LLB1 student, Ghazi, reviews a talk by Robert Sutton (Senior Adviser at Macfarlanes) about the City legal market, past, present, and future, in which Robert shared some of his experiences of City Law.
Robert divided his talk into categories:
A. At the firm
B. Information about the law firm
C. Qualities which a lawyer should have
A – At the firm:
When doing interviews, Robert expresses how important it is for you as an applicant to be proactive and ask the firm questions.
Thus being confident is very important. Here are a few examples of questions you could pose to the firm:
1. What is training like?
2. The impact of outsourcing adopted by the law firms on young lawyers/trainees: Keep in mind how important Outsourcing is in terms of increasing efficiency and cutting costs.
3. What is the turnover? Keep in mind, the higher the worse.
4. Where do profits go? Are they ‘retained’ back into the firm? If yes ask by how many percent, if not ask why?
-Talk to participating solicitors at the firm:
This helps you to see the firm through the eyes of the lawyers (generally, this is a more accurate approach). Ask them of how they’re treated? Do partners treat trainees well? This helps in assessing the motivation and atmosphere of the firm.
B – About the firm:
-Is the firm domestic or international?
Robert suggests that domestic law firms are sometimes more successful than international ones, and urges students not to get brainwashed by the ‘international is better’ mantra.
– Does the firm have offices abroad?
Where? Why have they opened there? Keep in mind that some international firms offer a 6-months abroad scheme throughout the two year contract, you get the chance to see how laws in different regions of the world apply and compare it to English or domestic law.
C – Qualities that a lawyer should have:
1. Close reading and understanding
a) Knowing the law (Statutes and…)
c) Expertise in Contracts
2. Writing in a professional and legal manner: “this will develop through experience”.
3. Intellectual ability – clever
4. Ability to work in a team
5. Treating people well
6. Learn from your Mistakes:
a) Knowing not to make the same mistake twice
b) Firms insure for your mistakes
7. “Switch-off: Don’t overstress, take some time out after a long day”.
D- Listening & Communication:
– Never fear saying the words “I don’t know”.
– Listen to clients: Don’t ‘assume’, ask if clarification is needed.
– Work hard
– When advising, “don’t go too deep” – Clients don’t want to hear what you learned, identify their problem, and give them: concise, clear, and straight to the point advice. Don’t waffle around!.
E – Payment:
Payment is for legal advice NOT business advice
– “Stay within the rails”
– Become a trusted advisor through being a lawyer (be a lawyer first then an advisor).
– Demonstrate your enthusiasm and knowledge
F – Money!
– Never focus on getting rich
-Do what you like, not what pays you more: Doing what you like will last you longer in that field, thus eventually getting more money than if doing something you hate (most probably you will not last long with it).
-Don’t listen to everything you read from publications –especially how much money or profit firm X or Y made.
G – Gossip:
Robert: “It is tempting… many people do it… but don’t… It will cost you…”
-Keep in mind confidentiality of law firms
-Create an impression of trustworthiness. Clients should trust you, if they don’t, it’s your loss. What makes a lawyer successful is gaining trust from clients.
-Honest assessment from law firms
-Never limit yourself to a specific sector or field, “don’t specialize at first… You’ll be limiting yourself, get exposed to the various sectors of law (there are many)”… Decide your specialization after assessing your experiences and relating them to your interests.
-Assess the future of city law-firms
– Now, there are many mergers taking place.
Robert seemed very optimistic of the development of English law, stating that there are many “well run firms, whiich is a very good thing”, He declared that the sector of law is widening as it is becoming more attached to the world of business.
Robert started his career as a private client lawyer, and concludes by stating the key qualities which make this different from being an ‘ordinary lawyer’: “Being more patient, as advice is given on transactions, deals, and contracts”.
In conclusion, Robert’s talk was very interesting; he touched on specific matters which we as students haven’t been exposed to yet. This made his speech special, and played a great part in giving us a clearer picture of what the sector of law, looks and feels like. Robert focused on giving us the taste of law outdoors, and what we as students shall expect when starting our career in the wider world.
Thanks to Ghazi AbuYounis, a first year law student at the City Law School, for this events reporting. Ghazi, as an asipring lawyer, is keen to learn more about the legal sector, and has kindly agreed to attend events and write them up for the Future Lawyer blog. For any clarification or request for further information, please email Ghazi.