Valerie studied (Scots) Law and French at the University of Aberdeen. She started her training contract in 2013 and qualified into one of our Corporate groups in 2015.
ROUTE TO LAW
I’m from Aberdeen in Scotland and grew up surrounded by the oil and gas industry. A career in law wasn’t something I was focussed on at school. I enjoyed languages and after school, I went to work for a year in France as an au pair. I ended up back in Scotland and got a place to study (Scots) Law and French Language at the University of Aberdeen. It wasn’t until after I graduated, however, when I was working on my own small tutoring business that I started to consider a career in commercial law – I attended a Slaughter and May event in Edinburgh where Jane Edwarde, one of the partners, spoke passionately about her role in construction for the 2012 Olympic Games. This made me want to apply to the firm, and I was invited to an interview. This itself felt like a big step – my first time in the City and my first interview at an English firm!
I started my training contract in 2013. My first seat was in the team I am in now in - Corporate. I really enjoyed working on large transactions and particularly in a team, and I still enjoy the excitement and fast pace of transactional work. One of the first pieces of advice I helped with ended up in litigation which went all the way to the Court of Appeal a few years later.
I then did a seat in Financing before going on secondment to one of our close relationship firms, Bredin Prat, in Paris. I remember my time at Bredin very fondly, and I grew as a young lawyer a lot there. I was given a lot of responsibility and had the challenge of learning French legal vocabulary. I came back with refreshed French language skills and many new professional contacts. I also had a lot of fun visiting the city and reconnecting with friends I had made when I was an au pair. I returned to London to complete a seat in what is now Pensions, Employment and Incentives before qualifying into Corporate in 2015.
DAY-TO-DAY IN CORPORATE
The work in Corporate is really varied, international and truly multi-specialist. I can be working on one large transaction, such as a takeover and a number of smaller pieces of advisory work at any one time, such as preparing for annual general meetings or reviewing internal briefing notes on legislation which applies to listed companies. As I’ve got more senior, I’ve enjoyed the role of being a key relationship contact for clients we have worked with over years. We are here to support our clients and it feels like we work together in one team.
I like working with clients in different industries and have a lot of experience with financial services clients and energy clients. It has been interesting to watch the progression in energy transactions over the years as renewables and risk allocation have become increasingly important. A big moment for me was when I walked into the offices, in my home city of Aberdeen, of a joint venture company which I had helped to create.
GETTING THE BALANCE
Our work is often unpredictable and can be intense with long hours and weekend work in the lead up to a deal signing. I am fortunate to have a strong friendship group who are aware of that. I enjoy running as it’s flexible, I can do it when travelling for work (doubles up as sightseeing!) and allows me space to reflect on my work, my career and my life outside work. My career has coincided with the growth in agile working and our lack of face time culture means it’s possible to work from almost anywhere. There’s usually a workaround which means you can keep personal commitments and meet client needs.
OUR INTERNATIONAL APPROACH
Working with other lawyers from different cultures is always eye-opening, particularly given my background in a mixed (common law/civil law) legal system. Relationships are key to this and in November 2022, I had the privilege of presenting at our Africa Practice Group conference in Cairo where I met lawyers from firms that we work with all over Africa. I gained so much from in-person networking, plus it was an opportunity to work with a team with members from across the firm.
Finally, pro bono work, particularly advising charities in the healthcare sector, gives me a lot of satisfaction and a chance to use my skills in a different way - during the pandemic, I was part of a team helping to put in place grants for healthcare workers. Across this and my day-to-day role as an associate, it’s this people aspect of the job which really motivates me.