Hannah Diss

Dentons trainee Hannah Diss says that it doesn’t take long to realise that selling legal services is almost as important as the law itself.

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Name: Hannah Diss

Firm: Dentons

Position:Trainee Year 1

Degree:Oriental Studies (Arabic and Russian)

Universities:Trinity College, Cambridge; College of Law

GDL or LPC:Both

Hobbies:Playing the violin and piano, anything musical, the Middle East, watching rugby, friends, pub.

Department: Energy

Why did you decide to train as a solicitor?I was first and foremost interested in the law because I wanted a job which combined working in the City with continued academic training and professional development. I was also drawn to the negotiation and mediation aspects of the job.

Why did you choose your firm?I chose Dentons because of the international opportunities, and having studied Arabic at university I was especially interested in the Middle East and North Africa. I was also drawn to the strong banking and energy practices at the firm.

What has been the highlight of your training contract so far?Being entrusted to take the lead in negotiations, with supervision, on a multi-million dollar loan between a Turkish bank and a huge syndicate of top international banks.

What does your typical day involve?In my current seat, many of my tasks focus on business development. This means in a typical day I might put together a research note on a specific part of the energy industry for a partner to use in a meeting; or help prepare a seminar for an upcoming client event. I also work closely with a well-known renewable energy company, so I spend much of the day liaising with their legal team and coordinating the many deals we are currently working on for them.

Tell us a bit about the type of work handled by your department?The Energy practice sits within EIPF (Energy, Infrastructure and Project Finance). Our Energy team focuses on all aspects of the oil and gas sector, especially in Africa; renewable energy projects in the UK and emerging markets; nuclear energy; and transactional and regulatory electricity work.

What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job?I enjoy becoming more confident as my training contract goes on, and as partners begin to trust me I am able to take the initiative more. It’s also highly rewarding feeling that you are part of the industry and that your work can make a real difference to a deal. I also enjoy finding new ways to represent trainee interests at the firm, which I was able to do as a trainee representative in my last seat.

What are the worst aspects of your job?The long hours can be tiring, and a lot is expected of you. There’s a steep learning curve but you find yourself improving very quickly.

What is the biggest misconception of the legal profession?That law isn’t a business and that lawyers don’t have commercial awareness. The longer I’m at the firm, the more I realise that selling legal services is almost as important as the law itself.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career in law? Be realistic about your qualifications and attributes and whether they are likely to suit a training contract at a top City firm. I’d also advise that you try your very best to obtain a training contract before you do the LPC, as it’s a vocational course which can be very expensive.

What are the biggest pitfalls students should try to avoid when pursuing a legal career? I’d say making too many applications would be a big one, as you can lose focus on what kind of firms you are really interested in. They really are all different, even if it’s just in their work ethic, so it’s worth researching those firms who will want your skill set and personality.

What were the biggest challenges you faced when trying to secure a training contract? Probably preparing an interview sound bite for the inevitable ‘Why do you want to be a solicitor?’ question. I was also doing my university finals when I applied, so it was hard fitting interviews and recruitment events in around my revision.

How is law in practice different from studying law? The best part is probably the fact that you start earning a salary! By the end of the LPC the course is very tailored to your firm, so the first few weeks of a training contract often feels like a real-life version of LPC case studies. It’s completely different from the GDL though, as you have to start being more commercially minded when you approach legal problems.

What are the common attributes of successful candidates?Attention to detail, good qualifications, an interesting selling point, being well researched and well turned-out, confidence, a willingness to learn.