Trowers & Hamlins LLP
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Undergraduate degrees: Literature (McGill University, Canada) and law (King's College London)
Year of qualification: March 2015
Department: Housing and regeneration
What attracted you to a career in law?
I liked the fact that it was both intellectually challenging and practical. I always enjoyed working with language, but wanted to combine that with helping clients to solve specific problems.
Why solicitor not barrister?
I did think about going to the Bar and did some work experience with a judge, which was fascinating. However, I had the impression that barristers seemed to work very independently and I felt that I was better suited to the collaborative environment of a firm.
How did you decide which firms to apply to?
I wanted to apply to a City firm to get a broad range of experience; I wasn't completely set on the course I wanted to take. I also wanted the firm to have a degree of internationality, as an international person myself. I had already done some work in the charity sector, so was attracted to that type of work. Trowers seemed to tick all the boxes. I particularly appreciated that it had both a commercial and a public sector side, and I was interested to experience the crossover.
Did you do a vac scheme at the firm?
I did and it was great; I really recommend doing one if possible because you get to see so much more of the firm. It helped me to identify the type of work that I could get involved with and develop solid relationships early on. It also helped me to get a training contract - in fact, I have qualified into the same team that I spent my first week of the vac scheme in.
The scheme is connected to the training contract process, so everyone who attends is also invited to the assessment centre. There is feedback from those you've spent time with during the scheme, but you still have to perform well on the day.
Which departments did you train in?
I started as a trainee in March 2013. My first seat was split between corporate and international, so it was really interesting - I got broad experience in both. My second seat was in Abu Dhabi, where I had an incredibly diverse experience, including fascinating work for the government on policy matters. It was the public sector work that Trowers is known for, but in a completely different context. It required us to draw on our knowledge of both UK and international public sector work, and as Abu Dhabi is a relatively new country, it was great to be a part of developing its policies.
I then came back to London and to the housing and regeneration department. I very much enjoyed it, doing a lot of work on the regulatory side. I find it very interesting to bring commerciality to public work; it's a commercial transaction, but the client has a much wider range of objectives than most commercial entities, all of which have to be fed into the outcome. I enjoy where a government decision has been taken, such as the summer budget, which directly and immediately affects my work. We then have to translate that into commercial terms for our clients.
My fourth seat was in employment, and was a split between public and private work. It was a return to more commercially driven matters and I loved it. I'm interested in wherever the law interacts with humans, either broadly or very specifically; for that reason, employment was great.
How does the qualification process work at the firm?
There is a formal side to it, where available jobs are posted and you are interviewed. I think that's good because there is a level of transparency and fairness to the process. That said, the outcome is also likely to be based on informal chats you have with department heads and whether you developed a natural aptitude for the area over the six months of your seat; that will also weigh in your favour.
What do you wish you'd known about being a trainee before you started that you now do?
Always check the timing on matters, as I found myself rather over-diligently working until late on a Friday night when it wasn't always entirely necessary - I was a bit keen! It's definitely important to manage your time effectively.
Please outline your area of expertise. What might you do in a typical day?
I like that I am involved in all aspects of the department's work, which gives me a rounded view of the industry as a whole. I see it from all sides; for example, I might be working with the Greater London Authority on funding projects for social housing and development, and seeing it from a regulatory perspective. I also work with housing associations, which are those parties on the receiving end of government policy. And then there are the local authorities, looking at their housing strategy and how to meet demand, as well as responding to government policy. For example, the government has made announcements about a new housing bill that is likely to directly affect the way local authorities develop future housing strategy and manage their current stock, so we're giving a lot of advice on that. It's fascinating to get a full picture of this essential part of government and try to understand the underlying mechanics of it.
In fact, this area is surprisingly sexy - well, I think it is! I have always had in interest in it, but it has become very topical because of the unbelievable demand and the fact that the change of government has resulted in a policy shift. It's been very fast-moving, and we have to be quick to keep up. Between the election, the summer budget announcement and new legislation it has been quite dramatic; every time there was a related announcement, we'd have concerned clients phoning up for advice.
What is one of the most challenging aspects of the job?
I really care about the clients and I sometimes stress about whether the advice I'm giving is as good as it can be. You need to be quite a robust person to cope with the responsibility, especially as we are market leaders in this area of law so the expectation from clients is that we have the final word - there is very little room for mistakes.
What makes your firm stand out from the rest?
This is a firm where if you want to take on responsibility, you are given the room to do that early - your ambition and abilities will be the deciding factor. As you get a feel for the work, you can grow as a lawyer. I feel very fortunate to be working alongside partners who are so good at what they do, with an amazing depth of experience and so trusted by their clients.
In my experience, Trowers is a very non-hierarchical place to work, more so than at some other firms. You can pop into anyone's office to ask questions - I do it almost every day! Trainees and NQs are nurtured here; you're given responsibility and trusted, but if you're uncertain, you will be supported. I also enjoy its culture. There's scope to be an individual within the firm and you are encouraged to think independently. I think that the recruitment process reflects that, as there is a willingness to bring people in from all different backgrounds, careers and ages.
What advice do you have for budding solicitors who are contemplating a career in law?
I attended a lot of events and said yes to every work experience opportunity. Taking part in a vac scheme can put you at a tremendous advantage. During the process, I think it helps to be enthusiastic - I was, and not just because I'm Canadian! -not just about the work that you're given, but just generally positive.
Where is your dream holiday destination?
At the moment, cycling down the coast of Vietnam.
What's your signature dish?
A crab feast on the beach.
What's your guilty pleasure?
Come Dine with Me, a cheeseboard and the weekend papers.
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