Allen & Overy Insight Day

I am delighted to inform you all that I had the pleasure of attending the Allen & Overy Commercial Awareness event in London a couple of weeks ago. Thank you to The Student Lawyer who made it possible! This was an exciting and insightful event, and here is what I made of it.

About the day

The day kicked off with the usual networking in A&O’s conference suite. We were welcomed by Claire Wright, the firms’ Graduate Recruitment Partner who advises clients such as Amazon. Claire gave an

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Outside the A&O London HQ

insightful talk about who A&O are, what sets the firm aside from other magic circle firms, what types of clients they advise and the types of trainees they are looking for.

 

After a short break, we were introduced to Talent & Development Specialist, Madeleine Spence, who gave an enlightening networking skills session focusing on issues such as: the right handshake; use of body language; growing and nurturing your professional network. This was particularly useful as a second year law student with the view of attending future networking events.

Shortly after the skills session, we were introduced to trainees from Banking, Corporate, Tax and International Capital Markets (ICM) to name. I had the opportunity to speak to A&O trainees about their experiences as an aspiring commercial lawyer. From what I had gathered, the trainees really enjoy their work, the people they work with, and the quality of training they receive.

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Program for the day

Although, if one thing can be improved; the firm needs to be more ‘open’ about the way in which partners make decisions. Whilst leaving no stone unturned, generally A&O is an exciting place to work, hard work follows and the trainees are duly rewarded.

 

After lunch, the trainees stayed at our tables to help us with the A&O ‘Business Game’, which looked at the anatomy of a deal. We had the opportunity to apply our commerciality and knowledge of the law to a hypothetical scenario whereby company A sought to take over company B. There were news bulletins, reports and various other artefacts which had to be considered in advising the company. Essentially, this was a due diligence operation which required a level-headed common sense

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More freebies!

approach. Despite this, it was a very intellectually stimulating and enjoyable experience for all of us in the team. I might also add, it was a brilliant opportunity to practice our skills for future assessment centres.

 

The day was closed by Hannah Salton, the Graduate Recruitment Manager at A&O. Hannah was very helpful in explaining issues surrounding the application process including, inter alia, vacation schemes, training contracts, LPC and GDL funding.

BULLETIN for MLaw students. Yes – you are OK to apply to A&O – but it must be noted that the firm likes candidates to attend BPP to complete the MA (LPC with Business) course. I spoke to the course leader at BPP who advised that MLaw students would simply be exempt from having to retake particular LPC modules.

A thought for diversity

As a student who describes themselves as ‘northern and proud’, you can understand that this being my third time travelling to London this year (and in my life) is quite a significant thing for me. Including other factors such as my; accent, state educated background, sexual orientation, and low income 12274379_537418159767781_3946422286969550423_nbackground; making it to a magic circle law firm in the city is my proudest achievement to date.

Although there is still great progress to be made in the industry, and whilst organisations such as Aspiring Solicitors and Rare Recruitment are helping to open doors to individuals from all walks of life, you should never let who you are bring you down! We are always drawing closer to a society which lets individuals pick their own hand of cards. Celebrate your skills, focus on your weaknesses and you will get there. With a little support from your university careers service and other external organisations such as above, that one small drop in the ocean can create waves of opportunities.

Reflections on the day

I am still as excited and passionate about pursuing a career in commercial law. I have had this fantastic eye opening opportunity which has allowed me to ask my questions and get the answers I need to proceed onto applications for further open days and vacation schemes in 2016. Over the short term, I will now need to consider ‘how big’ I am willing to take my career. Can I imagine myself clocking 36 hours of straight working on high profile cases, in potentially what will be the next stage of my career?

Well, next month, I will be attending the NationalLawLive conference at the MOSI in Manchester to have a look at the smaller UK commercial firms based in and around Manchester. I am hoping that I can answer the aforementioned question and ‘sniff out’ the pros and cons of working for the more national firms such as Shoosmiths, Nabarro and Irwin Mitchell.

** Post was written 21st November 2015 – apologise for delay in publication.

The Misconceptions of Aspiring ‘Lawyers’ in the UK

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One thing that really gets on our nerves (collectively as aspiring solicitors) is the misconceptions people have of the legal profession in the UK. This is mainly due to media influence such as television programs and movies, which often overlap the UK and USA legal professions. Let’s set the record straight on the most common misconceptions I have dealt with.

