Natalie Burns, Dentons

Name: Natalie Burns

Firm: Dentons

Position: Trainee solicitor

Degree: Business Management

University: King’s College London

Hobbies: Cooking, restaurants, spin-class/kettlebells, reading Time Out and enjoying all the activities that London has to offer.

Current department: Banking and finance (trade and commodity finance)

Number of TC applications made and interviews attended: 12/7 (I also completed two vacation schemes, neither of which were at Dentons.)

Why did you decide to train as a solicitor?

I have always been interested in how businesses work, why they make particular decisions and how they achieve their objectives. Therefore, studying Business Management at university was an obvious choice for me.

During university I lived with several law students and completed an employment law module. I quickly realised that law is at the core of every business and that training as a solicitor would allow me to work with businesses that are both big and small, have differing strategies and cover an array of industries. The decision to train as a solicitor was easy, securing a training contract offer was more difficult!

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

The biggest challenges I faced when trying to secure a training contract were (1) convincing firms that I had the ability to be a trainee (some more traditional firms rejected me purely on my degree subject), and (2) sustaining the motivation to keep on applying after being rejected at final round interviews.

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

In my final interview at Dentons, I was asked why I had completed some work experience that was not directly applicable to a career in law. This question was tough because I had never thought about the answer. I answered this question truthfully, stating that if an opportunity is given to you, whether it is directly applicable to an end goal or not, you should take it. You never know what you might learn and who you could meet.

In the same interview I was asked about current affairs, such as whether I thought Scotland would go independent or how I would increase the number of women in board-level positions, as well as a technical legal question about covenants – it was a tough interview!

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

The majority of the work that the trade and commodity finance team completes is transactional. The transactions focus on the financing of commodities (e.g. cocoa, coffee, sugar, copper, oil, steel), which are being exported from developing countries (especially African countries). This financing often involves global banks, local governments and quangos. The transactions range from a few million dollars to hundreds of millions of dollars.

Aside from the transactional work, the team also advises Banks on how to provide funding to commodity producers in overseas jurisdictions. Upon instruction, Dentons liaise with overseas counsel and ask them to provide jurisdictionally specific answers to a variety of questions (for example, does Moroccan law recognise a mortgage? If not, what is the most effective security for the Bank to take?). The overseas counsel will provide this information and draft security documents that the Bank can use. Dentons’ role is to source, co-ordinate and develop the advice to aid these cross-border transactions.

What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job?

The three most enjoyable aspects of my job are as follows:

  1. The people in the Trade and Commodity Finance team are down-to-earth, extremely intelligent and keen for trainees to be part of the team. It is a nice environment to work in.
  2. I have been trusted to directly communicate with clients and overseas counsel. This can be challenging at times but allows trainees to be central to the transactions and to learn quickly.
  3. Trainees attend weekly banking training sessions on Wednesday lunchtimes. Sessions range from “An introduction to legal opinions in financing transactions” to “Taking security over cash” and “Hedging in finance documents”. The sessions are run by the PSLs in the banking department and are exceptionally useful and informative.

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

I had not anticipated how different it would be to work with different people. Each individual has their own style, expectations, habits and personality. It is a trainees responsibility to adapt to how each individual works. This can be much more challenging than initially anticipated.

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

My latest email is from an Associate in my team and is addressed to the Facility Agent on a transaction. The email contains a conditions precedent (CP) satisfaction letter, which I initially drafted. This CP satisfaction letter states that all the legal CPs have either been satisfied or waived. Once a CP satisfaction letter has been issued, the borrower can issue a utilisation request and drawdown the funds which have been agreed in the facility agreement. 

Where’s the best place to go to get your office’s gossip?

My fellow trainees.

Describe your training partner in three words.

Affable, fair, resolute.

Natalie Burns, Dentons

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

  • I was christened in St Paul’s Cathedral.
  • I stood on a ring-binder during the LPC and had to have it surgically removed.
  • This year, I ran the London marathon in 4 hours and 28 minutes.

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

I would have started my own business.

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

Play on your strengths, even if they are not directly related to law, and buy the book Ultimate Guide to Training Contract Success by Craig Robinson.