Emma Vertigen, Bird & Bird

Name: Emma Vertigen

Firm: Bird & Bird

Position: Trainee solicitor

Degree: Law

University: Durham University

Hobbies: Horse riding, gym, learning Arabic, exploring London

Current department: Aviation

Number of TC applications made and interviews attended: 6/4

Emma Vertigen, Bird & Bird

Why did you decide to train as a solicitor?

In my undergraduate degree I didn’t study many commercial modules, but in my final year at university I had work experience at two City law firms – I sat in dispute resolution for one and banking for the other – and absolutely loved the experiences! I was given a couple of juicy research tasks and I enjoyed the challenge of trying to solve the puzzle. Finding an answer for the research felt like finding the “missing piece” (to continue the jigsaw analogy!), which was very satisfying.

This prompted me to do a Masters in International Trade and Commercial Law and this cemented my interest in law as a career.

What were the biggest challenges you faced when trying to secure a training contract?

I think it’s the same for a lot of people – realising what it was that the firms were looking for and how to effectively show you are the right candidate for the firm. I found the key to this for me was to narrow down my choice of firm and only applied selectively. I found my application to Bird & Bird was easier than other firms as I genuinely felt this was the firm I would fit in to and wanted to work for. This meant my answers to the application form and in interview came naturally and were bespoke for Bird & Bird.

What was the toughest training contract interview question you were asked (at any firm) and how did you answer?

Before an interview, I had read an interview advice article that stated a lot of interviewers will try to sway your answer and they want to see if you could stand your ground using reasoned argument.

The interviewers asked if the firm should take on a client who had been responsible for an oil spill. I said yes as energy is a growing department in the firm and we could help with the company’s regulation compliance to ensure another spill didn’t happen. The interviewers then proceeded to propose gradually more morally-ambiguous client suggestions.

From reading the advice article I felt I should stick with my “yes” answer of taking on the client! I answered with “yes – in theory”, but then I put forward criteria to vet potential new clients against what the firm stood for and potential existing client conflicts and then managed to warp my answer to be “in theory yes, but from looking at the criteria, no”!

Tell us a bit about the type of work handled by the department you’re in at the moment…

The aviation department deals with both financing and leasing of aircraft (mostly for commercial use). This involves arranging the financing for the purchase of the aircraft, drafting documents for the purchase itself and for the subsequent leasing. We act for a variety of parties, but I have mostly been involved in transactions where we acted for the lessee or lessor of the aircraft.

As a trainee, I help with the negotiation of the documents between the parties and then manage the documents from draft form to final executed documents. I have a lot of contact with the clients and work directly with them throughout the process. An aviation leasing transaction has a short timeframe from conception to completion so I am involved for the entire deal lifetime for many transactions. This means I am invested in the deal; I have an in-depth knowledge of the documents and enjoy being involved in the successful delivery of an aircraft.

What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job?

The team are amazing in this department! There are only nine of us, so I get to work with everyone on different projects. The team also want to help you develop as a lawyer; they try to give you different types of work, they explain the background to any task and they are always happy to give you feedback to help you improve. This really makes you feel like a valued member of the team.

What about your job didn’t you expect before you started?

The quality of work is much better than I expected as I had heard a few horror stories of endless bundling, photocopying and general admin at some city law firms. Naturally there is an element of admin work, but I have found work is a lot more varied and stimulating: for example, I could be asked to draft documents, meet with clients, meet with counsel to discuss transactions or run a closing call.

The drafting can vary a lot, from drafting corporate approval documents to drafting an amendment agreement from scratch. Working with the clients is very enjoyable as you are very involved with the transaction from start to finish so get to know the clients well. Also, as the parties are all aiming to reach an agreement, it makes the negotiations interesting, but mostly amicable as everyone wants the transaction to go ahead.

Who’s the most recent email in your inbox from, and what’s it about?

The most recent email is from an associate in the department sending me the Head Lease Agreement and Letter of Intent for a transaction that is currently being negotiated. The associate has asked if I would review the suggested amendments to the Agreement and if we should accept or query each point.

Tell us two truths and one lie about yourself (in any order).

  • I have never managed to grow a plant (there is currently a dead pot plant on my desk).
  • I suffer from Turophobia (fear of cheese).
  • I have lived on three continents.

If you had not decided to become a lawyer, what career would you have chosen?

I would love to be a singer and dancer in a musical… unfortunately I can’t sing or dance.

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

To keep an open mind about what type of law they want to qualify into. Before I joined Bird & Bird I had presumptions about the seat choices I wanted and if I wanted to be a transactional or litigious lawyer, but since experiencing different departments in practice, I am more open to where I want to qualify.