Name: Christopher Baird
Degree and University: Law LLB, University of Warwick
Future Job: Commercial lawyer
What do you actually do?
recently completed vacation schemes at Slaughter and May and Hogan Lovells respectively; both firms have also offered me training contracts. My experience of working at commercial law firms is that you have to utilise your analytical skills while maintaining a business perspective. A lot of the work I have come across has involved analysing contracts or particular documents and then being able to give your opinion on what is the best action
to take in order to achieve your client’s overall objective. The twist in this area of law is that a commercial firm’s clients will often be important businesses, so your advice has to take into account both the legal and business consequences – this is what makes it exciting!
What skills do you need to do that?
To succeed in one of these roles, you need to have the ability to analyse a large amount of written information, to communicate your opinions logically, persuasively and effectively, all with a degree of business acumen. My own personal experience is that the best lawyers are those who retain clients by using their own style and personality to present their advice; as such, do not feel that you have to conform to what are the perceived characteristics of a lawyer. You also need to be enthusiastic and hard working, as this is a demanding occupation.
How did you know you wanted a career in law?
I knew that I wanted a career in law as I have always naturally been drawn to the subject; how the law worked and how it governed the many aspects of our society is something that has always intrigued me. Studying law at university further strengthened my desire to be a lawyer. Commercial law particularly grabbed my attention as it involved complex business transactions which I was keen to learn more about, especially given all the news surrounding the financial crisis!
What would you like to be doing in ten years time?
At the moment, in ten years time, I would like to be a partner, or close to becoming one, at Slaughter and May!
What’s the best thing about your job?
I think the best aspect of being a commercial lawyer is the chance to be part of some of the most complex commercial deals in the world, working within a group of colleagues in order to achieve a goal; the opportunity to work in a team and communicate ideas is something that excites me greatly.
And the worst?
The worst aspect of the occupation would probably be the uncertainty surrounding the work; sometimes you just do not know what is about to come in the door. For periods of time you may also have to wait for clients to make decisions or for others to finish pieces of work so that you can proceed. Therefore this may mean you have to cancel social plans or work late which is an unfortunate consequence of being in a demanding job.
What advice would you give new graduates who want to do what you do?
I would advise students who are contemplating becoming commercial lawyers to be proactive from the beginning; talk to as many law firms as possible, attend as many law events as possible, so that you can begin to find a law firm that is right for you. I was very lucky to have the support of the Bright Commercial Law Network who introduced me to what turned out to be my eventual employers. Once you have got an idea of what law firms appeal to you, apply for vacation schemes as they really are the best way to get to know a firm and often put you one step ahead of the rest!