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Meet the lawyer

Claire Cooke

Claire Cooke

University: University of York
Degree: BA, English Literature
Year of qualification: 2013
Position: Partner
Department: Financing
Pronouns: She/her

What attracted you to a career in law?

Primarily, I was attracted to the variety of the work and the challenge that the work offered. I was attracted to commercial law because I found companies and the business world interesting. I felt that a career in law matched my skillset and things I enjoy - it is quite analytical and involves problem solving and dealing with people.

What attracted you to Slaughter and May?

My attraction to Slaughter and May was a bit of a slow burn! In my second year of university, I attended a careers talk about being a commercial lawyer which I found really interesting and, from there, I started researching Slaughter and May and plucked up the courage to apply. I had a really great experience with everyone I met at the firm and the work is really high quality, so those ended up being the key selling points for me.

How did you react when you were told you’d been made a partner?  What did you do to celebrate?

I was absolutely thrilled! If you had told me 10 years ago this is where I’d be, I probably wouldn’t have believed you! I found out during lockdown so, celebrations were a little bit dampened, and I celebrated over a glass of champagne with my partner on the sofa.

Was it always your goal to make partner?

When I started as a trainee, my goal was to get to the end of my training contract and as an associate, my goal was to just keep going. It wasn’t something I thought I would be able to achieve; you come in not knowing much about the job but as time goes by you learn a huge amount. So, it wasn’t something I saw in my future when I initially started, but the firm is incredibly supportive – I was encouraged to go for the role and supported throughout the process. I’m really proud of what I’ve achieved during my time at Slaughter and May.

In what ways does the work you do as partner differ from the work you did as a senior associate?

The biggest difference between being a partner and senior associate is that you’re involved across a larger number of deals and, at the same time, you’re not just doing transactions and the law, you’re also responsible for different workstreams, like managing your team, providing training and building relationships with clients, which is great.

Because you are responsible for managing a large number of deals, you have to entrust your team to do most of the job you were previously doing as a senior associate. As partners, you are also responsible for running the business, which means my day-to-day now includes non-client facing work, such as interviewing future trainees. I really enjoy this aspect of the job because I get to play a part in shaping the business.

Please can you outline your area of expertise?

My area of expertise is in financing, which is a broad area of work. At Slaughter and May we are trained as multi-specialist lawyers, so as a financing lawyer I’ll cover debt capital markets, banking work, derivatives work, acquisition financing and day-to-day corporate lending, as well as some restructuring. It means that for each of my clients I’ll cover their whole spectrum of financing needs

Please could you discuss a recent transaction?

A recent deal that stands out is also coincidentally my last deal as an associate. The deal was with the fashion retailer ASOS who we acted for on a convertible bond issuance in April. A convertible bond is a type of debt instrument that allows bondholders to convert their bonds into equity so that they can become shareholders in the business. It’s an interesting type of financial product because the risks and rewards of holding a convertible bond are slightly different to a normal debt instrument.

We worked closely with the ASOS in-house team throughout the process and helped them by talking them through, and helping to negotiate, the key documents and the terms of the bonds and advising them on technical aspects (such as the conversion process). We also advised them on compliance with the bond terms going forwards and generally making sure that the bond operated within their existing group arrangements without causing them any future problems.

What’s been the highlight of your career so far?

My secondment to New York as an associate was incredible. I spent just over a year there with one of our Best Friend firms and it was a really great experience. The nature of Slaughter and May’s work is international, specifically in the financing world, where there is a lot of interaction between New York law and English law financing arrangements, and it was good to be given the opportunity to go across to New York to build relationships and networks.

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

The aspect of my career that I enjoy the most is human interaction. I really like the fact that we have a huge variety of different people in the building. Everyone at the firm has something different to bring to the table, they all have different views and experiences.  In a number of ways it’s not a hierarchical institution, for example, if a junior associate is capable of taking on a more senior role, the firm would absolutely encourage them to do that. Another rewarding part of my job is nurturing and developing the firm’s emerging talent.

I least enjoy the unpredictability of the job; you can never quite predict what your day, week or month is going to involve. Sometimes you have to cancel plans or you don’t always get to do what you want to do, but that’s due to the variety of work the firm offers, which is also a good thing.

What makes your firm stand out?

Slaughter and May stands out for three key reasons; the first reason is the multi specialism which is a different way of operating as a law firm. I really enjoy it because, although it’s unusual, you get to experience a huge range of work which I think is a good way of working, especially at the junior level, as it gives you the opportunity to find out what you like and where your particular expertise and interests lie.

The second reason is the lack of billable targets, this is important because people are generous with their time which creates a collegiate community. You train with people, you get to know each other well and if you need help, you can phone up your colleague and they will give you their time to support you.

The third reason is the people; there are a lot of nice, funny and interesting people.  When you’re working hard and doing late nights, it’s really important to like the people you’re working with.

What’s the wider culture at Slaughter and May like?  Do you have any diversity or LGBT groups etc?

We have eight different networks in the firm to support different groups, for example, there’s an LGBT group, a Jewish network, a Muslim network and a gender diversity network. The firm aims to connect and bring together individuals from different communities to meet and support each other.

There are a series of programmes we have in place to help people to get through the door, for example, social mobility is a big focus for the firm. The firm is keen to recruit people from different backgrounds with different experiences because everyone has something of value to add. As a firm we’ve made commitments based on what we see our promotions looking like, the vast majority of our partners trained with the firm and it’s a culture that supports people progressing from trainee to partner. We’ve set gender and ethnicity partnership promotion targets.  We are an equity partnership so committing to the people you are going to put at the top and who will own the business is a really good stance and shows the value we place on diversity and inclusivity.

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

My first piece of advice is to have the confidence to apply. It can feel intimidating (I was incredibly nervous at the initial stage too!) but you just have to go for it. My second piece of advice is to make sure you’re interested in business and the commercial world. If you genuinely enjoy reading business stories then a career in commercial law could be a good fit. You will spend a long time doing this job so having a passion for it is important.

What’s a dream holiday destination?

The Philippines! I’ve spent my lockdown days scrolling through Instagram looking at nice beaches and I’ve managed to persuade my husband that we should go there next year!