Legal Outlook Trainee Talks Episode 4

Ashurst's trainee talks 4 – transcript

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Transcript



Host:
Hello, and welcome to Ashurst Legal Outlook, and our ongoing series where we speak to trainees about their journey to the legal profession.

In this episode, I speak to Oscar Jeremy about why he chose corporate over criminal law, his highlights at Ashurst so far, and why he included his past work experience as a bouncer on his trainee application. Join me as we get the inside scoop on what it's like to work as a trainee solicitor at Ashurst. You're listening to Ashurst Legal Outlook.

Hi Oscar. I wanted to ask firstly, why did you choose to pursue a career in law?

Oscar Jeremy:
I originally actually wanted to be a criminal barrister, so still law, but very different kind. Based on I have a family member who is a criminal barrister, and the stories and short of anecdotes you hear from that are pretty fascinating and just made for, well, good stories when I was much younger. I then spoke to a few people in that profession and they all desperately tried to dissuade me for a number of reasons, but basically in short, legal aid cuts and the kind of profession that was on its way down, or at least it sort of felt that way.

And so I started looking about a bit more, I'd always been interested in companies and businesses, basically how the world around me worked. And to me, it's bizarre that sort of 90% of people have no idea how our societies sort of sticks together and progresses, in terms of you ask your average person about inflation, they'll have no idea what you're talking about, or they'll have heard the term, but they don't and I just basically wanted to know more about that. And that kind of gradually led me to trying to be a corporate solicitor. And so that's sort of why. I had lots of conversations along the way with lawyers in different areas. And that was how I made my decision, basically.

Host:
Can you reflect on some of those early conversations when you were looking at the... and what I'll term the Hollywood type of law, that you were going to pursue? What was one of the soft of conversations you had that dissuaded you? What was that conversation like?

Oscar Jeremy:
So it was no one conversation, but as a general theme, I said, "I'm interested. This sounds fascinating." And then they said, "It is. I have had a great career in this, but towards the end, its really started going downhill. And essentially because, and it's a slightly unfortunate thing, but essentially there's no money in the criminal bar anymore. So the standard of work has slipped because people who are publicly employed are overworked and can't put the time in to these cases and everything else. And because of that, standards slip, then you get given dodgy work, and you don't end up giving your best, because you're feeling disgruntled that someone hasn't done a proper job and they're just..."

And so the whole thing sounded quite horrible place to work, in terms of they then weren't attracting the same talent they used to 20 years ago, everyone who went to the top universities and was desperate to be a lawyer, became a criminal barrister, because it was as you termed it, the Hollywood.

Host:
So corporate law, let's turn the new phrase, the new Hollywood. So corporate law was where you wanted to go. Now paint a bit of picture about what timeframe are we thinking? Did you know when you were at school, or were you at university? What's that timeline look like?

Oscar Jeremy:
I knew when I was at school, when I probably about 16, 17. So a few years before I left school. I knew I wanted to do law. I didn't know, I wasn't nailed down on which area then. I did some, like a sort of week or two where I just went to public galleries and had a look at criminal. And then I also had looked at some family stuff, and it was basically at about 15, 16 trying to work out which one I wanted to go into. And then as I got to university, obviously you get a lot more exposure to the corporate ones. A friend of mine had done a few weeks at a corporate firm and I was sort of chatting to them about that. So yeah, I knew I wanted to do law from a young point, but I only settled on corporate probably my second year of university.

But I remember weighing up whether to do law or history at university. And a few lawyers basically told me, "Do history. You'll be much more naturally interested in that."

A law degree is great in some ways, but other, you end up doing a lot of areas of law you really don't have an interest in, but you have to get that rounded. And they said, "Do history, you'll enjoy it. And then you'll be a bit older and you'll be able to decide at the end of it, whether you want to go down the law route."

So yeah, that was sort of the time-

Host:
And did you enjoy it?

Oscar Jeremy:
Yeah. I did enjoy history. It was interesting. I got to pick the areas I wanted to look at and a lot of reading, which I think probably helps with law as well.

Host:
Excellent. All right. So fast forward now. So you, at the end of your university degree, why did you settle on Ashurst? Talk me through that decision.