Help! Can you advise me on X and Y legal issue?

Well we are delighted that you came to us for advice, you could have done worse. But please understand this, just because it says ‘Studying LLB Law at University of Central Lancashire’, it does not mean I can get your landlord to see sense, or get your ex-husband to leave you alone. We often feel that people assume that law is just one topic that can be put in one text book, but this is not the case. There are hundreds of areas of law which a person can go on to specialise in, from energy law to property law. We’re like ice cream; available in different flavours.

So do you have to wear a wig?

In terms of law, Section 49 of the Courts and Court Officers Act 1995 abolished the requirement that barristers should wear wigs in court, and solicitors aren’t barristers. A solicitor’s natural habitat is an office or the courts of first instance (if even than). It is very rare that a solicitor is present in court, often because a barrister is instructed to do the dirty work litigation. The solicitor’s responsibility is to get all the facts and evidence together and build the case. The barristers can take it from there and use the information to persuade a court. So in summary, no we wont be wearing wigs, stop watching Law & Order, it’s rubbish and inaccurate!

Will you become a lawyer?

A lawyer is a very generic term, please don’t use it. Because of the tenuous relationship between solicitors and barristers, the professionals don’t like to be chucked into the same box. Yes a lawyer is someone who practices law, but they practice law in different ways. A solicitor is someone who ‘solicits’ with the client, and solicits drawing up wills, contacts, or instructing the barrister. In a medical context, they’re kind of like the GP, and the barrister is the Specialist Doctor. They try to find out what’s best for the client and they do the best they can to prevent a situation from escalating up to the need for litigation. Save for solicitor-advocates (who have done additional training to appear in court).

Why don’t you become a judge when you graduate?

Yes, why didn’t I think of that, a six figure salary sounds perfect! Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. In order to become a judge, you have lots of networking and dogsbody jobs to do. Not only that, but you need to have decades of experience behind you, you need to have been a lawyer (solicitor/barrister ahem), and you need to know the right people. Yes guys, I am afraid REED was lying to you when they implicitly told you that you could become a judge by putting up your CV online.

You’re scum of the earth, how could you represent a crook!

In a perfect world everyone has justice in mind. But in this very gritty industry, the more money you have the greater the injustice you can create. Solicitors are bound by codes of practice (click here if you’re really interested), that obligates them to represent their client to the best of their ability and in their client’s best interest. I suppose solicitors are like parking officers, except they are paid a little bit more. It’s a job that needs doing and it puts food on the table for many families. A good question to ask yourself – if a solicitor was to represent their client with bias, would it then actually be the solicitor doing the injustice, and no longer the client? And of course, everyone has their right to a fair trial. So you see, solicitors are just the messengers doing as they’re asked, so please don’t shoot them.

Summarily

  • They don’t do justice – they do what’s best for their clients.
  • You can’t job search to become a judge.
  • Barristers get called to the bar – Solicitors get admitted to the roll.
  • They don’t have to wear wigs, but they still have the black gowns.
  • Oh, and English Courts do not use gavels, come on we’re better than that.

Thank you Stephanie Lomas for helping me in the draft.

Day One

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Day one with Forster Dean Solicitors. Going on four hours sleep, and being up since five (and still going), I am well and truly shattered.

So the commute was a disaster. All-in-all I spent 5 hours commuting, which is almost as long as the day in the office had lasted. I am still outraged by Virgin Trains for announcing changes to a service while closing the doors. I was within an inch of being decapitated, and I’d rather that than be stuck in lovely Scotland!

Well, I feel that it is fair to say that today had brought events which were not what I expected… just as I expected. From walking through the door, you can really appreciate the different environment a high-street firm has to offer as opposed to a big city firm like Shakespeare Martineau. There were only three people in the office today, and there were roughly 5 or 6 desks. I’m still not sure how I feel about this. Although the big city firm environment brought excitement and curiosity, I realise that I should put my first-impressions aside and keep an open mind. Therefore, I will return to this point later in the week.

For the first time I had the pleasure of figuring out what a case-management system is and how it is used. Peter was a delight, and had spent a lot of his time showing me how the system works. To put it shortly, the case management system allows you to create cases and add information about the client, their witnesses, their insurers, the courts, the defendants etcetera. Even more wonderfully, if you’ve entered the data correctly, the information is mail-merged automatically into whatever forms or documents you need to issue. The system also tracks how much time you spend on each task, and automatically charges it (based on hourly rate) to the client’s account.

