Matthew is a future trainee solicitor at Latham & Watkins LLP. He is a former insight writer at ComAware and studied law at LSE.
1. Tell us about yourself
I grew up in the Isle of Man before moving to London to study law. It was very different to what I was used to but I ended up really enjoying my three years there and meeting some fantastic people. While I was at university, I wrote insight articles for ComAware’s website and I now contribute to The Corporate Law Academy’s weekly newsletter. I’ll write about most things but I’m particularly interested in competition law, emerging companies and environmental sustainability. When I’m not sat at my laptop, I’m probably in the kitchen; I keep a (very small) Instagram account for cooking and baking.
2. What attracted you to Latham & Watkins?
The first time I considered applying to Latham was after the Know The City Legal Forum; the LSE Law Society organises it each year and it’s a great event to attend if you get the chance. One of the firm’s private equity partners talked through the Wagamama and Pure Gym deals; he was a fantastic speaker, not only enthusiastic but also very good at explaining different transactions to a room full of students. I went away, did some more research and ended up thinking that Latham was a great all-rounder—especially in London, where the debt restructuring and litigation practices (both of which I was interested in) seemed to be growing. The firm’s pro bono work was also a draw, in particular its projects with 28 Too Many and The Ocean Cleanup.
3. What did you enjoy most during your vacation scheme at the firm?
What I enjoyed most was probably meeting people at the firm. I had two amazing supervisors and a great trainee mentor but I’d say everyone I met was very friendly, down-to-earth and willing to talk about what they do. To prepare for our group project, we even had a phone call with a lawyer from one of the Latham offices in Germany; he had kindly agreed to talk to us about a particular deal and was really helpful!
4. What did you find most challenging during your vacation scheme at the firm?
The main challenge is fitting everything in. Two weeks is a good length of time, but you have to balance your individual projects, the group task, the practice area presentations and the social events. At the same time, the opportunity might come up to chat with specific lawyers over coffee and you don’t want to miss out because you’re slightly behind.
5. How do you see the legal sector changing post-Covid?
I suppose that’s difficult for anyone to say right now, especially someone who hasn’t even started a training contract. From what I’ve read over the past few months, though, it does seem that certain industries are going to require increasing amounts of legal advice post-Covid. The pandemic has accelerated the growth of a wide range of companies, from hyper-casual games developers to “buy now, pay later” service providers, manufacturers of plant-based meat and digital fitness firms—a real mix. The market leaders are now seeking funding for new ideas, acquiring smaller rivals and trying to navigate new regulations, all of which provides opportunities for law firms going forward.
On the flip side, you’re likely to see airlines and retailers turn to their lawyers for the opposite reasons. Plenty of European carriers will need advice on complying with the conditions of the state aid packages they received, while a number of retail firms are trying to restructure their debts and renegotiate rent agreements.
6. What’s your top piece of advice for prospective applicants?
I’d recommend taking all advice with a pinch of salt. Getting one or more training contract offers doesn’t make anyone an applications expert, so it’s best to speak to trainees, associates and/or partners if you can. Even then, ultimately no one knows your strengths and interests better than you.
What I can say is that if you’re interested in commercial writing, definitely give it a go! The more short articles you draft, the more commercial news stories you have up your sleeve for an interview or a question on an application form. You also get better at explaining issues succinctly, which I struggled with when I first started. There are loads of interesting sites out there which periodically recruit new writers. I’m biased so I’d obviously mention ComAware and TCLA but I really like Little Law too. I’ve also recently subscribed to Legit, a new legal newsletter, and started following Initio, a student-led project focusing on case studies of how small businesses have adapted to Covid. All worth checking out!
7. Wildcard: If a plane was filled with Skittles and you had to empty it as fast as you can, how would you do it?
One option would be to copy Singapore Airlines and sell tickets to people to come onboard and eat the Skittles. They’ve been offering tours around a stationary Airbus A380 alongside using it as a pop-up restaurant and the first release of tickets sold out in half an hour according to Bloomberg. Skittles might not be a full meal but surely, they can compete with airline food.
Alternatively, you could dissolve the Skittles with water. It’s worth a shot although it would probably leave the plane with a rainbow-coloured interior! I guess it also depends what sort of plane we’re talking about; ideally it would have a large cargo door and ramp…