I graduated in 2002 with a degree in modern history and politics, but it was only quite late on that I decided I wanted to pursue a career in law. I wanted to do a job that challenged me mentally, but I never felt that I had an entrepreneurial spirit. I’m very happy to be doing challenging work assisting entrepreneurs in what they do.
When I was applying for training contracts, the big attraction about Pinsent Masons was the fact that one of the people who interviewed me was exactly the sort of person I felt I’d like to be in ten or so years’ time – interesting, engaging, really positive and enthusiastic. I didn’t get that feeling from other firms – being friendly and approachable is something we’re really quite good at.
I work in the Banking & Restructuring team as a transactional lawyer, documenting loans, mostly for the main UK clearing banks. Because I’m relatively junior I cover a wide variety of work, including real estate finance, acquisition finance and project finance such as building schools and hospitals. A personal highpoint was when I was sent on secondment to Barclays global headquarters in London. It was really illuminating to work directly with clients as part of their team – having coffee and lunch together, day in, day out. There’s no substitute for it if you want to understand them as people. It’s definitely made me a better lawyer.
My career hasn’t exactly panned out as expected. I did my training in the boom years, and qualified in the week of the run on Northern Rock. Basically, I’ve spent the last four years immersed in a number of banking sector crises. It was a very stressful time for everyone – for a few months, you just did not know what the market was going to do next. But then, it’s also presented new opportunities – like working on re-structuring deals and businesses’ efforts to raise cash. It’s been an interesting journey, you could say…
What makes a good trainee? Two things – enthusiasm and a willingness to learn. You’ve got to be up for it, embrace the work and take the rough with the smooth to an extent. There’s a misconception that you can’t make any mistakes as a trainee and I think that's wrong. Making mistakes is a great way of learning – but the key is not to repeat them!