Simon Latham, Accutrainee
7 March 2014
Name: Simon Latham
Position: Trainee Solicitor, 2nd Year
Degree: Law (LLB), Intellectual Property Law (LLM), Environmental Biology (BSc)
Universities: King’s, Nottingham and Hertfordshire
Department: Film Finances Ltd (secondment)
Hobbies: I don’t think I have any hobbies, but I’m a bit of a foodie. Outside the office, you’ll probably find me enjoying a meal with friends and family or on the hunt for a new gastronomic experience. You may occasionally find me doing these things during office hours too!
Why did you decide to train as a solicitor?
I’ve always had an interest in the music industry and at the time when the internet was starting to revolutionise the industry I thought it would be really interesting to work as a lawyer in that kind of environment. After gaining some legal work experience, I realised that there were a whole range of commercial problems that solicitors were finding innovative solutions to on a day-to-day basis and that really appealed to me.
Why did you choose your firm?
I was working for a boutique litigation firm (Hausfeld & Co LLP), who were interested in making me their first trainee but, because they only covered contentious matters, they weren’t sure how it would work. I did some research and identified Accutrainee as an ideal solution. Accutrainee allowed me to train at Hausfeld and also arranged a non-contentious seat for me with another company.
Tell us a bit about the type of work handled by your department
I’m currently on secondment at a company called Film Finances. They provide guarantees to financiers of independent movies that a film will be completed on time and on budget. My work principally involves drafting the underlying contracts between Film Finances and the various financiers, producers and directors involved. I also work closely with our in-house production and post-production teams to keep track of ongoing projects and ensure the company’s interests are protected.
What has been the highlight of your training contract so far?
I’ve been fortunate to experience a lot of responsibility from day one, which has really accelerated the learning process. It’s also a great confidence booster to know that some of the top litigators in the City trust you to get the job done. One particular highlight was being flown out to the Netherlands, as the firm’s sole representative at a hearing, for a groundbreaking case we were bringing there.
In my current seat, on secondment at Film Finances Ltd, I also spent an afternoon taking a tour of Pinewood Studios. I was officially there to attend a lecture about tax credits, but afterwards I got the chance to take a peek at the different film sets. There was loads of artwork and sketches from the old James Bond films hanging around Pinewood which I fancy getting my hands on one day.
What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job?
At Hausfeld I’ve been involved in a lot of follow-on damages claims against cartels. The cases are extremely complex, often involving a multitude of claimants and defendants based in different jurisdictions. I really enjoy being involved in the strategy-development phases of these cases, as well as the ongoing duels with the other side as you each try to gain a tactical advantage.
At Film Finances, I get the chance to read new scripts and meet the producers to hear about their creative and commercial plans for the film. Not only is it a lot of fun, but it provides some helpful context to my work. The office is also conveniently based around Soho, which means there are some great places to meet up with friends for lunch or after-work drinks.
What are the worst aspects of your job?
Although I’ve managed to avoid the horrendous hours of many trainees undertaking corporate and finance seats, I do occasionally have to keep my social plans flexible. While I don’t mind working late nights to meet a deadline, or to attend a conference or networking event, it can be a little frustrating to have to cancel plans at the last minute. Taking a holistic view of my job though, I’d have to say that the pros far outweigh the cons.
What is the biggest misconception of the legal profession?
That we’re all boring, suit-wearing, pedants. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and working with an array of wonderful characters, from international human-rights lawyers that hold conference calls via Skype from beaches in Vietnam, to yoga-instructing media lawyers. I’d imagine that Barack Obama was as charismatic when he was a practising lawyer as he is today too.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career in law?
Obtain as wide a range of experience as possible. Exposing yourself to different working styles, personalities and environments will help you make an informed decision of the type of lawyer you want to become. When looking for work experience, don’t be afraid to approach firms directly as not all opportunities are advertised. I managed to secure a legal placement with the Premier League off the back of a speculative application, so if you find an interesting law firm or company then send them your CV with a covering email. If they aren’t recruiting at that time, then make sure to stay in touch with them so that you’re first in line when a vacancy does emerge.
What are the biggest pitfalls students should try to avoid when pursuing a legal career?
You should be aware that a number of law firms look at how you’ve performed in your first year modules, so make sure you work hard from day one. If you attend an open evening or vacation scheme, try not to be seduced by the glamour and make sure to speak to a variety of partners and lawyers at the firm. You will be spending a significant amount of time working with these people if they hire you, so it’s important to find a team of lawyers that you respect and who will help your career develop.
What were the biggest challenges you faced when trying to secure a training contract?
With so many candidates after so few positions, just getting my foot in the door to demonstrate my skills and getting firms to look beyond what was just on paper was my biggest challenge. I am pleased to say that through working with Accutrainee I managed to overcome this challenge.
How is law in practice different from studying law?
Studying law prepares you for the theory, how to analyse a problem and then apply the relevant legal principles. That’s an essential skill to develop but, in practice, nine times out of ten you’re going to be expected to do more than just give advice. That’s the part of the job that you don’t appreciate when you’re a student: the hours spent drafting and re-drafting documents; the unexpected calls from the other side; and the essential requirement of ensuring your client’s needs are being met at all times.
Law in practice is also a lot more rewarding than studying law. Finding a solution to a genuine problem that your client is faced with, or working on a cutting edge legal action is a world apart from answering a recycled exam question in a sports hall full of people you can’t talk to.
What are the common attributes of successful candidates?
Intelligence and determination. Lawyers come in all shapes and sizes, but every single one that I’ve met has possessed these attributes, albeit they may have demonstrated them in different ways.