arise and come forward with practical advice accordingly. The culture is non-hierarchical and the interesting work is therefore often done by junior team members.
I enjoy the strategic element of litigation, which I don’t think is as key in other practice areas. You are always trying to stay a step ahead of the other side, which makes litigation a challenging but stimulating environment to work in. The client dynamic in litigation is also rewarding, as people are coming to you because they need help, whereas in transactional law you are often facilitating someone else’s idea.
The unpredictable nature of the job can sometimes result in your evening plans being disrupted, but the good thing about Simmons is that the partners are very accommodating, and teams also rally round to deal with crunch points together. While working to tight deadlines isn’t always enjoyable, these are also the periods when you tend to learn the most.
Compared to what friends at other firms tell me, I think Simmons does work/life balance very well. There is a very healthy culture here where the delivery and quality of work is the priority, not ‘face time’. If you can do your work for the day from home just as well as you would in the office, that is absolutely fine. The partners also do that from time to time, so the culture is engendered from the top down, which makes juniors feel comfortable in using that flexibility when they need to as well.
The level of integration between teams varies between departments. In the litigation team, for example, if the corporate team has a client who enters into litigation and needs advice, our corporate colleagues will refer the client to us. Our team also has mixture of institutionalised clients from whom we receive repeat work..
Over the last several years, Simmons has been on a drive to specialise and concentrate its efforts in four key sectors: asset management and investment funds; financial institutions; life sciences; and technology, media & telecommunications (TMT); it is looking to develop and showcase a deeper understanding of the issues affecting clients in these sectors, rather than trying to be a one-stop shop, like some other firms. For me as a member of the litigation team, it’s the balance of high-calibre work that comes with being among the elite litigation practices in the City, alongside the collegiality and great working culture here.
Having spent Christmas in Tokyo while on secondment, I would love to go back for a longer period of time and explore Japan.