Since starting the @londonlawstudent account over on Instagram, I have received various requests to go into my journey of how I got a techlaw training contract at Clifford Chance. One of the common asks that I receive is to talk a little bit more about my journey from education, work experiences to finally receiving the offer.
Over a series of posts, I have been sharing The London Law Student Journey Series and going into detail as I talk about each one:
So with that let’s continue with the second part of three. This post goes into my work experience during law school. To keep up with the links to the subsequent parts, keep an eye out on this link:https://lifeofalondonlawstudent.com/work-experience/
Table of Contents:
Faced with only weeks until graduation, no job and the prospect of having to move back home to Manchester, I received a timely LinkedIn message asking if I was free for a chat. Through the work I was doing posting on tech, my profile had popped up as a random recommendation. After various applications to other startups, that’s how I got my first job in Fintech. A timely LinkedIn message.
I would like to note here as a law student or young professional, to not underestimate the importance of having a good professional online presence when you’re first starting out. You never know who is looking or the opportunities that might come across your inbox.
Finding My feet in Fintech
My role at FundApps was multifaceted over the years and one of the biggest learning curves that threw me for a loop. As part of the Content Team, my main task involved reading financial major shareholding disclosure regulations from Allen and Overy. These regulations mainly covered the major shareholding, short-selling, investment restrictions and take-over panel regimes.
For each of these regimes, I would code the often lengthy and complicated provisions into a software as a service solution. The various rules that comprised this service were then used by the world’s largest asset managers, funds and financial institutions to monitor their compliance positions automatically. We essentially made compliance simple, by telling them when and how they had to disclose to the relevant regulator in over 95 jurisdictions for a wide range of financial instruments and specialist rules.
I was also in charge of a few key projects such as coding the disclosure documents that needed to be submitted to regulators from the Securities and Exchange Commission, ESMA to the Financial Conduct Authority.
Through my work, clients were able to then auto-populate the disclosure forms with the required information that needed to be disclosed across their various holdings in their portfolios. All in all, I was a part of a team that helped to create a library of over 400+ rules and 150+ automated documents that made complying with complex financial regulations simple.
This was definitely a pivotal job for me as I had to pick up new skills that may not naturally come to someone who had studied Law at undergrad. They supported me as I learned how to code on the job as well as learning technical financial knowledge and building my expertise here. To say it was like being hit with an information truck, was an understatement, there was so much for me to learn at the beginning.
By nature of working in a startup for nearly 3 years, I was exposed to a number of different roles as my tasks were varied, from client support, coding to product development. With time I learnt the essential skill here of getting things done and not asking for permission to find the one right answer.
From Fintech to Legaltech
As mentioned in my extracurricular activities post, a year after graduation I entered my original dissertation from my final year at UCL into a competition run by the International Association of Young Lawyers. Ultimately, I won with my dissertation which focused on the effect of technology on the law and the legal profession. I was named Best International Future Lawyer and flown to Japan for that year’s annual conference to pick up my award. It was here that I slowly began to be sure that legaltech was definitely the niche I wanted to excel in if ever I was to become a practising lawyer or as an alternative career. After Japan, I began thinking again about where I would apply and I tried to find firms that were talking about innovation.
In 2018, that’s how I ended up doing my second ever vacation scheme at Mishcon De Reya. The process was definitely one of the most difficult I’d ever gone through as there were so many stages. So it was such a nice surprise to find that I had succeeded and got to the vacation scheme stage after not really applying to anything since 2015.
Ultimately I had shortlisted Mishcon in that round of applications due to the emerging focus that they had in tech from their in-house innovation incubator MDR Lab, to how they structured the business to invest in future alternative models such as investing in their cybersecurity team.
Overall it was a really good experience because while I did not get an offer, in the end, it definitely helped me to know how to better approach my Clifford Chance vacation scheme this year. I had been able to learn from my feedback and tried to do my best based on that.
Leading in Legaltech
As well as my normal job, for nearly four years, I’ve also been involved with the Society for Computers and Law. This is a charity that is committed to educating on the intersection between technology and law, making it accessible for all. Over the years I have had the pleasure of meeting and working alongside figures such as Richard Susskind and various Supreme Court judges.
My role here was initially as a student ambassador but over time and due to my commitment to this subject area, giving talks on topics such as the rule of law in the digital age, I was invited to join the Advisory Board.
