Lawyers and industry experts share insights on a range of commercial law topics
Legal Cheek and The University of Law (ULaw)’s Summer Virtual Vacation Scheme and Law Fair took place over a week this month.
Over 1,650 students took part in the Scheme, which explored different practice areas including legal tech, insurance, fraud and ESG, among others. Here’s our day-by-day account of the Scheme, which featured a series of short talks, workshops and Q&As, with case studies set by ULaw, alongside an Employability Expo, Law Fair and networking with future trainees.
Session 1: Deals
• Daniel Burnand, senior associate at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner
• Adam Hill, associate at Fried Frank
• Chris Carlisle, ULaw tutor and former lawyer at firms including Wedlake Bell, Charles Russell Speechlys and Dentons
What students learnt:
The aim of the first day of the scheme was to explore the two different types of legal work lawyers do: deals and disputes.
This first session focused on deals and the participants heard from current and former transactional lawyers at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, Fried Frank and ULaw.
The panel reflected on their career journeys and shared insights into their day-to-day, the interesting deals they’ve worked on as well as the process involved from start to finish. They also shared advice to those considering a career on this side of legal practice as well as the skills that make a good deals lawyer, which include being “organised” and able to manage lots at once.
They also opened up about some of the challenging aspects of their job. Daniel Burnand and Chris Carlisle spoke about work/life balance and the challenges associated with the unpredictable, yet enjoyable, nature of the work. Adam Hill, meanwhile, discussed his challenge of dealing with dyspraxia and advised students with a disability to speak with firms they apply to and seek adjustments where available.
Session 2: Disputes
What students learnt:
In the afternoon session on day one of the scheme attention turned to disputes and we heard from two Willkie Farr lawyers based in the US firm’s London office: Kristjana Nikolls, an associate in the litigation team, and Harry Buchanan, a current trainee.
The pair discussed the different tasks undertaken by partners, associates and trainees during the litigation process. A partner, for example, will manage the client and fees as well as make wider strategic decisions relating to the case. Associates will cover the day-to-day running of the matter while trainees will review disclosure, complete first draft witness statements and build and maintain bundles.
Nikolls and Buchanan also took students through the various stages of the litigation process, from particulars of claims through to disclosure and witness statements and, if required, a trial at court.
During the Q&A the pair looked at some of the motivators for wanting to work in disputes — as opposed to non-contentious areas such as deals. They also cited high-quality training and work as just two of the reasons they chose to be lawyers at Willkie, which recruits around six trainees each year.
The session concluded with a brief discussion of the case study. This involved a dispute between a restaurateur and a wholesale spice delivery company experiencing global supply chain issues.
Session 3: Legal tech
What students learnt:
In this session, the Gowling WLG speakers delivered a joint presentation exploring the themes of technology and innovation within law firms. They started off by shedding light on Gowling WLG and the firm’s CoLab innovation spaces, which allow for increased collaboration between clients, lawyers and teams.
The presenters then discussed the booming legal tech market and touched upon the importance of technology in law firms for tasks like billing, record keeping and accounting. They also shared their thoughts on developing an innovation mindset, which included tips such as acting in a human-centered way and embracing uncertainty. The speakers rounded off the session by describing what a typical day at work looks like for them.
At the end of the workshop, we were joined by ULaw’s Patrick Grant, who shared his experience with artificial intelligence (AI) in the legal education space. The panel also discussed their thoughts on the case study designed by scheme partner ULaw, which was all about the deployment of neural network-based tools, and posed topical questions on AI explainability and data privacy.
Session 4: Employability Expo
Rounding off day two of the scheme was an Expo run by members of ULaw’s employability team. The team delivered four presentations, and here’s what they discussed:
Firm research and applications
• Chloe Warsop, senior student recruitment manager at ULaw
ULaw senior student recruitment manager Chloe Warsop stressed the importance of law firm research and how this separates candidates simply looking to secure a training contract from those looking to build a career with a particular firm.
Key considerations when selecting firms include practice area focus, size of firm, training contract structure and firm values and culture. Warsop also pointed to The Legal Cheek Firms Most List as a useful resource when it comes to undertaking research.
• John McKeown, careers consultant at ULaw
ULaw careers consultant John McKeown shared his top tips for tackling both virtual and in-person interviews, including the different types of questions that interviewees should anticipate, as well as some useful techniques to practise in advance.
The fundamentals of the SQE
• Daniel Cowan, SQE1 lead at ULaw
ULaw SQE1 lead Daniel Cowan discussed the new two-part Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) including content and how it is examined. He also went through some mock questions as well as their answers and explained how ULaw’s new SQE revision app can help students.
