University: University of Southampton
Degree: LLB Law with European Legal Studies
Year of qualification: September 2021
Position: Newly qualified associate
Department: Commercial and technology
What attracted you to a career in law?
The marrying up of working in a profession where I get to provide people with tangibly useful, practical solutions to their problems, while also having the chance to tackle intellectually challenging points of law was what initially appealed to me.
How did you decide which firms to apply to?
I targeted firms with smaller trainee intakes because I wanted to start out in an environment with access to great junior support and close supervision, while also having the opportunity to develop a greater degree of autonomy throughout each seat. As part of a smaller cohort, from an early stage I had greater exposure to more complex workstreams and was afforded opportunities to develop client relationships and get involved in transaction management rather than just completing isolated tasks.
I also looked for firms offering high-quality work but with room for future progression. I wanted to join a firm that had a solid and established client-base, but one that was also moving into new areas and evolving over time.
Firm values were also an important consideration in my decision-making process. I was looking for a firm that understood the importance of balancing life and work in an ambitious but sustainable way, and one that was willing to be flexible to its lawyers’ changing needs.
What do you think made your application successful?
I think my application was successful as by completing the vacation scheme and engaging with staff at the firm, it became clear that my skills and principles aligned with those valued by the firm.
Which departments did you train in?
I completed seats in commercial real estate, corporate M&A, commercial litigation and finally commercial and technology.
Towards the latter end of my training contract, having thoroughly enjoyed both my contentious and non-contentious seats, I faced a tough decision as to where to qualify. In the end, however, the diversity of the commercial team’s workstreams and fast-paced, pragmatic focus swung the dial in commercial’s direction as my chosen field.
How does the qualification process work at the firm?
Trainees complete four six-month seats and are usually encouraged to complete at least one contentious seat and one or two seats in the firm’s core departments (ie, corporate, real estate and disputes). There are also frequent opportunities on offer to complete secondments with the firm’s key clients.
In the run-up to qualification, trainees have discussions with their colleagues, trainee supervisor and the HR/trainee development team to gauge interest and available vacancies in their preferred departments. The firm usually aims to retain all of its trainees if possible unless trainees pursue alternative options or their preferred team doesn’t have a space available at the time.
What do you wish you’d known about being a trainee before you started that you now do?
It’s always better to ask questions upfront and clarify your instructions on any assigned task before ploughing ahead (even if you might think your questions seem silly or obvious!) Frontloading information early on will help you to engage with the legal or practical issue at hand, reassure your colleagues that you’ve understood the task, and also help to keep costs down for the client by avoiding too many re-dos later down the line!
Please outline your area of expertise. What might you do in a typical day?
I work on a range of different commercial contracts, regulatory issues or technology-related queries for clients across the life sciences, retail, luxury and food/drink sectors among others. Typical junior level tasks include preparing e-commerce/supply terms for businesses, drafting a range of agreements for the provision of services including IT/software outsourcing as well as other more specific tailored services and assisting with commercial due diligence to support corporate M&A transactions.
Our team also provides specialised franchising, competition and regulatory, insurance and data protection advice.
How involved are you with business development and promoting the firm?
The firm are definitely on a drive to encourage junior members of the firm to get more involved with business development and building up new client and professional relationships. At the moment for example, I am helping to advise student entrepreneurs participating in our business start-up clinics (among other pro bono type initiatives to support the local community). The clinics offer a great forum for entrepreneurs to ask for high-level legal advice on typical issues arising at the early stages of setting up a business – for example, how to incorporate a new company, put in place basic contracts and supply terms, and other employment, intellectual property or data protection considerations – as well as providing opportunities for both junior and senior lawyers at the firm to contribute pro bono to their local communities and keep honing their interviewing and advising skills.
Junior lawyers at the firm are also very involved in producing articles, client briefing notes and other knowhow materials for publication on the firm’s website and various social media channels to raise awareness of key commercial issues and keep clients informed.
What makes your firm stand out from the rest?
The breadth of expertise and quality of the lawyers found under one roof at Stevens & Bolton at more reasonable rates than its City counterparts are a key distinguishing factor.
What advice do you have for budding solicitors who are contemplating a career in law?
I would encourage any aspiring lawyers to first get as much experience as they can in as many different areas of law as possible. This will help them to identify whether law (and more specifically, being a solicitor or barrister in the UK’s legal system) is really the right career for them professionally and personally, rather than pursuing an abstract concept of what it means to be a ‘lawyer’. Any experience at all, whether completing a placement at a local firm, attending formal training days and vacation schemes or volunteering pro bono, is the most valuable form of exposure you can get to the day-to-day reality of a career in law!
What is the wider culture like?
The firm places great importance on collaboration and togetherness. There’s recently been a drive to bring back social and club activities to the extent possible during the ongoing highs and lows of the pandemic, including various Christmas events and socials, sports and music events as well as departmental and wider firm team-building sessions.
Our diversity and inclusion, corporate and social responsibility and environmental, social and governance (ESG) committees have also been on a major drive to get more staff involved in the many opportunities on offer to improve both our internal working environment and wider legal community as a collective.
How often as a trainee were you communicating directly with clients (calls, attending meetings)?
At the beginning of each seat, I would usually run all client emails past the supervising partner first who primarily managed the client relationship, providing a close level of supervision. As I gradually built up my skill set and confidence throughout the course of each rotation I would then interact more directly with clients, culminating in taking on a much higher degree of responsibility for day-to-day case management and client communications.
What’s been the highlight of the last month at the firm?
We’ve recently advised on a range of interesting topical legal issues in the healthcare and life sciences spaces, including in relation to medical device regulations in the context of testing for covid-19. With the current legal environment continuously in flux given the unpredictable nature of ongoing events, our clients (in these sectors in particular) need to keep on top of a host of regulatory updates and changing business practices, so we’ve been busier than ever keeping them up to date!
What’s the biggest opportunity you’ve been given since joining the firm?
Taking a leading role in driving some of our ESG initiatives, including pro bono business clinics for student entrepreneurs and upcoming opportunities to support displaced young people in the local community, has been a great source of inspiration for me recently in feeling that I can contribute to the community and the legal field in more ways than one, as well as a great way to keep building upon my professional skill set.
What’s your signature dish?
Currently trying to perfect the most convincing parmigiana!