Getting to grips with areas of law: the Macfarlanes perspective

There’s a wealth of practice areas out there for qualified lawyers, and you will likely experience some on your training contract, but it’s hard to get a real sense of exactly what each one involves. Ahead of Macfarlanes’ Practice Area Open Day, where you will have the opportunity to speak to each of their practice areas, we spoke to six lawyers at the firm. We gained an insight into their day-to-day responsibilities and found out a bit more about what life is like at Macfarlanes.

  • Last updated Nov 18, 2018 5:00:31 PM
  • Article Provided by Macfarlanes
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Corporate and M&A

Francesca Wilson is a solicitor in the corporate and M&A practice area at Macfarlanes. She qualified in March 2018.

What are your day-to-day responsibilities?
A senior solicitor in corporate and M&A negotiates the key transaction documents with lawyers on the other side, while a newly-qualified solicitor will typically be responsible for drafting all of the ancillary documents related to the transaction. It’s important for newly-qualified solicitors to assist more senior solicitors by being on top of the detail of the negotiations (e.g. knowing which documents are agreed, which are still being negotiated and which points are outstanding).

"As a newly-qualified solicitor, you’re given a lot of responsibility; you’re trusted to get things right and make judgement calls."

What’s challenging about corporate and M&A? 
There’s a lot of email traffic in corporate and M&A, as it’s generally a fast-moving practice area with a lot of moving parts. I’m expected to be on top of a lot of elements!

What do you find most rewarding about the practice area?
As a newly-qualified solicitor, you’re given a lot of responsibility; you’re trusted to get things right and make judgement calls. It’s good to know that your colleagues trust you, enabling you to draft documents and negotiate with the other side without always having to seek authorisation.

In three words, how would you describe Macfarlanes?
Collaborative, technical and distinguished.

Finance

Matt Mawson qualified into the finance practice area in September 2017.

What are your day-to-day responsibilities?
The day-to-day responsibilities of a finance lawyer are quite varied. I could be drafting or reviewing finance documents such as facility agreements or debentures, attending meetings, or discussing with clients the terms of new deals. Depending on the type of financing, there’s also a lot of collaboration with other practice areas, such as real estate, tax and corporate and M&A.

What is the most challenging aspect of finance?
You are trusted with running your own matters—the security net you had as a trainee is removed and you’re required to take control. You’re no longer tasked with carrying out isolated tasks such as corporate authorities; clients trust you and expect you to know everything that’s going on with their matter.

And the most rewarding?
The high levels of exposure to clients and responsibility is extremely rewarding. The intensity of working on deals means you’re able to swiftly develop your legal skills and deepen your knowledge of the practice.

What three words would you use to describe Macfarlanes?
Hardworking, collegiate and respected.

Private client

Emma Critchley qualified into the private client practice in September 2017, after joining Macfarlanes as a trainee in 2015.

What made you choose private client law?
I knew that the work would sustain my interest over a long period of time. We provide advice to clients including families and individuals, but no family or individual is the same so the work is varied. Private client law is also highly technical and constantly changing, so it’s necessary to look at the legislation on a day-to-day basis—something I enjoy.

What are your day-to-day responsibilities?
No day is the same! We provide advice to a wide range of clients including individuals, trustees and families on matters such as tax and estate planning, wealth structuring and succession. The clients we advise are predominantly high-net-worth individuals who lead international lives and provide interesting, complex and varied matters to work on. Part of the role is building relationships and rapport with clients to develop and sustain an ongoing relationship. Given the technical nature of the work, part of my role is looking regularly at legislation, undertaking research, then producing client-advice notes.

What’s challenging about the role?
Firstly, the complexity and variety of the work: client circumstances are never the same, so the work is never the same. This is a great learning curve as a solicitor, but it’s quite challenging! Secondly, the law relevant to this practice area is constantly changing, so solicitors must continually develop their knowledge throughout their career.

"The clients we advise are predominantly high-net-worth individuals who lead international lives and provide interesting, complex and varied matters to work on."

And what's rewarding about it?
Firstly, the complexity and variety of work; it’s very technical, interesting and varied on a day-to-day basis. Secondly, I’m very much a people person, so I enjoy the unique experience of working with individuals and families to produce the best outcome for them.

Which three words would you use to describe Macfarlanes, and why?
Collaborative: there’s a team-focused atmosphere at all stages. Even at trainee level, there’s a collaborative environment with everyone wanting to help each other. At the solicitor level, too, we regularly share knowledge in our group and consult one another on matters. We also collaborate on a cross-departmental basis; I regularly work with individuals in other practice areas.

Nurturing: Macfarlanes focuses on the development of individuals; not just as lawyers, but also outside the workplace. Progressing to qualified-lawyer status can be a tough transitionary period, but the ongoing training is excellent. Beyond work, there are opportunities to get involved with other activities including music and language lessons.