A lot of the work that Forster Dean carries out is no win / no fee. I managed to wrap my head around this concept by looking at a standard Conditional Fee Agreement (or CFA) which the firm uses. After a thorough read, I conclude that a CFA is a document which basically allocates who pays what if and when, but it should always be read thoroughly and with a great deal of care!

The final activity to mention, and the most enjoyable activity of today, was having the satisfaction of foreshadowing Peter whilst he dealt with clients face to face. The importance of interpersonal skills were reaffirmed – Peter’s clients were made to feel like friends from the moment they walked in to the moment he showed them to the door. Out of the four visits today, one was most unusual; a drop-in from a woman who had trouble with an executor. The woman was clearly in despair, and I fancied I was observing an appointment with a GP or a therapist of that fashion. With the client going into great deal about her stresses, it had occurred to me that Peter has two jobs; solicitor and counsellor. Am I really prepared to be giving people advice on dealing with personal relationships?

#FDS

Vacation Scheme with Forster Dean Solicitors

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Forster Dean Solicitors are a community-based law firm representing individuals in personal injury claims. I’ll be taking a gigantic leap from the commercial based law firms such as Shakespeare Martineau, to see what it’s like dealing with individual clients. I have a great indication that the work will be very different from that which I experienced last month in Birmingham; so I am not exactly sure what to expect. But, as every reasonable law student should, i’m keeping an open mind and like a sponge absorb as much information about the industry as I can.

I’ve costed the week and it lies between £100 to £150, so not cheap! This includes four trains and two buses each day, as well as lunch. This worked out much cheaper than booking a hotel, so sadly I will be doing a 5 hour commute each day. This has been quite frustrating, but you can’t put a price on your future!

As per usual, I plan to keep a regular diary of my time in Leigh. You can follow my updates by searching the tag #FDS here on my blog. Unfortunately the posts will be have to be brief due to client confidentiality. Let’s see how it goes, see you soon!

Volunteering with VictimSupport

Victim-Support-logoWork placements are difficult for any law student to find in such an overly saturated industry. But what I learnt only a few months ago is that any work experience in a team dynamic will definitely boost your applications to any vacation schemes or secondments; and even more so if it’s unpaid work.

Victim Support is a non-profit organisation funded by the Police and Crime Commissioners, which provides a free and confidential service to anyone affected by crime in the country. There case workers are trained in areas from domestic violence to hate crime. Most of the ground work is carried out by their volunteers, and they can’t do the job without us.

I have been volunteering for VS for three months now, and already I have met victims of criminal damage, assault and actual bodily harm. Not only is it engaging my knowledge of criminal law, but developing my listening skills and problem-solving skills. There will always be needs that must be identified to ensure proper service delivery.

I suppose managing case loads and pages and pages of confidential information is not so different from working in a law firm after all. Except we’re paid in that warm and fuzzy inside feeling rather than a 5 figure salary.

Anyway – if you are interested in helping out, Victim Support is regularly taking on board new-starters. Click here to see how you can help.

 

The content of this article is of the views of the author only.

My First Post

MeHello, my name is Ross. I have already completed my first year of the LLB at the University of Central Lancashire. I have been studying Law in Preston for three years now, and I have another three more until I complete my degree. Aside from law, I am a passionate foodie and get my thrills from finding high-street bargains.

Academic Life

Before university, I studied my GCEs at Preston College in Law, Accounting and IT. And before you ask, yes, accounting is very boring! Nether the less, my two years at Preston College really prepared me for University. The college is innovative in industry-thinking; with my law tutor a former solicitor and my accounting tutor a chartered accountant. From the word go, I could map out the career routes that I could pursue.

I am now on track to qualify with a masters degree incorporating the LLB and LPC. This is the MLaw (exempting) degree which will allow me to go straight into a training contract after four years of study. I am really lucky to have the opportunity to study this course; only few providers have been given the thumbs up by the Solicitors Regulation Authority for the MLaw course.

Spare Time

Volunteering is central to my personal and professional development, and I have been spending my summer holidays working with public organisations which pivot on the law. From Citizens Advice Bureau to Morecambe Road Primary School; I now volunteer as a Caseworker for Victim Support. This mainly involves providing emotional, financial, practical and social support for victims of crime.