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Meet the lawyer

Marianne McKeown

Marianne McKeown

University: Leeds
Degree: Law
Year of qualification: 2018
Position: Senior associate
Department: Corporate
Pronouns: She/her

What attracted you to a career in law?

I’ve got a family background in law, which is what initially attracted me to the profession. However, I think the ability to have quite a varied career was also an attractive element. When you head into law as a trainee, you get two years of experience in different areas, so you’re not necessarily pigeon-holed into doing the same thing for the rest of your life. I also knew I wanted to work collaboratively in a team and with people from different walks of life.

How did you decide which firms to apply to?

In my third year of university, I did a year abroad and submitted a few vacation scheme applications at this stage. I applied to quite a mix of firms, including some up North, and some in London and ended up doing a vacation scheme in Liverpool because that’s where my family are based.

I didn’t want to pigeon-hole myself, but I also didn’t submit hundreds of applications. Instead, I submitted tailored applications to a few firms and made sure the types of firm I applied to were somewhat varied. Due to the connections I had in Leeds, I applied to Walker Morris as ultimately, I wanted to work in a large, commercial law firm with a wide range of different practice areas.

What do you think made your application successful?

Having a connection to the Leeds area was definitely a factor as the firm is keen to attract people with a commitment to the area. I also had quite a lot of different experiences, including a year abroad, volunteering work and various legal work experience placements. During my interview, I spoke about my year abroad and volunteering positions in detail, which acted as evidence for several transferable skills. These broad experiences outside of university helped to show my well-rounded personality, rather than just focusing purely on academics.

Which departments did you train in?

At Walker Morris, trainees complete a six four-month seat training contract. I repeated two seats so did two seats in real estate, two in corporate, one in insolvency and one in construction.

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

I wish I’d known that you’re not expected to know what you’re doing from day one, which follows through each seat. When we get trainees in, we’re aware that this work will be new to them (particularly with first-seat trainees). I’d encourage them to not put too much pressure on themselves because it takes a few weeks to get settled into an office environment and get used to dealing with clients and working with colleagues.

Please outline your area of expertise. What might you do in a typical day?

I’m a corporate lawyer so typically work on M&A transactions, private equity and public markets work. The work is quite varied and my day-to-day work depends heavily on the job I’m on at that time.

Typically, quite a lot of the job is standard M&A so I might be reviewing or drafting a share purchase agreement or preparing issues lists and having negotiations with the other side on the terms of the principal transaction documents. I’ll also be corresponding with teams within the firm, different external advisers, as well as attending conference calls with clients or the other side. I’m definitely not just sat drafting all day – I’m in a department that involves quite a lot of correspondence with other people which feeds into what we’re doing with the document, so it involves a lot of communication with lots of different people which I enjoy.

No day is ever the same and the work varies from transaction to transaction.

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

I most enjoy dealing and interacting with lots of different people – we have clients that are based all over the world, so it’s interesting to hear various perspectives on things because the way things are done does depend on where the client or its advisers are based.

The aspect I least enjoy is that you can get called on when you’re not expecting it. That said, it’s just the nature of the job that occasionally something might come up at inconvenient times that you have to deal with. This doesn’t happen often so it’s just about managing expectations. It’s very up and down in this sense – there are busy and quiet times.

What makes your firm stand out from the rest?

We’re a bit different, especially in the Leeds market, because we’re just a single-site office. That means, instead of having offices all over the country (and beyond), we just have one and everyone works from that office. It’s nice to be able to speak to people face to face, rather than having to do everything over the phone. I also think it helps to foster better working relationships, which makes it easier to call on favours when you need them! It’s a very collaborative environment and all being in one building makes a big difference to the social side of work because everyone knows each other.

Although we work just from the Leeds office, we have international clients, including in the US and Europe, so we still get to experience a wide range of diverse and challenging work which keeps the job interesting. 

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

I’d advise candidates to research the area of law and firm they’re interested in before sending out lots of applications. While there might be lots of commercial firms doing similar work, the culture at these firms will differ so it’s important that candidates identify whether it’s a firm they could see themselves working in.

The research doesn’t all have to be computer-based either – vacation schemes, open days and workshops are all fantastic opportunities to learn more about a firm. It’s also worth noting that spending time on a few focused applications is likely to be more successful than just churning out lots of applications for the sake of it.

What diversity and inclusion initiatives does the firm have in place?

The firm has introduced several new diversity and inclusion initiatives over the past few of years and we have diversity champions across the firm whose role is to champion good practice across all areas of diversity and to give a voice to those across the firm. All initiatives encourage involvement from all areas of the business and usually involve fun ways of getting people together to encourage a diverse and inclusive environment. Examples of recent initiatives include the following:

  • The firm has a Women in Leadership programme that’s designed to identify and knock down barriers to women progressing in their legal careers and there’s a regular events programme that aims to encourage more women to push for partnership in the firm.
  • The firm was a headline sponsor for Leeds Pride – there were around 40 people from the firm who walked in the parade.
  • The firm has expanded its reach with local universities by providing mock vacation schemes, Career Booster Weeks for Leeds and Bradford Universities and organised insight in to law days.  

What’s been the highlight of the last month at the firm?

I completed two transactions, which actually ended up completing on the same day – it’s been very busy!

August is typically a busy month, so it was nice to get those over the line before I took some time off. There are a few social activities planned at the firm in September, which will be nice too.

Where is your dream holiday destination?

I’d love to go on a safari in Africa.