Oscar Jeremy:
Always slightly laugh when I'm asked this question, as if I had 15 firms who were desperately trying to get me and I chose this one. I'd whittled down my list of who I'd applied to earlier on. So I'd decided I didn't want certain things, and I did want others. Not to get too specific, but basically I wanted to do really good work, but I also didn't want my job to become my entire life. I wanted a bit of balance. It's old cliched by now, but the people I spoke to at Ashurst were very competent, capable, doing interesting things, but they also had families and liked playing sport once a week in the evening, or whatever it was. So there were basically a bit more rounded, not that people at the firms I'm thinking of are not necessarily rounded, but it gives you a better opportunity to be rounded. And also basically the people were nice. And I know that you can't sit in an interview and tell a partner at Ashurst, "Well, I want to go there because you're all lovely people and I get to go play sport, every evening."

But that, to be honest, factored in quite a lot in my decision.

Host:
Absolutely. So your perception of the culture at Ashurst was one thing when you were applying. What's the reality been like?

Oscar Jeremy:
The reality, that's held up to them for the most part, but what I didn't appreciate when I was applying was the nuances between teams, for obvious reasons, because of the work they do, certain teams have a very pronounced, you know, "Apologies late in the evening," if they send an email, blah, blah, blah, whereas in other teams, it's much more the other way. You're expected to be available at all times kind of thing. So I would suggest to people applying now and doing their research, really do your research.

If the firm is... Ashurst is a banking and corporate firm, so those seats are bigger. So you would definitely do seats in those areas. So if you have no interest at all in banking, corporate, and you're desperate to be an employment lawyer. Sorry, the banking employment was just the scene that springs mind. One of the smaller teams, you don't take so many grads at our firm, as a percentage. Well then, you've got to think is, Ashurst is awesome, apply to Ashurst, but also is it necessarily the right firm? Should you be applying for a firm that focuses more on employment? Because primarily the core areas at Ashurst are the ones where you'll get most of your experience.

Host:
So you're going into your fourth seat at the moment. So what have you done so far?

Oscar Jeremy:
So I started in corporate projects and I actually sat with a partner who describes himself as a construction partner, but I did work throughout the whole team. I then moved into restructuring, which was at the beginning of the pandemic and lockdown, so it was quite an interesting time to be going into that area, not least because there wasn't much happening, bizarrely, because of all the efforts the governments around the world went to to stop companies failing. There was a lot of companies which look pretty sketchy, but are being propped up by these schemes. And so it was very interesting, because it's sort of the restructuring world was essentially developing at this time. And then, now I'm in Global Loans, the banking team. So my next and final seat will be in Disputes.

Host:
Thinking about those seats. Is there any highlights so far that sort of sticks in your mind?

Oscar Jeremy:
There are a couple of cool things I've got to do. So I, in my most recent seat, one of the ones that one of the deals I've really enjoyed was one where it was such a short timeframe that I was taken off all the other deals I was doing. So I had five days where I was only doing this deal and it started, well, we heard about it on the Sunday, but I only had to really start working on the Monday, luckily, but it was Monday to Friday, but from start to finish, which is very rare. And it meant that I could just focus on one thing and I've found in my current seat, but you have so many things going on. You sometimes get slightly unnecessarily panicked or whatever you call it. It's hard to keep track. It's more stress, but just having one men's like really now that I knew exactly what was going on, I was more confident picking up the phone to, or when someone rang me, I could pick it up and just tell them what it was.

Whereas when you've got seven or eight deals you're sort of shuffling through papers, trying to work out which, who you're talking about here. So I enjoyed that in my most recent restructuring. I did some, I was on some teams which were doing some very cool work and I got to see basically major companies that were in the news as going through some real financial difficulty. And every time I'd raised one read one of those news articles, I'd be thinking, well, I just sent the letter to these lawyers out in wherever. And then projects, I did a lot of kind of renewable stuff, which again is topical. And so it was on teams that were building wind farms and setting up waste energy from waste plants and all these sorts of things, which I just really enjoyed the topical nature of the work. And, and that's kind of what I was expecting. I, I wanted Ashurst because it does the most interesting that the work of the forefront on the front of the newspapers and stuff and, and that sort of got so no complaints there.

Host:
What do you like doing outside of your job? What does the, what does the work-life balance look like for you at the moment?

