What degree course did you study and when did you graduate
BA in Philosophy, graduated in 2017.
Why did you choose that particular degree course?
Whilst at school, we had taster sessions of Philosophy where we discussed the Mind Body Problem and different theories of Personal Identity (Bundle Theory, Psychological Continuity, Temporal Continuity). I found these topics interesting, and had a desire to learn more about Philosophy. Originally I had intended to do PPE (Philosophy, Politics and Economics) but in the end decided to study straight Philosophy as that's where my main interest lie.
Tell us about your employer
Watson Farley & Williams are an international law firm which advises clients on their commercial matters . WFW prides itself on having a strong sector focus utilising its deep industry knowledge across energy, transport and associated infrastructure. Corporate and Asset Finance work makes up the majority of the work undertaken by our lawyers.
What was the position you were recruited for. Please briefly outline the position you were recruited to within your organisation and summarise the business needs and role you fulfil
I applied for a Training contract in 2019 and started in September 2021 following completion of the GDL and LPC. This is the method by which one trains to become a qualified lawyer. The Training contract at Watson Farley and Williams, is split into 6, 4 month seats whereby the trainee undertakes work in a specific department, gaining the skills and experience needed in this area of work. At the end of the Training Contract, you then qualify as a lawyer in your chosen area of law (based on the experience you had during that seat rotation). I'm currently in my fourth seat of my training contract, on secondment to WFW Singapore working in their Corporate department.
My previous seats were Dispute Resolution and Litigation. Asset Finance, Asset Finance (in Singapore).
As a Corporate trainee I've been involved in Due Diligence of a company in preparation for an acquisition, amending the Constitution of a Company and reviewing transaction documents.
What attracted you to this position?
The international nature of the role. The Training contract at WFW involves a mandatory international seat, providing the opportunity to travel to another country and work there for a number of months. This is quite a rare opportunity which hugely influenced my decision to apply.
In terms of a legal career, I had always wanted to do some finance related. My skills seemed to fit better in a legal career than a purely financial career such as investment banking/accounting etc. The skills I learnt during my philosophy degree translated well during my disputes seat - analyzing arguments, summarizing, researching, providing rebuttals are all frequently required.
What are the key skills you learnt at Warwick that have helped you with your career to date?
From my Philosophy degree I gained the ability to:
- think logically - very useful when trying to understand the provisions of contracts;
- analyze and solve problems - most of our job revolves around this, giving clients solutions to their business needs;
- assess proposed solutions - when providing legal advice, we always aim to give a range of options, assess the benefits of each option and then allow the client to decide which they wish to go forward with;
- write and speak clearly, attending to details - the client comes to us to understand complex legal issues. These issues have to be simplified and explained to them concisely.
What has been your greatest career challenge to date and how did your experience and skills help overcome it?
My toughest career challenge occurred in my asset finance seat when the team was working to a tight deadline. I had to prepare various documents for signing but the volume of the documents made it very difficult to achieve in such a short time span. I was assisted by other members of the team who were also working on the matter which alleviated some of the pressure.
I've had experience working to tight deadlines whilst a paralegal and also as a student. In all these situations, seeking help to split the load of work is always useful, but in other situations where help isn't available sometimes its just a matter of remaining focused and staying calm throughout and knowing that things can (almost always) be rectified if a deadline slips. Panicking about the deadline often leads to errors, in which correcting would take up more time, so keeping this in mind is very important.
What top tips would you give to students looking for a career in your market sector?
Gain work experience before making your application. My first legal work experience was at a high street law firm which provided services in Prison Law, Criminal Appeals, Immigration and Mental Health. This was far away from where I actually wanted to train, but I feel it was necessary as an introduction to Law, as it gave me experience in dealing with the Court process which would later benefit me during my disputes seat at Watson Farley & Williams. I also gained paralegal experience at a White Collar Crime firm, where I was a document review paralegal, which was also one of the tasks I had as a trainee. As a paralegal you'll often be asked to do tasks which will assist you by the time you're a trainee, so naturally you'll be at an advantage if you already have prior experience in this before beginning your training contract.
When applying to vacation schemes or training contracts, being a candidate who already has legal experience will make you more attractive to the law firms. It shows a willingness to work in a legal career - even if its not directly related to the firm you're applying for.
Before making applications make sure you understand what is actually required of a commercial lawyer. You can find this out by attending law fairs, firm presentations, networking events, connecting with lawyers on LinkedIn. You should be clear about why you want a career in law, and what that would look like for you. Its natural to not know exactly what will be required, but you should have an idea about what lawyers do, what kind of work we assist with, and the strengths (and opportunities) of the law firms you're applying to. Though similar, each law firm will have its own focus which differentiates them from their competitors, so it's useful to know this before making an application to that firm.
What do you know now that you wish you had known when you were applying for jobs?
It's normal not to be accepted on the first round of applications, but through perseverance you'll soon find a role that fits. You'll need a lot patience and will have to learn how to handle rejection. Whilst applying it's important you don't compare your journey to others, some of your peers will likely find jobs much sooner than you, some will be leaving university with a grad role already lined up. Don't let this dishearten you, as long as you continue to gain experience and find a suitable role, you can apply for your preferred role the following cycle.
Keep your options open, what I thought would be my "dream firm" would turn out not to be. Even some of the firms I ended up interviewing at, I was later glad I wasn't training there, for various reasons. Things will work out if you continue to make progress to your long term goals!