My main role includes advising on the future of the society, events we could host and ensuring that in our programme we provide opportunities for future and junior lawyers to gain practical experience and interaction with this area of the law. One of my proudest achievements was being able to gain support from the board to introduce the annual Student Tech Law Competition that provides law students and graduates the chance to gain commercial awareness skills and through legal tech-based challenges.
As well as this, I was also able to contribute as an author to the latest edition of the Cyber Crime: Law and Practice, practitioner’s book. Further adding to the various events and initiatives that I had been involved in since graduation.
AI and the legal Profession
As mentioned, after nearly three years at FundApps, I knew I wanted to be more involved in legaltech. As a result, at the beginning of the year, I started working at ThoughtRiver, helping to train artificial intelligence to read commercial contracts and provide a pre-screening review of those agreements. Essentially it makes the first review of agreements easier by providing lawyers with a risk analysis based on their playbook of risk that then allows them to know where to focus, saving them time. Alongside this, I also manage client accounts on the platform, training my users and ensuring that they are receiving value from the platform.
From Legaltech to Tech Training Contract
It was with this background and experience over time, that I think I was able to put forward a strong case for the Clifford Chance IGNITE Training Contract when the opportunity came. For the last 3 years, I had continually been involved in legaltech in one way or another and I was able to really demonstrate why I was suitable for this. As well as that, just having experience of past vacation schemes as well as being a professional in tech, I was able to handle the process better than when I had been applying back in my second year. My commercial awareness was better through practical experience, my “why law” was even stronger and I was now more sure that this was a route that I wanted to pursue than when I was in law school.
Examples from my successful applications
FundApps (500 words)
My current employer approached me for this role as a result of my work writing about legal tech for the SCL and on the issue of diversity in The Times’ The Brief. Despite having no financial background or any coding experience, due to my ability to grasp technical concepts and systems, I was able to rapidly progress so that my role now far exceeds my initial responsibilities.
Currently, I transform natural language in the form of major shareholding disclosure regulations, provided by aosphere (Allen & Overy), into code using a SQL-like domain-specific language. This work then informs and automates the process of how some of the world’s largest asset managers and financial institutions disclose to regulators in over 94 jurisdictions. As well as coding and delivering solutions, as part of the Content Team, I am required to consider my work in the broader context of the team and the wider business. This entails daily stand-ups alongside weekly evaluations using tools such as Kanban to prioritise our work for clients and when delivering work for the client services team and the developers.
Beyond just being a lawyer, I know that my experience of working in a start-up environment has enabled me to develop various transferable skills which I will be able to translate and bring to the Ignite programme successfully. For example, I have successfully redesigned my team’s onboarding process and internal training, as well as being entrusted with developing external product training for clients. This has allowed me to convey in-depth knowledge of the service both internally and to end-users.
More recently, I was selected to form a cross-functional team falling under the Product team. Through this, I was able to encourage dialogue within my organisation, champion the resulting ideas, and advocate for my team’s solutions to be adopted. Through my ability to encourage consensus when doing design sprints and contributing to a team, I further developed my product management skills, understanding of tools and the process of iterating on ideas. As a leading member of the team, I was then able to deliver new products and functionality for clients by employing user mapping stories informed by market research to arrive at the most viable solution.
I am confident that as well as bringing my academic legal skills, I have the practical and technical ability that is needed to bridge the gap between the work that lawyers do, but also advocating for and developing practical technological solutions that lawyers understand and can use in delivering more for clients. While working at FundApps, I have become more adaptable, I have been able to take ownership of my work, and I have been able to get things done, and I believe these skills will be invaluable in helping and being a part of shaping the success of Ignite.
Society for Computers and Law (500 words)
The Society for Computers and Law is the leading UK organisation for legal professionals advising and practising within the IT sector. It is a registered educational charity that seeks to cultivate discussion and provide foundational and advanced training at the intersection of information technology and law. I currently sit alongside partners from various firms and academics such as Richard Susskind.
I was initially highly commended by the SCL for my essay which explored whether the courts should protect the functionality versus the source code of the software. As a result of my ability to write persuasively, I was invited to join the Editorial Advisory board where I contributed by; reviewing the latest books published in legal tech and informing the committee on ways of raising interest and awareness of IT Law as a subject, legal speciality and career to the next generation of lawyers through engaging content.
