Hogan Lovells trainee Samantha Bennett advises that time management is a key skill needed by solicitors.
Name: Samantha Bennett
Firm: Hogan Lovells
Position: Trainee Solicitor
Degree: BSc in Materials Science and Engineering; MPhil in Nanotechnology; PhD in Materials Science.
Universities: MIT and University of Cambridge
GDL or LPC: GDL (BPP Waterloo); Accelerated LPC (BPP Holborn)
Hobbies: Sport, travel
Department: Intellectual Property
Why did you decide to train as a solicitor?
When studying for my degree in materials science in the US, I never dreamed that I would be working at a UK law firm. Yet, after studying abroad in the UK and spending a summer working in a specialist intellectual property law firm in New York, I realised how science and law could complement each other. After returning to the UK for post-graduate study in materials science, I decided to apply for a training contract.
Why did you choose your firm?
I got to know Hogan Lovells through a solicitors’ careers fair. When I spoke to the representative, she was encouraging and suggested that I speak with a current trainee at Hogan Lovells with a science background. My conversation with the current trainee and the firm’s assessment day both reinforced my impression of Hogan Lovells as a driven, yet approachable, City firm where I wanted to train.
What has been the highlight of your training contract so far?
There are many highlights, but my involvement with pro bono projects has been particularly rewarding. During my first seat, I advised a Danish charity helping people affected by autism-spectrum disorders on their UK expansion. With this and other pro bono work, I have been given a high level of responsibility and significant client contact.
What does your typical day involve?
My current seat is in the patents team in the intellectual property department. In the run-up to a recent patent trial, I prepared documents that were referred to throughout the trial and assisted with the case preparation, including legal research. I also undertake some technical work, such as comparing patents to journal articles, devices and other patents that were available prior to the patent’s grant.
Tell us a bit about the type of work handled by your department?
The intellectual property department is comprised of teams working on soft IP, including trade marks, patents and technology law. Much of the patent team is involved in the ‘smart-phone wars’ litigation at the moment, so my day-to-day work focuses on telecommunications patents.
What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job?
My colleagues here at the firm are a constant source of support and make Hogan Lovells a great place to work.
I also particularly enjoy meeting the external technical experts that we consult in relation to patent litigation. In meetings, the expert will explain a certain technology in detail, which affords opportunities for learning about new and interesting subjects.
What are the worst aspects of your job?
As a trainee, it can be a challenge to move departments every six months. At the start of each seat you have to learn quickly about a new area of law and all of the on-going matters in your new department. However, by going through that somewhat daunting process, you gain broad experience and a large network of contacts.
What is the biggest misconception of the legal profession?
It seems that some people believe just knowing the law will make you a good lawyer, whereas it is more the combination of solid legal knowledge with good teamwork skills and an understanding of your client’s needs that will ensure success in the profession.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career in law?
Although it is useful to read about a career in law, there is no substitute for some practical experience in a law firm or barrister’s chambers. You will get a feel for what the office environment is like and what the job entails, as well as meeting people who can give you advice.
What are the biggest pitfalls students should try to avoid when pursuing a legal career?
Many students apply to firms without fully understanding the work firms do and their unique cultures. It is best to meet people with experience of each firm, perhaps through careers events, vacation schemes or university alumni networks, which will provide the added bonus of helping your application stand out.
What were the biggest challenges you faced when trying to secure a training contract?
I found it a challenge to decide which firms to apply to and to fit in time for completing applications and preparing for interviews, as at the time I was working in a completely different field.
How is law in practice different from studying law?
One difference relates to time management. Studying law can be at your own pace, but in practice there are more demands on your time and you have to complete a piece of work while juggling others. It all comes with practice, however, and very few people are good at this when they first begin their training.
What are the common attributes of successful candidates?
Successful candidates tend to be approachable and personable, as well as being able to understand problems and offer insightful and creative solutions.