Name: Charles Buckworth
Trained at: Allen & Overy
Year qualified: 15 March 2010
What’s your most vivid memory from being a trainee?
It was a flight (economy) to Moscow in September. I was on my way to my international secondment. I had heard Moscow was fun and party central so I put it down as my second choice – first choice was Hong Kong but half of my intake had very similar thoughts! I had six (incredibly cold) months ahead of me in a foreign country with a different alphabet and a slightly tricky language. I seem to remember it was a mixture of mild panic, excitement, a mild hangover (from leaving drinks the night before) but overall a sense that I had no idea what to expect.
I also vividly remember how annoyed the person sitting next to me was that the in-flight entertainment wasn’t working (I think I learnt some exceptionally rude Russian words along the way) and the Russian habit of clapping whenever a plane lands as though they were not really expecting it to.
What followed was an incredible six months of new friends, new experiences and much better hours than in London!
What is the wisest thing anyone ever said to you (and who said it)?
While I hesitate to quote my dear father as saying the wisest thing anyone ever said to me (I will never hear the end it) (and I should qualify it as “one of” the wisest things anyone has said to me AND I remember), I do recall a time when I was living in Dubai and I found that it was very hard to converse with a particular person (who shall remain nameless) beyond the normal very English chat about the weather.
I recall mentioning that this particular person was tricky to talk to, a bit awkward (and maybe a little boring) to my father during a Skype call (I seem to recall it was in the days when the line cut out every few minutes and the video was about three seconds behind the conversation or just a stuttering blur). My father said something along the lines of “If you think someone is boring you are not asking the right questions” (which even now sounds incredibly wise).
Anyway I persevered and did ask the right questions and it turned out that the person in question had done some pretty incredible things in his life. That said, he was still difficult to converse with but I did find out it was worth making the effort!
Who (for better or worse) has been the most influential person in your career? Why?
I do recall working with a partner once who seemed as if they were in a permanent state of panic every day and on every matter. Working for them was genuinely terrifying as the world always seemed about to cave in. I do remember deciding that I didn’t want to be a lawyer in a panic for the sake of the people working around me. I obviously do panic (fairly frequently) but I like to think most people are convinced by my calm exterior.
On the positive side, I should mention an A&O partner who taught me a lot about attention to detail and much of what I know today. And another A&O partner and an RPC partner who are probably the calmest people I know in law and illustrate the balance that can be achieved in every way if you work for it.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get to where you are/do the job you do?
Work hard has to be the first one – I don’t believe anyone gets far without some hard graft. And law is about experience, the more and varied experience you get under your belt as a junior lawyer, the better and more confident lawyer you will be as you get more senior.
Don’t forget a balance though – take your holidays and make sure you live a little – when you are old and shaking your booty on a zimmerframe you will probably be regretting the holiday you didn’t take rather than the deal you didn’t do…
Secondly, never think you are too good for any work. It is not an uncommon attitude but it is deeply misguided and incredibly frustrating for those with whom you are working. You often learn as much from the less sexy work (yes, that would include due diligence) as you do from the “sexy” work even though you don’t think it at the time.
Thirdly, be good to the people around you regardless of job, seniority and whether you are having a bad day. Don’t think you are in competition with your fellow trainees, associates or senior associates. Much of law is running your own race but the great thing is you can also help other people around you run theirs too and people notice when you do.
Oh and, of course, enjoy it – remember you will have good days and bad days and make sure you share them with those around you. Too often in the industry people pretend that they are always having a good day and everything is going swimmingly like that last scene in [insert musical]. We work in teams and if we are all a bit more honest about the bad days, hopefully we can all help each other to turn the bad days into the good days which may, overall, just end up with everyone having more good days!
What’s your best friend from law school doing now?
I was lucky to do the LPC as a group with my A&O cohort and met some fabulous people who are still friends today. My bestie from the LPC is still in the law and still in private practice (quite rare among our group) and is still one of the few people I can drink vodka and coke with without much judgment.