Michaela studied Biological Sciences at Oxford University. She joined Slaughter and May in March 2015. Michaela qualified in March 2017 and has been working in our Intellectual Property and Technology group since.
I qualified into our Intellectual Property and Technology group in March 2017. I was already sitting in the group as a fourth seat trainee, which allowed for a smoother transition from being a trainee to a qualified associate. That said, the step up was still notable – I quickly went from being supervised in everything to being given much more responsibility on all matters. Although this was quite daunting at first, I found the greater level of autonomy to be rewarding and fun!
Support and guidance
Before joining Slaughter and May, I had heard about the firm’s ‘open door policy’ at recruitment and LPC events, but I wasn’t really sure what this would mean for me as a trainee and associate. Now, reflecting as a mid-level associate, the benefits are very clear. Being able to walk into a fellow associate's or a partner’s room and talk through a legal or commercial problem, in a relaxed and friendly setting, has been an invaluable part of my learning and development over the past five years. The fact that there are no internal billing targets means that fee earners are not precious about their time. Instead, they are genuinely open to helping one another, working collaboratively and offering guidance where they can. In addition, each department has dedicated non-fee-earning professional support lawyers (PSLs). In the Intellectual Property and Technology team, we are lucky enough to have two PSLs (one for Intellectual Property and the other for Technology), both of whom are experts in their field and always eager to share their knowledge and wisdom.
There is no such thing as a ‘typical’ day here at Slaughter and May. It may sound like a cliché, but no two days are the same. For example, a given day in the Intellectual Property and Technology team could entail drafting a collaboration and patent licencing agreement for a biotech client wishing to collaborate with a research institution to develop novel therapeutics, or researching certain concepts of patent or trade mark law and then preparing slides for a client training day. The next day, I could be advising on the intellectual property and technology aspects of a large-scale corporate transaction (be it a merger, acquisition or disposal). The broad range of work that comes across an associate’s desk is symptomatic of the firm’s ‘multi-specialist’ approach. For me, this diverse range of work is exciting and keeps me on my toes.
Highlights so far
Highlights to date include advising:
- Vodafone on the transitional servicing and branding aspects of its EUR 18 billion acquisition of certain operations of Liberty Global in Central and Eastern Europe;
- Standard Life Aberdeen on the outsourcing and intellectual property aspects of the sale of its UK and European insurance business to Phoenix Group, including long-term licencing arrangements for the Standard Life brand; and
- Marks and Spencer in relation to the expansion and operation of its international franchise arrangements, including coordinating with local counsel teams on the local law aspects of these franchise arrangements.
Secondment to Burberry
I didn’t go on secondment during my training contract - I was therefore particularly excited to be given the opportunity as a two-year qualified associate to take a six-month placement at one of our clients, Burberry, in their headquarters in London. It was an exciting time to join Burberry’s Legal team; I started not long after the then new creative director, Riccardo Tisci, joined the company (succeeding Christopher Bailey) and unveiled his debut collection. I was responsible for advising the business on a variety of commercial contracts (which typically required me to lead on negotiations with a number of Burberry’s key suppliers) and generally providing day to day legal support on a variety of business projects. The role brought with it an exciting level of responsibility and an invaluable insight into some of the key issues and challenges affecting one of our clients on a daily basis.
Benefits and outside the office
Although the job involves long hours, there is no ‘face–time’ culture. This means that when there is no work to do, we are encouraged to leave the office and make the most of our free time. To give us a helping hand, the firm offers a variety of entertainment benefits at, among other things, London theatres and galleries. Most recently, I have benefited from two free tickets to an out-of-hours evening viewing of exhibitions at the V&A museum through one of the firm’s email entertainment ballots. It was great to explore some of the V&A’s current exhibitions away from the crowds after the museum had closed to the public (and with a glass of wine in hand!).