Howard Kennedy’s Alexander Wood discusses his busy work-life and making the step from paralegal to associate
Howard Kennedy associate Alexander Wood says the draw to qualify into capital markets came naturally to him. “On a very basic level, I decided that transactional work was more for me than disputes — and every other seat on my training contract had an element of disputes to it,” Wood explains. But it wasn’t just a process of elimination — Wood confesses that he genuinely enjoys the work and loves the typical client base of a capital markets lawyer, be it company founders or financial institutions.
Wood started life as paralegal at the firm before going on to secure a training contract. “As you can imagine, the paralegal work is fairly admin-heavy,” he explains, but it helped that his supervisor was supportive and “quickly got him doing more advanced things”. He attended various real estate training sessions which allowed him to get more involved and develop a deeper appreciation for this area of law. “Although I didn’t end up in real estate, I did actually quite enjoy it,” Wood says.
So how did this experience help him secure a training contract at Howard Kennedy? Leveraging paralegalling experience to get a TC depends on what you make of it, according to Wood, who qualified in 2021. “If you take an interest in how the firm operates, particularly in terms of how the billables work and how that translates into profits, then it’s quite useful being at the firm already,” Wood says. “You already have a good understanding of what the firm is aiming for and what the culture is like.” Additionally, Wood remarked “I suppose weirdly, the fact that I was familiar with the building and didn’t have to worry about logistics — travel, for example — helped me feel more comfortable at the assessment centre.”
Nowadays, as a more junior member of the capital markets team, Wood tries to keep his practice quite broad. “I often ask to get involved in M&A deals as well, which the department is very open to. If slightly more niche work comes through our door, I always ask to get involved.” Speaking of his day-to-day, Wood notes that the markets have been fairly quiet of late — a trend seen across many firms — so there hasn’t been too many company IPOs that have come his way. But he remains busy with the firm’s funds practice, comprised predominantly of venture capital trusts and investment trusts. “These are big projects and raise lots of money each year, and Howard Kennedy represents a large number of them – it’s very exciting to be a part of,” he says.
Wood is also heavily involved in the business development side of things — something the firm really encourages. “I’m often out and about, speaking with business founders and helping them in their efforts to raise funding,” says Wood. “One day these businesses will get to the stage where they want to expand – or even float — and this will hopefully lead to ‘big-ticket’ work for the firm. The founders believe so strongly in what they are doing, and it’s nice to be able to help them raise money to realise their vision.”
For those wondering what kind of work BD entails, Wood outlines that it’s largely about networking. “One side of it is about keeping current clients happy by making the effort to take them out to lunch or drinks if we’re doing a deal with them,” he explains. “The second is about hosting events with other corporate finance teams to get your name out as much as possible.” It certainly helps that Howard Kennedy is “very encouraging about BD involvement” and that the people you meet through this are “generally good fun,” Wood adds.
His advice to future trainees seeking to follow in his footsteps is to be open to the various aspects of a capital markets practice — it’s not just listing companies on the stock market. “There’s other parts, like off market fundraising, and there will never not be founders who are trying to raise money, so there’s lots of interesting things to be getting involved with even if you’re not doing the big-ticket stuff on the London Stock Exchange,” he says. “Financial regulation will always be something that people need lawyers for, a particularly hot topic at the moment is dealing with crypto form a regulatory perspective.”
If you find yourself in a capital markets team on a vacation scheme and are confused about the countless acronyms floating around, Wood offers this top tip; ask for the firm’s trainee introduction pack to capital markets (if they have one). “There’s this assumption on vac schemes where people think that they’re not as good as a trainee would be, but that’s not quite true in capital markets. If you’re a trainee in your first week in capital markets, you’re pretty much in the same boat as a vac schemer because the LPC doesn’t really cover anything in the Capital Markets world,” he says.
Wood is also incredibly positive about his time working at Howard Kennedy. “It’s got a really nice culture, with quite a family feel to it”, he says. The firm’s encouragement of BD is a huge draw for him, as he loves speaking to people and building his client base, with partner support for new ideas from juniors also being very rewarding. “Although we are spread over 6 floors , I feel like I know a lot of people from across the firm. It’s very important to the partners that there’s a work-life balance, and there is always decent recognition of work that is done,” Wood tells me.
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