Graham studied Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Queen’s University, Belfast. He started his training contract in March 2015 after completing the LPC and is now an associate in one of our Financing groups.
In the period since I qualified to date I have worked on a wide range of financing matters, including capital markets, banking and structured finance matters, advising governments, financial institutions and large corporates.
Significant transactions I have acted on include the ring-fencing of Barclays’ day-to-day banking services and UK Asset Resolution’s sales of Northern Rock and Bradford & Bingley assets following the nationalisation of both entities in 2008 as a result of the financial crisis.
Since my qualification there has been and continues to be a growing focus on utilising new technologies. For example, I regularly use drafting technology that helps review contracts for potential discrepancies, such as formatting or cross-referencing issues. It speeds up the process, saving time performing manual analysis and crucially making cost and efficiency savings for our clients.
There is no such thing as a typical day or week, which was and still is a major part of the attraction of Slaughter and May to me. I think that now, having a ‘typical’ week might feel quite mundane!
Working hours/no face time
There are, of course, busy periods requiring early starts and late finishes, but in my experience, these are short term in nature and the no face time culture helps ensure a sustainable work / life balance. There’s generally an understanding here that after a demanding period there is a need to ‘come up for air’, so a very intense period of work is often balanced out by a quieter period where client demands allow.
This approach is aided by the lack of billable hours targets, which leads to a much better atmosphere in the team; the atmosphere is collegiate rather than people potentially working against each other in a competitive manner.
We also have the flexibility to work from home once a week. I probably make use of this about once every three weeks, but knowing the flexibility is available is a real perk in itself. When heading home to Northern Ireland for a weekend, I often travel on a Thursday evening and then work from home on the Friday to enable me to make the most of my time at home.
Support and guidance
As you progress through your career, the partners carefully manage your progression and ensure to appropriately pace your levels of responsibility and exposure as you make the transition from trainee to associate and then as you gain more seniority as an associate. There’s a big emphasis on exposing you to new things at a pace that means you never feel out of your depth but at the same time the step-ups required are often challenging. Supervisors always aim to challenge trainees and associates, but if you feel overstretched, there’s always support.
The amount of responsibility I have is growing all the time and it supports my development; for example, progressing from supporting a more senior associate on certain matters to being the sole associate on similar matters with a partner providing support and oversight.
The training opportunities offered by the firm are fantastic; we have access to both a range of internal training, and to specialist external trainers. Participation is actively encouraged and rarely feels like something that should be sacrificed if you’re busy. I’ve also provided training to clients and to juniors within the firm, which is an entirely new skillset I’ve been fortunate to be able to begin to establish.
The multi-specialist approach of the firm and training in different seats means that there’s constant variety, and I was able to benefit from spending six months on secondment with one of our banking clients six months after I had qualified. As well as gaining valuable experience and broadening my skill-set and knowledge base, this has allowed me to build a relationship with the client, which has continued post-secondment. As a relatively junior associate, learning how to build and then manage relationships with clients is invaluable.
Also, many of the matters I act on are cross-jurisdictional in nature. This involves working with some of the best law firms in the relevant jurisdictions, which provides great exposure and further relationship management responsibilities.
The social side
There is a well-established and flourishing social network at the firm - I play for the rugby team and I’m currently in the early stages of organising for my team to participate in the 'Three Peaks Challenge' in aid of the Firm’s chosen charity. Everyone who is keen to get involved is actively encouraged to take part in activities and I have found it to be a worthwhile investment of time in terms of enjoyment and getting to know people from across the firm.