6 March 2013 | By Becky Waller-Davies
Weil Gotshal & Manges trainee Tayyibah Arif dispels the notion that lawyers don’t know how to have fun
Name: Tayyibah Arif
Firm: Weil Gotshal & Manges
Universities:London School of Economics
GDL or LPC:GDL and LPC (The College of Law)
Hobbies:Tennis, Painting, Creative Writing and Travelling
Why did you decide to train as a solicitor? I have always felt like law is the powerful overarching element in society that underlies any transaction or activity; whether it’s entering into a contract when purchasing goods in the supermarket or big, multinational corporations being subject to regulatory laws. This always fascinated me and when I explored a possible career as a solicitor, I realised that it is a mutual best fit for me: working as a city solicitor is intellectually challeging, dynamic and the perfect combination of legal knowledge and commercial practicality and allows me to use and develop my analytical, writing and people skills.
Why did you choose your firm? Weil is an international law firm with high profile clients like MF Global, Lehman Brothers, Providence and HgCapital. The combination of this high calibre and cross-jurisdictional work and the relatively small London office makes for great training and means that I have a high level of responsibility and visibility and get appreciated for my work. After my two week vacation scheme at Weil, I realised that I wanted to work with friendly and grounded people in a supportive environment where I was encouraged to be myself and since then I really have learnt to ‘Expect the Exceptional’.
What has been the highlight of your training contract so far? During my first seat in banking, MF Global entered into UK’s first ever special administration and being a part of the process has been a definite highlight for me. I worked from MF Global’s offices for several weeks in a makeshift HQ crammed full of people from various departments firefighting situations as they arose in this dynamic environment. It was very exciting to see legal advice being provided in real time and witnessing how events were unfolding. I was able to attend meetings and help and advice in setting up systems and workstreams to deal with various issues and requests in the context of the special administration.
What does your typical day involve? Catching up on my emails and the FT on my tube ride into work and starting the day with a cup of tea at my desk. Beyond that, there really isn’t anything routine or typical about my day. Some days I will be involved in co-ordinating with local counsel and negotiating documents with the other side and on others I will be attending meetings or participating in teleconferences or undertaking some drafting, research or due diligence work.
Tell us a bit about the type of work handled by your department? My department is primarily involved in mergers and acquisitions and restructurings in the private equity realm. We advise PE houses such as Lion Capital and Advent looking to invest in companies or clients looking to divest their invesments. I was recently involved in a cross border transaction involving more than 16 jurisdictions and consideration in excess of $4 billion. This involved co-ordinating with local counsel in the various European jurisdictions, carrying out a due diligence exercise into the entities being acquired through a virtual dataroom and assisting in the disclosure process.
What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job? Working with supportive and approachable people who are serious about their work but have a sense of humour on multi-jurisdictional deals which often make the headlines. It’s a great feeling to close a deal and wake up to read about it in the financial newspapers the next day.
What are the worst aspects of your job? Free dinner policy when working late nights means I am constantly overdosing on chocolate and coffee!
What is the biggest misconception of the legal profession? That lawyers are stuffy suits who push paper around all day and don’t know how to have fun. At Weil, there is always something going on, from trainee drinks to table tennis inter-departmental mixers to Women@Weil bowling socials.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career in law? Invest time into researching about what type of law firms you want to work for and which suit your skillset the best. Make selected but high quality applications to the shortlisted firms. This will save you time when you are going through the recruitment process and also be more likely to result in a higher success rate.
What are the biggest pitfalls students should try to avoid when pursuing a legal career? Don’t get put-off by rejection, it’s a part of life, especially in the current economic climate where some firms are cutting back on numbers. Keep trying and learning as you go through the process and you will hopefully end up at the place which is best suited for you.
What were the biggest challenges you faced when trying to secure a training contract? Juggling academic work, extracurricular activities and a part-time job with time spent researching into firms, filling out application forms and going through the recruitment process.
How is law in practice different from studying law? I only studied law at the GDL and LPC level (which are inherently more commercially focused than law at the undergraduate level) but I think the main difference is that, in practice, commercial knowledge and understanding your client’s business objectives and needs are just as important as technical black letter law.
What are the common attributes of successful candidates? Enthusiasm, intelligence, creativity, ability to handle pressure, commercial curiosity and good inter-personal skills.