Life in a law firm

What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job?
Working with a team of easygoing people and exchanging or
completing deals is obviously very satisfying.

Name: Jocelyn Paulley
University: Oxford
Degree: History
Where did you study the GDL and LPC: GDL Oxford Brookes, LPC Oxford Institute of Legal Practice
A-levels: History, English, Literature, Latin, AS Art
Hobbies: Dancing, reading, motorbikes
Law firm: Wragge & Co
Seat: Outsourcing

Why did you choose to train as a solicitor?
Having studied history, I wanted to be able to apply something Id learnt to the real world and use the skills Id acquired. Law combined this with problem-solving and management skills to make for an interesting day-to-day life.

Why did you decide to work in the commercial arena?
When I completed work experience at a local solicitors office on family and probate matters, the solicitor took on the role of social worker, psychologist and even relationship counsellor. This contrasted sharply with the professional world, where both clients and lawyers were highly motivated and engaging to work with.

Why did you decide to work in Birmingham?
Birmingham caught my eye as a rejuvenated city that offers
excellent affordable living just a few minutes from work.
What does your typical day involve? Usually a combination of meetings to discuss work, corresponding with clients and other lawyers and drafting documents. The amount of face-to-face client contact can vary significantly, depending on your seat.

What does your typical day involve?
Usually a combination of meetings to discuss work, corresponding with clients and other lawyers and drafting documents. The amount of face-to-face client contact can vary significantly, depending on your seat.

What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job?
Working with a team of easygoing people and exchanging or
completing deals is obviously very satisfying.

What are the worst aspects of your job?
Seat moves can be a little tense as trainees find out where theyre moving to, but by far the majority of the time everyone gets their choices.

How is law in practice different to studying law?
Its much more interesting in practice. Contextual
circumstances and real-life clients are much more entertaining than studying dry law and procedure. You also need a much broader skill set to be able to communicate well, be organised to manage your workload and think practically about clients problems.

What is the biggest misconception of the legal
profession?

That theyre old, bespectacled, fierce and think trainees exist to make coffee and do their dry-cleaning.

What advice would you give to someone who wants
to pursue a career in law?

Having the right attitude is a big step forwards. Being professional, helpful and open will instantly gain you trust and respect from colleagues and clients alike. Doing research before applying to firms is also vital to avoid those who do not practise what they preach in terms of work-life balance or who try to blind prospective applicants with perks.

What are the biggest pitfalls students should try to avoid when pursuing a legal career?
Choosing law firms by how much they pay, as this often correlates with longer hours and no guarantee of better quality work. Law recruiters also complain of applicants who at interview answer questions with what they think should be the response instead of answering honestly.

Name: Stephen Edwards
University:Southampton
Degree: Computer Engineering BEng
Where did you study the GDL and LPC: Nottingham Law School
A-levels: Maths, Physics, Design Technology, Information Technology (and General Studies)
Hobbies: Photography, scuba diving, travelling and doing very silly things for charity
Law firm: Watson, Farley and Williams (WFW)
Seat: Litigation (previously Tax and Singapore)

Why did you choose to train as a solicitor?
I had always been interested in the law and a career in the legal profession provides a challenging and exciting career. We come across legal problems in our every day life but working in an international law firm, legal problems gain a whole new dimension.

What has been the highlight of your training contract so far?
My seat in Singapore. We also had a great social scene with a network of trainees from other firms where somebody was always planning a weekend away: hiring a private island, scuba diving on un-dived Indonesian Islands, or even climbing a volcano.

What does your typical day involve?
There is no typical day. I never quite know what might be required. Work as a trainee can be varied: one moment I may be doing statutory interpretation of a complex tax statute and the next moment Im chatting to a client about their holiday while we wait for a meeting to start. In Singapore I could be negotiating to release documents for a due diligence, or attending a signing conducted in Mandarin. The hours can sometimes be long but colleagues are accommodating when you have plans for the evening or a holiday booked. But always remember you may bump into clients almost anywhere: coming off a scuba dive in Malaysia I discovered that my new dive buddy was one of our clients.

What are the worst aspects of your job?
When I was in Singapore there was an earthquake off the coast of Indonesia and it sent all of the tall buildings in the financial district into a little dance. Seriously, the worst aspect of the job would have to be the less exciting parts. It is a myth, at WFW at least, that trainees are chained to the photocopiers, but as with any job there are tasks that arent as exciting as others but these are nevertheless very important. Patience and attention to detail are vital in the legal profession.

How is law in practice different to studying law?
Law in practice differs from studying law because the time you have to provide an answer is so much shorter. When studying law you might have time to pursue interesting, but largely academic issues. When the client is waiting for an answer you have to be able to quickly assess what are
the key issues and promptly get an answer out.

