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Meet the lawyer

Luke Stewart

Luke Stewart

University: University of Nottingham
Degree: Theology
Position: Trainee solicitor
Department: Corporate

What attracted you to a career in law?

I studied philosophy throughout school and university and really enjoyed the problem solving and emphasis on logic and analytical thinking. This made me think that I would be well suited to a career in the legal profession, where textual analysis, for example, is an important part of the job.

How did you decide which firms to apply to?

I really wanted to train at a firm that had a very good culture, where I would be able to gain a lot of experience at a junior level. High-quality clients were also an important factor. Stevens & Bolton stood out to me in both categories.

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

I did a vacation scheme with S&B and secured my training contract off the back of that. The vacation scheme was a crucial stage in the process, as I was able to gain first-hand experience of day-to-day legal work, as well as the firm’s culture. The experience was one of the main factors in helping me to decide that S&B was the right firm for me.

Which departments have you trained in?

Just corporate, so far, although I’m about to move into our finance, restructuring and insolvency department. My experience to date has been excellent – I have been given responsibility and interesting work to do from an early stage, while everyone has also been very supportive of the new guy.

What kind of work have you experienced so far in corporate?

I have been working mainly on private company M&A transactions, which is the primary focus of the S&B corporate team. However, the tasks and activities within this area vary hugely. Generally I will be working on one or two chargeable matters that take up the bulk of my time – these involve drafting documents, calling clients, attending meetings and doing legal research. While all that is happening, I usually also have a couple of smaller, non-chargeable matters going on in the background – these are typically less urgent, so I get onto them whenever I have time to spare from my primary tasks.

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

It’s alright to not know everything and asking questions is perfectly fine. It became clear after I started that it is far better to clarify things and raise any confusion with others early on, rather than spend a long time doing what turns out to be the wrong thing.

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

I particularly enjoy how challenging the work is – it’s a nice feeling to understand and successfully work through something that seemed incomprehensible when you first saw it.

If there is a downside, it’s how unpredictable the hours are. This is a common phenomenon across the whole the legal profession and it is important to appreciate at the outset that you will sometimes have to cancel evening plans at short notice – it’s part of the job.

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

The firm is really good at getting trainees involved in business development activities from an early stage. For example, I’m on the committee of the Guilford Junior Professionals Group, which S&B set up in 2015 to enable young professionals in the area to meet up and grow their networks. I have also helped to write articles for the firm’s website.

What makes your firm stand out from the rest?

From my experiences on the vacation scheme and since starting my training contract, I have found that the firm treats its employees as individual people and values their contributions. On several occasions I have been sat next to a partner who has asked me for my thoughts on a matter. From speaking to friends at other firms, I think that this kind of dynamic is quite rare.

S&B also has a very social culture – from day one, people of all levels of seniority made the effort to engage with me. The many structured activities that we put on help to build that camaraderie in addition to regular impromptu drinks on a Friday – for example, the women’s and men’s Netball teams are playing each other next week, which will be fun.

What skills/strengths do you need to be a successful solicitor?

Clients want lawyers who use their legal expertise to help them meet commercial objectives, so it is essential to have the core skills that all lawyers need – such as attention to detail and communication skills – as well as broad commercial awareness. It is so important to understand the business needs of each client.

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

Don’t get too dejected if you miss out on a vacation scheme place or even a training contract. Applications are a skill and it can take some time to get them right, so be consistent and keep going in the face if disappointment.

What’s your desert island disc?

Anything by Black Sabbath.