Lillian is a newly qualified corporate commercial Solicitor at Trowers & Hamlins LLP (Trowers). She undertook seats in the; Housing and Regeneration, International Corporate (6 month secondment in Trowers Abu Dhabi, UAE), Corporate Commercial, and Litigation (Construction) departments. She studied law at the University of Kent.
1. What initially attracted you to Trowers?
There were three reasons why I initially applied to Trowers for a training contract:
- it’s a mid-size international law firm – after attending open days and workshops at a variety of law firms, I concluded that I wanted to work at a mid-size international law firm. Predominantly because the environment at such firms tended to feel more personable whilst still providing high quality work and a variety of clients. Trowers fits this description perfectly;
- the opportunity to be seconded to one of the firms international offices – the opportunity to work aboard for an extended period of time is potentially a once in the life time opportunity. At Trowers, working aboard was almost guaranteed as a large proportion of the trainees tend to spend 6 months in one of the firms Middle Eastern offices. Therefore I didn’t want to miss out!
- the vacation scheme – I took part in the Trowers summer vacation scheme before securing my training contract. In comparison to the other vacation scheme that I attended, I felt that Trowers valued my individuality more and I could see myself working alongside the people that I met. Undertaking a vacation scheme is the best way to get a feel for a firm, so I would highly recommend trying to secure one.
2. What were the biggest challenges you faced during your training contract?
The biggest challenge I faced during my training contract was learning how to juggle / balance competing demands. As a trainee it’s common for several fee earners to ask you to undertake tasks which all have a similar deadline or level of urgency. Initially I was saying ‘yes’ to every task given to me, fearing that I needed to impress or demonstrate my ability to perform. However, as I developed as a trainee, I began to release that placing myself under such pressure was too demanding. I started to learn how to let fee earners know when I no longer had capacity to do work, or required more time to get tasks completed etc.
The lesson that I learned was that people prefer for you to be upfront about whether you can get their work done, rather than you being overly stressed to completed it in an unrealistic deadline.
3. What are some of the key differences between your role as a trainee and your current role as an NQ?
The level of responsibility has certainly increased. As a trainee I was often asked to assist on discreet tasks that were only one part of the bigger picture, however as an NQ your often responsible for ensuring several (or sometimes all) of the pieces to the bigger picture fit together. For example, in relation to transactions, I am often responsible for drafting all of the ancillary documents, managing the different parties to the transaction, and dealing with the due diligence process. Although I am supervised when doing these tasks, the level of supervision is much less than as a trainee, and you are expected to take full ownership of the work you are given.
4. What’s been the highlight of your time as a solicitor so far?
- There are two highlights that I have experienced since qualifying as a solicitor:
completing my first corporate transaction – this was the first time I had heavily been involved in a large-scale transaction (as it was worth £100 million). I was in charge of the due diligence process and writing the due diligence report, drafting all of the ancillary documents and reviewing the other sides documents. I was also present at the completion of the deal, so it was nice to see my first matter as an NQ through from beginning to end, knowing that I had made a valuable contribution.
- directly advising clients on commercial contract issues – this was a highlight as I was the sole point of contact for the client, and they relied upon me for advice and drafting assistance. Although it was daunting (seeing as I hadn’t even been qualified 6 months), it taught me a lot about the need to understand a client’s business and processes, building a relationship with clients and setting their expectations.
5. What’s your top piece of advice for current trainees?
My advice would be to enjoy the experience, as the two year training period flies by so quickly, but at the same time remember that the goal is to obtain an NQ position at the firm (or elsewhere). I say the latter because sometimes it is easy to forget that as a trainee (and even an NQ), your clients are the other fee earners that you work for. Therefore it’s important to leave a positive impression in every department that you work within, that includes completing work quickly but accurately, asking questions and showing interest, and being friendly and personable. If you can do these things then you will both enjoy your training experience, and set yourself up for after qualification.
6. What are the biggest growth opportunities for corporate law firms over the next 5 years?
I think technology is probably the biggest growth opportunity for corporate law firms. Both in the way that firms use technology and the advice that they provide to clients as new technologies emerge. For example, in the last 2 years there has been increasing conversation about the use of Artificial Intelligence within law firms to automate tasks traditionally undertaken by junior lawyers. In terms of the advice law firms provide, there is evermore demand for expert advice in relation to block chain, crypto currencies, and digital transformation. Both of these aspects provide law firms with the opportunity to be innovative as these technologies continue to expand in the near future.
Wild Card Questions – Unorthodox questions that candidates have been asked in real interviews
7. Wildcard Question – If you were a brand what would your motto be and why?
My motto would probably be “It is what it is” – it’s essentially a slogan that provides some optimism in difficult or unchangeable situations. In life there are several ups and downs, but rather than dwell on challenging times or bad news, you simply accept that something has happened that you can’t change and look for a solution or the best way to move forward. I’m big on remaining positive and being solution orientated – rather than focusing on what you can’t change you should focus on what you can!