(Team Lead, Alternative Legal Services – Belfast)
Why did you choose to study law?
I was privileged having amazing teachers at both my primary school and secondary school and I always thought I would be a teacher just like them. I liked the idea of helping others but I also knew I loved problem solving and had an inquisitive mind-set - the law always interested me. How the law worked, how it changed, the impact it had on people, business and life intrigued me. However, the idea of being a solicitor or barrister did not appeal to me but I still wanted to see where studying law would take me. I wrote my personal statement and applied for my law degree at QUB. Why QUB? Firstly, the people (the amazing lecturers you have access to and people you can meet) and secondly, the atmosphere (those gorgeous buildings and I loved Belfast!). QUB was an obvious choice!
Advice and tips for current students? - What did they love about studying at QUB?
I remember starting my law degree and thinking, oh wow, this is so new! University life is full of transitions and it can feel overwhelming; adapting to a completely different mode of teaching and learning an unfamiliar subject. For me, it was also my first time living away from home. However, QUB is a home from home - enjoy the experiences, seek out opportunities and you will not regret it!
What I loved most was the support from my classmates in those late night library sessions. The McClay Library is where I spent a lot of time during my years at QUB and it was probably one of my favourite parts of university life. Sitting with friends, over coffee discussing coursework topics or problem questions late into the night, helping each other through the rough times (maybe it's just bringing someone a little treat from the café) and having as much fun as we could.
How did you end up in Baker McKenzie?
Coming from a small village in Co. Armagh, I never imagined working in one of the top tier global law firms in the world working and meeting global clients! However, I found myself in August 2015, recently graduated, sitting in the brand new office in City Quays 1 where Baker McKenzie had opened their doors just earlier that year. After graduating, I still was not sure if I was ready for the solicitor or barrister route so I applied for a job as a Legal Professional at Baker McKenzie. By reading the job description and having chats in the interview, I felt that this was the perfect fit for me - I wanted to see the workings of a global law firm and to see where I could fit in.
Now, nearly 7 years after that first day, I have experienced so many amazing opportunities and made so many friends globally! Some examples of the type of work I have been involved in are working on multiple large scale investigations; moving to Zurich Switzerland for a six month client secondment to work on a specialist matter involving colleagues from 19 different Baker McKenzie offices; working between both our Belfast and London offices on a corporation and tax matters; and, assisting our New York office on a large scale sanctions investigation. I really have had such a journey with Baker McKenzie! More recently, I have taken up a client secondment giving my excellent commercial experience working directly under the supervision of a client in-house legal team.
My role has changed too. In September 2018, I took up the role of Team Lead within the Contentious Support Group, which has allowed me to have managerial responsibilities, on-boarding new joiners, conducting goal setting discussions and coaching Legal Professionals in their role.
What interesting changes have happened, or are happening in your field?
From starting in 2015 to now, the biggest change I have seen in the legal field is the importance and effectiveness of legal technology. Legal technology, in the form of software applications that assist document review and platforms that allow queries to be run automatically to pull together relevant information. These technologies not only assist us in being able to fulfil our case outcomes, but they add efficiency and cost-effectiveness to our client offering. If you find experience in this field, grasp it! It is going to grow and grow and grow!
What is important during selection/recruitment, or to demonstrate at a job interview?
Interviews are about us getting to know the candidate, so as clichéd as this may sound, be yourself. One piece of advice I was given was, "you won't be nervous if you know what you're talking about" so refresh your memory of your academic and personal story, the reasons why you want to be a part of our Firm and what excites you about a career with us. This will mean you do not feel nervous talking about yourself and telling us why you are here today!
Do extracurricular activities matter? (in bolstering a student’s CV)
I mentioned above the opportunities that are on offer to a QUB student. Seek out those opportunities and enjoy the experience they offer! This may be in the form of joining a club, starting a new language, collaborating with others in your field and starting a new initiative. Extra-curricular activities will help you build on your own skills, and enhance your own abilities. From social skills, to innovation skills, to networking opportunities, extra-curricular activities will definitely contribute to your development. Employers like Baker McKenzie are looking for not only individuals who can demonstrate strong academic interests and results, but also individuals who can bring fresh ideas to the table. Many employers also have their own internal committees to come up with new initiatives and forge wider policy commitments to inclusion, diversity and sustainability, so why not show them how you can contribute by demonstrating how your wider extracurricular activities can help!