University: Cardiff University
Degree: Law and German
Year of qualification: 2002
What attracted you to a career in law?
There wasn’t anything in particular that initially attracted me to a legal career. I chose to study it at university because I thought it was a good general degree that might open doors in a few different areas. I studied German alongside law and part of my degree included spending a year in Germany.
After graduating, I moved to America for a couple of years and landed a job at a litigation law firm. Off the back of that, I realised I enjoyed working in the legal sector and my career snowballed from there.
Why solicitor not barrister?
I never considered the barrister route. I like that solicitors work more in a team while barristers are more lone wolves. Looking back, it was definitely the right route for me because I enjoy interacting with other people in the office and working as one big team to deliver a deal.
How did you decide which firms to apply to?
Before moving back to the UK from the US, I was looking at part-time jobs to work around the Legal Practice Course (LPC) and saw that Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP was advertising for an evening secretary position in Cardiff which is where I lived. I applied for that job and got it, which was lucky as it kickstarted my career at Eversheds. After finishing the LPC I became a paralegal at the firm and then applied and secured a training contract.
I was lucky that I saw the secretary role advertised and the rest fell into place. However, I wouldn’t have been considered for a training contract if I hadn’t worked hard and proved myself as a paralegal. Working in the firm before applying for a training contract gave me solid work experience and some good insider information on the firm and how it operated. There’s so much pressure nowadays for graduates to apply for training contracts while at university, and the competition is very high. My own route into the profession was slightly more unconventional but shows that you can succeed by getting your foot in the door and working upwards.
Which departments did you train in?
Because I had previous work experience as a paralegal at the firm, my training contract was only three seats – in litigation, corporate and real estate. I’d worked in the litigation team before, so it was a smooth transition from paralegal into my first seat. The real estate seat was mandatory and not one I’d have chosen for myself. However, it turned out to be a great experience and it was good to try out an area I wouldn’t have otherwise considered.
What do you wish you’d known about being a trainee before you started that you now do?
I found seat rotation difficult, which I know is the same for other trainees. When you start a seat, you don’t know anyone or anything, and you’re out of your comfort zone. But as you progress through the seat, you find your feet and get to understand what you’re doing. And then suddenly the rug’s pulled from underneath you as you move to a new seat! It can be unsettling, but I realise now looking back that even if you don’t have the legal knowledge, you’ve still acquired many skills that you can equally apply to any area of law.
Another piece of advice for trainees is to not be disappointed if you don’t get the seat you request. As happened with me in real estate, although I didn’t originally want to train in that team, it taught me a lot that still helps me with my job today. Keep an open mind and use the opportunity to learn as much as you can and to get know others around the firm. And remember – seat rotation isn’t just about figuring out where you want to qualify, but also where you don’t want to qualify.
Please outline your area of expertise. What might you do in a typical day?
I’m a corporate future energy lawyer which means I do M&A in the clean energy renewable sector. This involves, for example, buying and selling wind or solar farms, or battery storage projects. TLT LLP has a great clean energy practice which is one of the reasons why I joined the firm, and now I head up the corporate clean energy team. We have an extensive client base and work on some of the UK’s biggest deal. It’s exciting.
There’s no real typical day at work. The type of transactions I work on varies dramatically, but my role on those transactions will remain the same. I lead the transaction from a firm perspective, so I’ll be drafting and negotiating the main transaction documents and working with the corporate team juniors who’ll assist with some of the ancillary documentation.
My job involves a lot of project management. For example, if we were acting for a client who wants to buy a wind farm project, we’d need to tap into a wider delivery team on the due diligence aspects, so we’ll work with colleagues in property, planning, grid, construction and banking departments of our future energy team. In corporate, it’s our job to manage that and ensure delivery of all aspects of a transaction on time and on budget.
Please discuss a current/recent specific deal/case, outlining your role in the matter.
A recent deal of interest was when we acted for Ecotricity in the sale of the electric highway, which is a network of electric vehicle charging points throughout the UK. We acted in selling that business to another of our clients – GRIDSERVE – about 12 months ago and it was a unique deal because it was the UK’s first networks of electric charging points. It was a really interesting transaction to be involved in because it was one of a kind, and for a longstanding client of ours. The market was interested to hear of the sale.
What do you most/least enjoy about your career and why?
I most enjoy my sector specialism. I only work on clean energy deals and have done so since I qualified 15 years ago, so I’d like to think that I’m one of the most experienced clean energy M&A lawyers in the UK. I enjoy being a part of this sector and contributing to a wider cause – the work I’m involved with is changing the world for the better and I’m proud to be a part of that. I also enjoy the fast-paced nature of M&A deals and how you have to spin multiple plates to drive forward different deals at the same time.
This leads onto what I least enjoy about my career. There can be a lot of pressure at times if you have several deals closing at the same time. You need to be very organised and resilient. You’re going to put in some long hours when deals are closing – that’s just the nature of transactional work. However, once a deal is closed, you’ll get some breathing space.
What skills/strengths do you need to be a successful solicitor?
As corporate lawyers, it’s not only about dealing with the client but also with the internal delivery team. You need to make sure you can communicate effectively to your team so that they know what they need to do and when. It’s also important to acknowledge the pinch points. For example, if someone’s under a lot of pressure and they’re not able to deliver on time, it’s about coming up with a plan B or managing the client’s expectations.
Describe the firm in three words.
Fresh, dynamic and specialised.
The growth that the firm’s seen and continues to see since I joined nine years ago is phenomenal. Over the past two financial years we’ve seen 40% growth, which is astounding. We can do this because we’re dynamic and forward-looking. Our partnership group and executive board is relatively young in age which means we’re more innovative and dynamic than some other traditional firms which helps to place us right at the forefront of the legal sector.
I know it sounds cliché, but the firm really does feel like one big family. We’re all in it together and there’s no hierarchy. People don’t work for me, but with me.
Our sector specialisms mean we bring a lot of added value to our clients beyond just advising on the law and putting words on a page.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Reality TV, whether that’s Love Island or Married at First Sight. A lot of the office gossip revolves around these shows!