Name: May Smith
Firm: Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
Trained at: Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
In Hot 100 for: Newly promoted partner tipped for greatness. Read her full Hot 100 profile.
What’s your most vivid memory from being a trainee?
It all remains pretty vivid. On the work side, a great variety of interesting work in areas of law I’d never studied. On the social side, a fantastic intake of fellow trainees made things much less daunting (especially in the first few months). I was also really lucky to spend six months on secondment to Paris with a group of trainees who shared a love of fondue and karaoke (and who remain good friends today).
Who has been the most influential person in your career? Why, and how have they helped you?
There have been a lot of people who have helped me along the way, but Sarah Falk (another tax partner in the team and now also a Tax Tribunal judge) has probably been the most influential. From convincing me that Tax was the place to qualify to taking me under her wing as a junior associate, she has been a source of support and advice ever since I joined the team. She’s also a real role model: someone who’s completely brilliant technically but also very practical, and very supportive of others.
What was the best career decision you ever made, and why?
Well I’ve been at Freshfields throughout my legal career, so I’d better say joining Freshfields! More seriously though, I wasn’t someone who had always dreamed of being a lawyer and looking back I could have done more research than I did so I was lucky – the people and approach have really suited me, and the firm has given me opportunities that I would have struggled to come across elsewhere.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get to where you are/do the job you do?
Remember you’re in a team, not only with others at the firm but also your client, other advisors etc. It’s quite basic but lots of the other important things flow from that – from being prepared to help others out and treating others (at all levels) well to really thinking about things from your client’s perspective. And try and make the most of whatever you’re working on – some tasks are less glamorous than others but you can usually learn something (and doing a good job on a comparatively mundane task is likely to lead to something more interesting).
What work or career-related project or activity would you really like to do, but don’t have time for?
There isn’t one big project, but there are a lot of things to which I would love to be able to dedicate more time. That ranges from spending more time on knowledge management projects/consultations on new legislation, to upping my involvement with things like graduate recruitment. There never seem to be enough hours in the day!