NAME: Sara Keag
DEGREE AND UNIVERSITY: Law and French, Trinity College, Dublin. LPC: College of Law, Chester
JOB TITLE: Trainee, Olswang
Why did you decide on a career in law? When I was 17, I brought a successful case in Belfast High Court, which judicially reviewed a decision taken against me by my orchestra. Following that I shadowed a barrister as part of my school work experience. Both experiences helped me realise that one day I would like to become a solicitor.
What did the application process involve? Following university I spent a year in Japan, on the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) programme. The summer between returning from Japan and commencing the LPC was spent applying for training contracts. I found that Olswang’s application process was the least aggressive out of all the schemes I applied to and interviewed for. The first stage is to submit a CV and covering letter. Following this I was called for a 30 minute interview with a representative from HR. Also at the first interview I completed a short psychometric test, and a written exercise. The second round interview consisted of an interview with two partners, a case study, and a written test.
What type of work are you doing on your current seat? I am currently in the Real Estate Litigation department. Olswang’s Real Estate practice consists mainly of landlord clients. Legislation protects tenants from being evicted from their premises except in exceptional circumstances. Upon renewal of any particular lease, the landlord needs to decide what its strategy might be for the premises – whether they would like to enter into a renewal lease with the tenant; whether they would prefer to regain possession of the premises; or perhaps the landlord might try to negotiate a new lease with the tenant on more favourable terms. A trainee’s job is usually to commence these negotiations with the tenant by drafting the appropriate notice. Other aspects of Real Estate Litigation work involve serving schedules of dilapidations on tenants, recovering arrears from tenants, and dealing with insolvent tenants.
What do you most like about what you do and are there any downsides? As a trainee in Real Estate Litigation I have had exposure to every stage of the litigation process. I have commenced and drafted defences to claims, progressed those claims through to trial, and I have even been engaged in the inevitable post-trial process of determining who pays whose costs. For me, the fact that real estate litigation revolves around something tangible keeps the work really interesting as more often than not the buildings are well-known central locations in London.
Normally I have about 30 current matters at any one time. Often I find that it is difficult to know how to prioritise those matters that should take precedence over others. In these circumstances it is interesting to learn from supervision how best to deal with the situation. I am confident that knowing how to prioritise is a skill that develops with experience.
What strengths do you need to succeed in this sector? As a trainee, it is really important to be organised. In addition, it is important to be enthusiastic in approaching work. As a qualified solicitor it will, of course, be necessary to maintain organisation and enthusiasm, but the skill set shifts towards goals of ensuring accuracy, and applying commercial awareness.
What advice would you give graduates wishing to build a career in law? In any interview for a training contract it will be necessary to demonstrate commitment to a career in law. Most people do this by having attended vacation placements, however there are other ways. I ran our university’s free legal advice centre, and got first hand experience of the law as a claimant in a judicial review case. In gaining relevant experience prior to embarking upon a career in law, it will also help graduates decide if such a career is right for them. Firms do also appreciate candidates who have a range of experiences and interests – most of my interview at Olswang was spent talking about my gap year in Japan.