What’s the biggest misconception of the legal profession?
That lawyers are all nasty people.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career in law?
Pick your firm very, very carefully. Bigger does not mean better. Look carefully at precisely what the firm has to offer and try to cut through all the marketing literature that firms send out. It is easy
to fall into the trap of applying for the firm with the best marketing department rather than the best training contract for you.

Name: Hannah Ellacott
University: Newcastle
Degree:Law
Where did you study the LPC:York
A-levels:English, Maths, and Physics
Hobbies: Sports (particularly running and netball), seeing live music events, hiking
Law firm: DLA Piper, Leeds
Seat: Employment

Why did you choose to train as a solicitor?
It is a challenging but varied and interesting career that brings you into contact with people from all walks of life.

Why did you decide to work in the commercial arena?
I wanted the chance to work with both large companies on significant deals as well as smaller businesses in the local area. Working at a regional branch of an international law firm means that I work with plenty of smaller, local companies but I also get the opportunity to get involved with multimillion-pound deals.

Why did you decide to work in Leeds?
I have family connections in Leeds and it is a city that I have always wanted to live in. The nightlife is great and so is the shopping!

What has been the highlight of your training contract so far?
Going to the Royal Courts of Justice in London by myself to represent our client in a passing off case as part of my intellectual property seat.

What does your typical day involve?
Each day is different and the work varies from department to
department. Employment is a fast-moving area of law so
I do a lot of research to provide advice to clients. I have a lot of direct client contact and because we do contentious
work in employment, I have drafted various court documents.

What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job?
When the work you do makes a positive difference to the
end result in a case or transaction.

What are the worst aspects of your job? Photocopying and bundling.

How is law in practice different to studying law?
At university you study law in a theoretical and academic
way. In practice you have to focus on your client’s needs and be aware of the commercial factors that affect a transaction as well as being up to date with the relevant law.

What’s the biggest misconception of the legal
profession?

That it is stuffy and full of boring people.

What advice would you give to someone who wants
to pursue a career in law?

Study hard and get plenty of experience. If you can’t work in a law firm then find work elsewhere that will improve the skills you need to become a good lawyer, eg interpersonal, communication and analytical skills.

Name: Laura Capelin
University: Oxford
Degree: English Law and German Law
Where did you study the GDL and LPC: Oxford Institute of Legal Practice
A-levels: English Literature, German, Government and Politics, General Studies
Hobbies:Going to stand-up comedy shows
Law firm: Shearman & Sterling
Seat: Mergers and acquisitions (New York)

Why did you choose to train as a solicitor?
When I was deciding which career path to follow I wanted to
find a job that would allow me to continually develop
and learn. Being a good lawyer isnt just about knowing
the law: you need a multitude of skills, which you
develop as your career progresses, and this really
appealed to me.

Why did you decide to work in the commercial arena?
The commercial arena appealed to me because of the wide variety of opportunities available. Training at a top
international law firm means that Im constantly exposed
to some of the most significant deals and transactions
across the world.

What has been the highlight of your training contract so far?
The opportunity to travel. Im just coming to the end of a six-month seat in New York and am looking forward to hopefully spending some more time working abroad.

What does your typical day involve?
Im not entirely sure the word typical is in the Shearman dictionary. The deals Ive been involved with so far have been bespoke rather than run of the mill and each day
presents different challenges. My day-to-day activities can
involve meeting with a client, conference calls with opposing counsel, due diligence or drafting reports
and memos.

What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job?
The adrenaline rush in the countdown to a closing, the
intellectual challenge and working as part of a team with
a great group of people.

What are the worst aspects of your job?
The best and the worst aspect of my job is the unpredictability. Sometimes social plans do have to be changed or postponed, but if nine-to-five predictability is very important to you, then I suspect that the law isnt the best career choice for you.

How is law in practice different to studying law?
Its much more important to be aware of the commercial
context in which the transaction is occurring and the
practical consequences that the transaction will have,
rather than merely studying the law in isolation as an
academic pursuit.

What is the biggest misconception of the legal
profession?

The biggest misconception is that a legal career is merely a safe but dull career choice out of university. A career in law can be as exciting and progressive as a person makes it.

What advice would you give to someone who wants
to pursue a career in law?

Try to do vacation schemes at a wide variety of firms, from large to small and from generalist to niche, to ensure that you can decide whether youre really interested in a career in law and at what type of firm youd want to spend the two years of your training contract.

What are the biggest pitfalls students should try to
avoid when pursuing a legal career?

Applying indiscriminately for training contracts without really thinking about what kind of law theyre genuinely
interested in and the type of firm that will give them the
work environment they want.