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Meet the lawyer

Rebecca Dods

Rebecca Dods

University: Northumbria University
Degree: Law
Year of qualification: 2020
Position: Associate
Department: Banking, restructuring and insolvency

What attracted you to a career in law?

I enjoy problem solving and I also have good attention to detail – I thought those skills would be well suited to a career in law. I felt that a career in a law would be challenging and engaging, and would continually keep me motivated and willing to learn. From my experience, there’s no piece of work that’s ever the same – each client is different, and has different needs and requirements. I am continuously learning new skills and developing my legal knowledge every day.

How did you decide which firms to apply to?

I researched a lot!

There are so many different firms out there, so it is difficult to know where to start. I went to university in Newcastle but I’m originally from Leeds and knew I wanted to come back to work in Leeds after university which was a good starting point.

I applied to firms I thought I would be suited to and ones that had evidence of depth of training and development needs. I was also keen to be working one-to-one with partners during my training contract – this is something that Walker Morris definitely offers! Once I had identified these points, it was a case of working out which area of law interested me. During my Legal Practice Course, I knew I enjoyed corporate and commercial work, so I inevitably applied to corporate and commercial firms. These particular aspects helped me to narrow down my options to start with.

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

I don’t think I knew how important work experience actually was until I secured paralegal and training contract interviews. It gives you so much more to talk about at interviews and provides your interviewees with a lot of avenues for questions.   

Having no experience at all would really limit the discussion at the interview stage. So, I would encourage aspiring lawyers to try to get a range of experience so they can develop a variety of skills.

I had some experience at a global multinational law firm, a smaller commercial firm in Harrogate and in-house too. While I was at university, I also volunteered at the Citizens Advice Bureau in Newcastle for four years. I learnt so much form each work experience opportunity I was given.

Non-legal experience is also great for developing invaluable interpersonal skills which will also be really beneficial for life at a law firm.  

Which departments did you train in?

My first seat was in banking, restructuring and insolvency. This was followed by real estate, then corporate and finally back to banking, restructuring and insolvency for my fourth and final seat. I then stayed in my fourth seat until I qualified – I now mainly work on contentious insolvency matters.

How does the qualification process work at the firm?

I had a slightly different qualification experience - because I qualified six months early I was able to use my paralegal experience at the firm as time to count. Although I was a paralegal at the firm, I was still required to apply for a training contract in the usual way but by getting to know people through my role as a paralegal, working hard during this period and being willing to learn and help others wherever possible, I was successful in securing a training contract at the firm.

At Walker Morris, trainees are required to complete six seats (four months per seat) across their two-year training contract. However, I did four seats as I qualified six months early.

The opportunity to qualify early (up to six months) is dependent on department needs/job availability.

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

I wish I had understood the importance of absorbing every moment of the training contract as much as possible. It can be tiring and hard work, and you don’t always realise until the end of each seat just how much you’ve learnt and how far you’ve come. It’s important to embrace every day and reflect on what you have achieved in each seat.  

Please discuss a current/recent specific deal/case, outlining your role in the matter.

We have recently been acting for administrators of a company in a special administration. I was involved with this particular case during my training contract and have been working on it since I’ve been qualified too. On behalf of the special administrators of the company, we applied to the High Court for a client monies Distribution Order which also involved applying to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) for a modification of its rules.

Special administrations aren’t that common, so it has been a really interesting case to be involved in. In October 2020, we obtained the Court Order which we had requested, so it was a really successful outcome for the client. I enjoyed learning a new area of the law (ie, the FCA’s rules in relation to client monies distributions).

My work on the matter involved assisting counsel in all elements of preparation for the various hearings, drafting witness statements and attending various calls with counsel and the FCA to negotiate a modification of the FCA’s rules.

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

I am a committee member on a new professional and insolvency committee in Yorkshire, known as R3, The Association of Business Recovery Professionals. From being a member of the committee, I have had an opportunity to meet various accountants and solicitors from other firms in Leeds. We organise events in Leeds, including social events and training seminars. I’ve now been on the committee for about two years. I joined when I was a trainee. It has been a great opportunity to meet and build a network with other professionals and to raise my profile externally.

There are lots of other networking opportunities on offer for newly qualified solicitors too.

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

Problem solving, good attention to detail and the ability to work well in a team are very important skills. It’s also important to have work checked regularly by a supervisor and to work with them to rectify any errors. Good commercial awareness is also a key skill and enthusiasm to learn and develop is also really important.

What is the work-life balance like at your firm? How often do you have late nights/work at weekends?

At the firm, the working hours do depend on the department you are working in and the client matters which you are working on. On a steady day, I generally don’t work later than 7:00pm. I also don’t tend to work at the weekend unless there’s an urgent court application, for example.

What is the wider culture like – eg, are there sports teams/trips out? Is there a LGBT group, women’s group etc?

There are various sports teams at the firm. We have a male football team and also a mixed football tournament too. I’ve been involved with the mixed football tournament, although I wasn’t particularly good! There is also a netball team and there are rugby events. There are also a range of other non-sporting clubs.

In terms of trips out, each department usually organises a day out in the summer – whether that’s a walk, dinner or pub lunch. The days out are always excellent ways to get to know your colleagues outside of the office.

At the firm, we have ‘coffee roulette’ where you have a virtual coffee with someone from another team at the firm. It is a great initiative that encourages people to get to know other colleagues from different teams, some of whom they may not have met or spoken to before.

We also have an LGBTQ+ network and a racial diversity group.

What’s the biggest opportunity you’ve been given since joining the firm?

It is difficult to pinpoint the biggest opportunity that I’ve been given, however, the general responsibility that I have had on a daily basis has been fantastic. Since qualification, I have been responsible for the day-to-day management of small contentious insolvency matters and I have also attended various remote court hearings where just myself and counsel have been in attendance.

Where is your dream holiday destination?

I visited Tokyo before I started my training contract and I would love to go back and visit more places in Japan, particularly Mount Fuji!