Oscar Jeremy:
To be honest at the moment banking, very busy. So mid-week, I'll be lucky if I get away for an evening or two everyone's, everyone's pretty working by hard. On my weekends, I haven't worked really over the last few months or more than a couple on one hand. So I, I like played a bit of tennis, basically go see my friends and I went watching cricket the other day. I live near the oval so I get some good games. I basically like my sport and seeing friends sitting in an afternoon in a pub garden somewhere and winding away the afternoon. I know I'm meant to say I'm sort of running marathons and whatever, but that's not for me. So I enjoy some very low standard tennis and sort of a fair bit of hockey as well. But apart from that, just seeing my friends, I like reading, but I do so much, but it works that usually if I do read it will be on a holiday when I'm not doing any work and it's some sort of airport purchase slightly bad, normal or something.

Host:
So let's go tell me what's something that law or the legal profession as a whole does to advance the common good?

Oscar Jeremy:
To be honest, what I've seen, what I've done so far and things I've enjoyed working on the renewable stuff I did in corporate projects was very relevant to today's discussions around climate change and everything that's going on there. And it's been fascinating to get more of an insight into that. You read a BBC news article about how we need to move to wind energy. And it doesn't, it obviously you can't go into the detail that you need. So basically the big issue we have in the UK or one of the big ones, the moment is that transition. So obviously everyone knows that we want to get to a point where we're just solar and wind, but there are various issues with those and other renewable technologies. And we need to sort of middle point, so gas power whilst bad for the environment is not as bad as coal for example.

And the big benefit of gas is you can literally turn the gas, power station on and on with the flick of a switch, whereas with a wind farm, some days it's not windy or solar farm, its cloudy or whatever. So looking at how you kind of bridge that gap, lawyers are hugely involved in all of that. And you essentially become just another one of the kind of commercial consultants for that industry. I've been involved in renewables, which I would challenge anyone to suggest is not good for the greater good, and you can do it without lawyers. So that's one.

Host:
My last question is all around tips for a friend who is applying for a trainee contract with Ashurst and you already mentioned research, and to make sure that trainees do their research know where they're actually going and what that kind of looks like. Do you have any other top tips?

Oscar Jeremy:
I think one that is quite difficult to follow through on, and it sounds stupid as being yourself have a good look at yourself thing. What am I, what's my standout attribute? You know, you don't have to be the best at something or, but what is it about me that I could actually add? And I, because the firm gets applicants from lots of clever people doing very similar things. So you do need to stand out and you need to stand out authentically because when you're sitting in an interview with two partners, which is less terrifying than it sounds once you're in the room, although beforehand it's very nerve wracking, they're both incredibly clever and spend their entire lives trying to get to the point. So if you're making sort of slightly waffley speeches about things that you're not quite clued up on, don't, don't bother, they're not interested. Find, work out what you, what you are good at and try and bring that into the conversation.

And you can do that by in your application by literally putting little flags about things like, I think I had in my application that I had worked as a bouncer. And so I was like, there's no way they're not going to ask about that because what law application has that on it. And then I tell that conversation into one around dealing with people in stressful situations when they're aggressive and whatever, and the, my mind, at least I was trying to say, look, I might not be the best academically, but in terms of talking to clients and that kind of thing, I think I'm all right at that now. And I definitely have the ability to become pretty good at that. So that's where I'll sell myself. So workout your point and, and get it, get it into your interview somehow.

Host:
I have to ask, I have to ask Oscar, where were you a bouncer?

Oscar Jeremy:
Yeah see, this is where it falls apart. I was a bouncer at Wimbledon, so it was hardly. But having said that I, I did actually have to chuck someone out who was arrested, which doesn't happen at Wimbledon, but people do spend a lot of time drinking in the sun.

Host:
Too much champagne, too much strawberries and cream.

Oscar Jeremy:
Too many strawberries, but yeah, there was, but yeah. So not quite as hardcore as it sounds initially.

Host:
No, that was fantastic. Thanks very much for joining me Oscar.

Oscar Jeremy:
Cheers man.

Host:
Thank you for listening. To hear more Ashurst podcasts, including our dedicated channel on all things ESG, please visit ashurst.com/podcasts. To ensure you don't miss future episodes subscribe now on Apple podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast platform. While you're there, please feel free to keep the conversation going and leave us a rating or review. Thanks again for listening and goodbye for now.

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