Name: Valerie Woodford
Degree and university: Balliol College, Oxford, and studied the LPC 2006/2007 at BPP, London.
Work Title: First Seat Trainee – Project Finance, Lovells
What do you actually do? I share an office with my supervisor, who provides me with work on a daily basis and helps me to manage my workload when other associates ask for trainee assistance.
I have primarily been involved with the legal side of financing large infrastructure projects. I have seen two deals close in my first couple of weeks; I had the opportunity to become involved with last minute amendments to documents, the signing process, and post-close activities.
I have carried out company searches and due diligence to find out more information about companies and assets being brought. I have also been asked to draft board minutes and several clauses in agreements, and have had feedback from my supervisor at each stage. Other work so far has included commercial and legal research and sending documents to clients.
Why did you decide to go into law? Law gives me an opportunity to be in a commercial environment, where solutions have to be legally viable but also commercially efficient. I enjoy client contact and problem solving, and wanted a challenging career that would be interesting and varied.
How did you find out about this particular position? I started my law degree thinking that I might like to go to the bar. After completing a mini-pupilage and two vacation schemes (one at Lovells), I realised that I wanted to pursue a career at a Corporate Law firm instead.
Would you undertake further study to enhance your career? Absolutely – Lovells offers a comprehensive training programme, and I understand that there is an opportunity to study for an MBA in the evenings.
What do you most like about what you do and are there any downsides?
I really enjoy client contact, and the opportunity to be part of a transaction team. The people I work with are very approachable, and I feel very comfortable asking questions if I need to, or asking to become involved in different types of work.
The projects all involve tangible assets, and I find it more interesting to be thinking about financing a school/hospital/motorway, rather than general banking. Although ‘project finance’ is in the finance stream at Lovells, it involves a huge amount of corporate work – I feel like I am getting the best of both! In addition to the client work that I have experienced since starting at Lovells, there has been lots of scope to become involved with business development activities. I have even represented my own client in court on a pro-bono basis, and am encouraged by the work-life balance I can see in the department.
Trainees are an important part of the team, but there are some less stimulating jobs that will pass your desk. However, the ‘process’ jobs will give you a better understanding of the project, and that will make you feel more competent in general. If you can do the important but less interesting work well, the people you work with will feel more confident to give you challenging tasks in future.
What strengths do you need to succeed? Confidence when communicating with colleagues and clients; an interest in business and the type of work involved at a city law firm; an eagerness to take on more responsibility and to be pro-active, and attention to detail
What advice would you give graduates coming into this sector? Get as much experience as possible! Most law firms offer vacation schemes for students and graduates. Other great experience could include mini-pupilages, working as a paralegal/legal secretary on a temporary basis, or gaining experience at a regional law firm.
Lovells runs vacation schemes for law and non-law students, and these are a brilliant opportunity to see what the firm has to offer and how it is different from other law firms. There are regular events throughout the schemes so that you can speak to trainees, associates and partners to get a better idea about whether you would enjoy being a lawyer. The schemes offer a variety of skills workshops (presentation, advocacy, commercial awareness) and are a brilliant experience: incredibly useful for any city interview.