Building on this, I also suggested the creation of the SCL Student Ambassadors scheme whereby students who are also passionate about the effects of technology on the law and the legal profession, champion this cause, and the SCL, across universities within the United Kingdom. As a result of this, I was invited to form the board committee that was created for the Student Ambassador programme to help coordinate efforts and to see through my ideas for the scheme. The most significant success came when we hosted the first Student Tech Law Challenge where over 94 teams competed, and more students signed up to be a part of the ambassador scheme.
Earlier last year, I had also suggested to the board that a way of raising its profile amongst students was to host an event aimed at students and advocated for this idea, including proposing a name and the format that the event should take. Over the year, I was able to see this idea being fleshed out and worked on by various key stakeholders from the trustees’ board who ultimately had the final say.
I was honoured therefore when the director approached me and asked if I would be a speaker on the panel of the event which was held at Reed Smith last November. It was even more rewarding as the event was sold out and we have subsequently received encouraging feedback that aspiring lawyers are interested in this area of law. This was building on my experiences speaking on the “Young, Gifted and Black Professionals” panel at Keele University for Black History Month.
As a recent graduate myself, it is satisfying that despite my age, I am valued for the experience that I have gained from working in a fintech start-up were I have been afforded with great responsibilities, and that these experiences can help other young lawyers like me to be encouraged that there is a space for them in the sphere of tech-law.
As a result of my contributions to the SCL over the last year, I was recently promoted and invited to sit on the main Advisory Board alongside various experts from different sectors ranging from the national museums to the Royal Society. Overall, I believe that I will be able to seamlessly apply my transferable skills gained through my day job, whilst also leveraging the relationships and knowledge that I have gained through the SCL to be successful, confident and compelling in championing innovation at Clifford Chance through Ignite.
Mishcon de Reya (500 words)
During my time at Mishcon De Reya, I was able to confirm that pursuing an alternative career in legal tech is what I am interested in. Through this experience, I was able to understand the importance of while I may be largely interested in an alternative career in legal tech, this must be balanced with the practical day-to-day current reality of what it means to be a lawyer. I believe that the experience equipped me with the ability to reflect on this current dichotomy between balancing innovation and the traditional aspects of the profession.
I believe that this unique understanding gained through my time on the vacation scheme will allow me to be successful as an Ignite trainee because whilst it is important to be innovative, one must also be able to bring practical solutions that make sense for the law firm as a business, and also for the lawyers who have to use the solutions when delivering value for clients.
This insight was gained through the various work that I was able to contribute to and the people that I was able to communicate with within the firm, from the lawyers I worked with and the new innovative teams such as those within their in-house technology incubator, the MDR Lab.
As well as exploring how the firm was meeting the challenge of innovation, I was able to make key contributions during my time on the scheme. For example, I was tasked with researching a key question around the process of filing a Suspicious Activity Report. This was vital as it would determine how the litigation process would eventually be funded, particularly given that the parties were across jurisdictions, it was important to be able to find a basis for the funds to be held in the United Kingdom.
Due to my work, I was able to assist the partner leading the case in finding a basis which was essential for their argument. This task was key as it demonstrated the various factors that affect the litigation process but also, the satisfaction of being able to deliver a piece of work that contributes to the whole. It also required me to step out of my comfort zone and employ new skills, due to the fact that having worked in the financial technology sector for over two years, the skills and approaches and detail required when delivering work differ. Again, this gave me a realistic idea of how to balance my interest and skills gained working in technology, but to be able to reflect on how one can successfully apply this within the context of a law firm.
Whilst I was only there for a short while, this experience confirmed that I value being able to make useful contributions and being trusted with the responsibility to do so, a skill that I feel I would be able to further develop as an Ignite trainee.
Hopefully, through the London Law Student Journey series, you’ve been able to gain some encouragement. For me, all of this didn’t happen overnight. Through trying my best in the face of uncertainty, failing hard, and being encouraged by mentors and family, I was able to keep going and iterating each time towards my goal. It was tough at times, and at many points I was still unsure if I was good enough or if ever I would make it.
But as with many things in life, the only thing you can ever really control in any given circumstance is how you approach or react to events. Do your best to learn from the setbacks and fail upwards. You’ll be surprised how far you’ve come when you look back.
I hope you have enjoyed hearing about one route into law. Do let me know in the comments below if you have any questions.
To follow the other parts of this journey, please see the below.