21 February 2013
Burges Salmon trainee Madison Fowler finds that law in practice is far more satisfying – “you feel like you are solving real problems, not just doing theoretical exercises”
Name: Madison Fowler
Firm: Burges Salmon
Position: Trainee solicitor
GDL or LPC: GDL & LPC
Hobbies: Kickboxing, Roller Derby, Writing, Drama
Department: Real Estate
Why did you decide to train as a solicitor? I was one of those strange children who always wanted to be a lawyer, maybe because it sounded dramatic and prestigious. Looking into it as a student I found it suited my analytical and creative skills, and my liking for presenting information persuasively. Through studying it I realised that it gave me a massive insight into the way the world worked, both commercially and practically, and this was always fascinating.
Why did you choose your firm? I wanted to practice in Bristol and the South-West. I have always disliked the working culture in London, and Burges Salmon offered the same high quality training and high-flying clients as many London firms, but in a working environment that seemed far more collegiate. I did a vac scheme here in 2010 and I loved the atmosphere and genuine dedication of everyone who worked here. It has proved itself to be this and more.
What has been the highlight of your training contract so far? Being present in court when my team won a big protracted case at last – and being bought champagne by one of the partners to celebrate.
What does your typical day involve? I commute currently from Cardiff, so I usually get in at 9am having checked by emails on the train. At the moment I’m handling multiple files for auctions and sales, so I have to collect documents together and field any enquiries that come in about the properties.
Tell us a bit about the type of work handled by your department? I handle corporate turnaround and insolvency related matters. We act for banks and other providers of debt and equity finance, local authorities, insolvency and turnaround practitioners, directors, shareholders, and creditors of all kinds and companies in financial difficulty. We handle a large range of agricultural, commercial and residential properties.
We also have Scottish and Northern Irish qualified lawyers, so I have been learning about these types of law too, and the differences between the systems.
What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job? The cases themselves are often interesting, and in real estate you are dealing with very tangible issues (for example, you can see the properties you are working with on Google maps). It’s also satisfying to do effective research and untangle the issue your client has been worrying about.
I also love my secretary - haven’t got over the excitement of having someone post things for me.
What are the worst aspects of your job? Doing the research and finding there is no answer.. yet.
What is the biggest misconception of the legal profession? I’ve been asked numerous times if I defend murderers, despite explaining that I don’t do criminal law. The jokes I frequently get are about charging people hundreds for doing nothing.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career in law? Get the work experience. It enables you to answer the commercial questions with actual understanding instead of just quoting a website.
What are the biggest pitfalls students should try to avoid when pursuing a legal career? Not appearing enthusiastic when applying, and not doing the research.
What were the biggest challenges you faced when trying to secure a training contract? Developing commercial awareness is hard, because it’s tricky to know when you are ‘commercially aware’. It was a scary time, as we were highly aware that places were limited within the profession, and I could not afford the GDL without funding, so the few weeks in between my interview and my GDL start date were rather fraught.
How is law in practice different from studying law? Law in practice is far more satisfying – you feel like you are solving real problems, not just doing theoretical exercises. You also learn a lot more about how the word works in general. I chose History over law as my degree because I was told the degree itself was not a practical one, but instead theoretical and occasionally dusty. I enjoy law far more knowing that my work actually makes a difference.
What are the common attributes of successful candidates? Confidence and enthusiasm. The ability to work well with others and contribute to others’ development. A hard-working attitude. An ability to think practically and commercially, and understand the broader business needs of potential clients. And attention to detail.