A Day in the Life - Ben Smith, Second Seat Trainee at BCLP
We wanted to get the lowdown for you on what life was like in Corporate Finance Law and at BCLP, so we sat down for a chat with Ben Smith, who is a second seat trainee currently focused on the Corporate Finance sector.
What is the first thing you do when you step into the office?
As soon as I get in I’ll grab some breakfast and a coffee and take it to my desk. I always spend the first part of the day checking over emails and making a to-do list. It’s a good chance to plan out the day and catch up with anything you’ve missed overnight which can often happen when you’re working on international transactions.
Deals can get pretty complicated and on larger transactions, it’s common to have lots of different parties and lots of different dialogues. It’s really important to follow the narrative and work out if there is anything you’ve missed so you can catch up with people first thing and stay in the loop.
Could you give us a breakdown of how you spend the average day in this seat?
The only consistency in the seat is inconsistency and two days’ work are rarely the same. This is particularly true in corporate finance because you are working to a deal timeline which is heavily dictated by clients and the progress other teams are making.
This means that often your role is quite reactionary and you have to be ready to respond to whatever challenge comes up that day.
It is common for transactions to stop and start with limited warning and little explanation. So whilst it is sometimes possible to work out what the next steps should be, its not always clear when they will have to be taken or how long you will have.
The work flow is erratic and there is a real range of things you can be involved with. In M&A transactions there are lots of opportunities to get involved in drafting documents as well as reviewing the other side’s copy, providing markups and comments to assist in negotiation.
Trainees can get very involved in the disclosure process which involves a lot of client interaction, often across a number of meetings or calls, to ensure the warranties are properly disclosed against. It’s an interesting role as you get to speak to people from all across the company’s departments and advise them through the process.
Beside this, there is a real range of work such as producing due diligence reports, legal research, researching companies and producing company reports, company creation and administration, managing enquiries trackers or data rooms as well as analysing contracts and company documents to respond to client’s questions.
How much do you correspond with senior colleagues and clients on a daily basis?
Deal teams are often structured with a partner, senior associate, and either associate and trainee or just a trainee depending on size and fee structure.
You are working directly alongside each other and there is a completely open dialogue between you and the other team members. You are expected to co-ordinate work with other departments and report directly to the client when it concerns work you’re involved with. Trainees are very much encouraged to have as much contact and face-time with the client as possible.
Because you are encouraged to be a direct point of contact it is expected that any work you produce is to a standard that you are happy to go to the client. Time and fees can be very tight on deals so it is important the work you produce is up to that standard and doesn’t need extensive review.
The lack of review can be daunting at first but it makes you produce your best work and not rely on associates to check. That being said you can always ask questions of anyone in the team or department and discuss points which aren’t clear.
What sort of hours do you work as a Corporate Finance Trainee?
As much as the work is unpredictable, so are the hours. As mentioned above you are working to a commercial timeline which often includes international elements. There is no flexibility on deadlines and there can be a lot of work to turn over to meet them in time.
On these occasions, you can end up staying late but I’ve rarely stayed past 10:30pm. Even when you do stay late the team is in with you so everyone is working together.
At the other end of the spectrum you are never expected to stay when you don’t have work to do. Usually you will go through a period of a few late nights on a particular phase of a deal, such as a completion, but after this your days can be less busy.
What elements of your seat do you enjoy the most?
I really enjoy the range of opportunities the seat provides. The corporate finance department advises on M&A, capital markets, joint venture work and often supports real estate transactions meaning there is a real variety of high quality work coming into the department.
As well as there being a good mix of high value work you are also given a lot of responsibility as a trainee from day one, but also have the chance to take on a lot more and make a positive contribution to whatever you are working on rather than just providing administrative support.
What advice would you give to anyone undertaking a seat in Corporate Finance?
Keep an open mind, as mentioned above the work is incredibly varied and there are so many different areas and types of work you can get involved with, that it is best to get out and try to work with as a many different people, and in as many different roles as possible, to see what you like the most.
Don’t be afraid to put yourself forwards, there is always room for trainees to get more involved and take more responsibility, but that won’t always be given to you and sometimes you have to show initiative and take the first step rather than waiting for instructions.
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