Motivating: the quality of work and clients at Macfarlanes is exceptional. The work is interesting and varied, and this motivates me on a day-to-day basis.

Tax

Robert Clarke qualified in September 2016, so has worked in the tax-practice area for just over two years.

Why tax law?
I sat in a range of practice areas during my training contract, and found that when you really try to understand a transaction, the answers are often tax-related. I thought that qualifying into this practice area would give me the best understanding of why we do things the way we do them.

What are your day-to-day responsibilities?
My responsibilities include advising clients on a wide range of transactions. Often, we take a structuring mandate and sometimes we play a more supporting role, giving specialist advice alongside other practice areas.

What is the most challenging aspect of tax?
The complexity and volume of the law involved. When you qualify, you’re given seven thick volumes of tax legislation and you’re expected to be able to advise on all of it, which can be overwhelming! After a while, you find you’re encountering the same things again and again and you’re quickly able to pick up on what’s relevant to your clients, so it’s not so bad.

What’s rewarding about it?
As a tax lawyer, you’re very quickly the expert in the room, and you are trusted to advise on technical issues. This means that you can clearly see how your advice can change the shape of a transaction, which can be very rewarding, especially as a junior lawyer.

Which three words would you use to describe Macfarlanes, and why?
Flexible: there’s a real opportunity at Macfarlanes to explore areas of law that interest you. If you make your interests known, you will be given the opportunity to pursue them.

Challenging: you do have to work hard here to be a successful solicitor, and work to a very high level. This can be daunting as a junior, but it’s what helps you to develop.

Quality: the people you work with at Macfarlanes, the work you do and the clients you do it for are generally of a very high calibre. That’s something we’re known for in the legal market.

Litigation

Richard Hoggart qualified into Macfarlanes’ litigation practice area in 2016.

Why litigation?
I enjoyed the style of work in this practice area, as well as the team I work with.

What do you do on a day-to-day basis?
I’m involved in preparing a case from start to finish—a lengthy and multi-faceted process. Day-to-day, this could involve drafting correspondence to the other side, liaising with clients, internal meeting to discuss strategy, reviewing evidence, drafting court documents—just generally progressing the case in whichever way is needed. Then as cases approach trial, there’s always a lot of last-minute prep to ensure we’re ready to go before a judge.

"When you’ve been in court, with your team of barristers, and gone toe-to-toe with the other side in a case spanning months or even years—winning is extremely satisfying."

What are the challenging elements of litigation? 

One challenge that’s perhaps unique to litigation is that it’s adversarial; you don’t have the same relationship with the counterpart on the other side. You can’t call them up and have a collaborative conversation any more, because every interaction is about gaining an advantage for your client. It’s not for everyone, but I quite like it!

What’s rewarding about it?
The most rewarding thing is winning a case. When you’ve been in court, with your team of barristers, and gone toe-to-toe with the other side in a case spanning months or even years—winning is extremely satisfying.

What three words would you use to describe Macfarlanes—and why?
Just good people! Macfarlanes invests heavily in its individuals and teams. The firm makes sure we’re getting the right training and exposure, to help us get what we want out of the job.

Real estate

Sindhuja Shri works in the real-estate group. She qualified in September 2016.

Why did you choose this practice area?
For me, it had the right mix of transactional and technical work—I really like the variety.

What are your day-to-day responsibilities?
As a trainee, I worked on a range of transactions. This included working on high-value developments as part of a bigger team and running my own smaller matters. As a junior solicitor, I’ve had the opportunity to continue working on a variety of transactions and to get more involved with the negotiation of complicated documents.

What’s challenging about the role?
You have to juggle many matters simultaneously. I’m usually working on a few big transactions and a number of smaller matters. Prioritising the transactions you’re working on can be quite difficult when you’re busy. However, it definitely gets easier with experience!

What’s the most rewarding thing about it?
The most rewarding aspect of working in real estate is that the work you’re doing is tangible. You may see the building you’re working on as you walk to work—something you might not get in other areas of law.

Which three words would you use to describe Macfarlanes, and why?
Collegiate: in order for bigger transactions to work smoothly, different practice areas within the firm have to work together. Since I trained at Macfarlanes, it’s really great to be able to contact people with whom you previously worked in order to get their expertise.
Technical: Solicitors at Macfarlanes pride themselves on their technical ability. When I was a trainee, I was given a huge amount of training during each of my seats. As a newly-qualified solicitor, I’ve been able to build on this initial training.
Reputable: Macfarlanes is a very reputable firm, and though we’re based mainly in the UK, we do a great deal of international work and have many large clients.

 

The Macfarlanes Practice Area Open Day is your chance to get further exposure to the areas of practice available at the firm. It will take place on 28 November 2018. You can register for the Open Day here.

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