Social media skills
• Tim Carter, supervising solicitor & pro bono coordinator at ULaw
ULaw supervising solicitor & pro bono coordinator Tim Carter gave students an insight into the opportunities and potential pitfalls of social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. He shared how to create meaningful content and connections through these platforms and emphasised the importance of considering your posts from the perspective of your target audience.
Session 5: Risk and insurance
What students learnt:
During the morning session on day three of the scheme, Legal Cheek hosted a panel of trainee solicitors from Clyde & Co. The panel discussed their roles and responsibilities within the insurance sector.
Dianne Worthington kicked the session off with an animated presentation charting her career journey from the bar to her training contract, reminding students of the importance of finding the right work for them.
Tad Adamek’s talk outlined his seats so far and gave insight into construction professional indemnity and corporate insurance, before comparing and contrasting his experiences in these areas.
Then we heard from Neide Lemos and Sarah Brice, who are also career changers. Lemos described her experience in two insurance-related seats: financial institutions and property recovery. Then Brice told us how she leveraged ten years of previous experience as a claims handler for Lloyds into a training contract with Clyde & Co.
The session concluded with a brief discussion of the case study, debating the validity of an insurance claim where previous disclosure was limited.
Session 6: Law Fair
Halfway through the Scheme students took part in a virtual Law Fair in which they met with lawyers and graduate recruitment teams from 40 law firms, including the Magic Circle, US and international law firms.
Session 7: Understanding the relationship between in-house and private practice
What students learnt:
In this session, lawyers from Reed Smith and Shell explained the key differences between working in private practice at a law firm and in a legal team at a large company, and explored the relationship between them.
Shell’s Scott Hyndman said that, in contrast to private practice, when working in-house your only client is the company that you’re working for. In practice, this means providing more strategic advice to the business at the inception of a deal, his colleague, Emily McKinnell, added.
Reed Smith partner Simone Goligorsky highlighted the importance of building informal connections with clients, getting to know them on a personal basis, while Terry Prempeh, an associate at the firm, said that by consistently doing your best work, you are improving the rapport that your firm builds with its clients.
Session 8: ESG
What students learnt:
Slaughter and May partner David Watkins kicked off the Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) session by delivering a presentation alongside associate Helena Cameron. This offered a brief introduction to the ESG framework and how it impacts the work they do. They also discussed the key ESG topics that businesses are thinking about in 2023, including greenwashing claims, supply chain due-diligence and corporate reporting.
The case study for this session looked at ESG considerations in relation to wider economic trends such as rising interest rates and energy costs. Gareth Bramley, senior tutor at ULaw, who joined the panel for this part of the session, reflected on whether businesses — including law firms– will lessen their focus on ESG credentials and operate in a way that facilitates businesses to deliver goods and services without creating additional obstacles. However, Bramley noted ESG credentials are likely to remain important in attracting and retaining junior lawyers.
Session 9: Fraud
In this session former Magic and Silver Circle partner Robert Hunter reflected on his 35-year career as a civil fraud and asset tracing lawyer.
Hunter came to specialise in this area as a result of going profoundly deaf, which forced him to go out and build his own practice independently. He primarily acted for claimants against professional fraudsters, and shared numerous anecdotes from his time in practice. During his talk, Hunter outlined the different types of injunction orders which could be sought from a court to prevent a defendant fraudster from improperly dealing with money.
Hunter’s presentation was followed by a discussion of the case study exercise, which required students to outline the relevant UK legislation in relation to fraud and asset tracing, and research the growing nature of cyber enabled fraud.
Session 10: The history of corporate law business
• Alan Paul, former Allen & Overy partner, freelance consultant and professional coach
• Alex Aldridge, publisher and founder of Legal Cheek
Former Allen & Overy partner Alan Paul looked back on how corporate law firms had evolved over the last 40 years in a conversation with Legal Cheek publisher Alex Aldridge.
Paul, one of the most renowned legal dealmakers of his generation, took the audience on a whistle-stop tour of how the world has changed since he qualified as a solicitor in 1980.
Among the major developments covered were Thatcher’s 1986 Big Bang of City of London deregulation, the recession of the early 1990s, the dotcom bubble, the collapse of investment bank Lehman Brothers and the post-financial crisis era of low interest rates that has recently begun to unwind.
Networking: Meet the ULaw future trainees
• Rachel Chow, ULaw student and future trainee at White & Case
• Katie Toolan, ULaw student and future trainee at Pinsent Masons
• Apolloniya Vlasova, ULaw student and future trainee at Mishcon de Reya
• Darren Broad, ULaw student and future trainee at Clyde & Co
For this final networking session, attendees spoke to four future trainees, who are also current students and student ambassadors at ULaw, across two networking booths.
They answered the students’ questions about studying at ULaw, advice for applications, interviews and vacation schemes, as well as what they can do to help them secure training contracts with top law firms.
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