Name: Zain Ali

Firm: Bird & Bird

Position: Trainee solicitor

Degree: History

University: Nottingham

Hobbies: Cricket, Football, Magic

Current department: Dispute Resolution

Number of TC applications made and interviews attended: 8/6

Zain Ali

Why did you decide to train as a solicitor?

As a child I was fairly reserved and quiet in nature, yet used to enjoy debating. It provided me with an outlet to express my opinions and to develop my confidence. I regarded a career in law as closely interlinked with debating, and this initially sparked my interest. After doing further research and work experience at various law firms I knew a career as a solicitor was for me. The team work elements along with being able to manage a case from the beginning through to the end across various focal points, rather than simply from a trial perspective, led me to opt to train as a solicitor rather than barrister.

What were the biggest challenges you faced when trying to secure a training contract?

I had just graduated when I began applying and soon realised that I was the youngest at most assessment centres I attended. Many of the candidates had worked as paralegals, completed the LPC or were even career changers, whereas my legal knowledge and work experience was far more limited. I initially allowed this to affect my confidence, but quickly realised that I was just as capable as many of the other applicants and should not be intimidated by the competition.

Tell us a bit about the type of work handled by the department you’re in at the moment…

I am currently sat in dispute resolution which handles litigious work in a number of ways: traditionally through the courts; crisis management; and increasingly also arbitration and alternative dispute resolution. I have personally been working on a multibillion-pound patent valuation arbitration, I have worked on a number of product recalls, and I also recently assisted on a Russian fraud case.

What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job?

As clichéd as it sounds, the most enjoyable aspect of working at Bird & Bird is the people. Everyone is incredibly friendly and easy to get on with, be they a partner, associate or support staff. Being a trainee means you get to know numerous people across the firm in various departments, and there will always be different characters, yet the social, friendly nature of the employees remains steadfast throughout.

What about your job didn’t you expect before you started?

The international nature of the work has surprised me to an extent. While I was expecting to work on numerous cases with global elements, I thought that being in London we would mostly deal with the English side of things and leave the other aspects to lawyers in the relevant jurisdictions. However, I have worked on numerous international projects liaising regularly with international colleagues and maintaining dialogue throughout, via email and calls.

We also recently had our annual inter-office football tournament in Prague, which provided a fantastic opportunity to meet colleagues from the international offices and allowed me to meet the various people that I have been working with on a day to day basis.

Who’s the most recent email in your inbox from, and what’s it about?

The most recent email in my inbox is from an associate signing up to play for the Bird & Bird cricket team in next week’s fixture. I am the captain and we have weekly matches against clients providing an excellent opportunity to network in a relaxed and social environment.

Tell us two truths and one lie about yourself (in any order).

  • I was once mistaken for a celebrity and spent half an hour posing for photos with people.
  • I have been to 37 countries, across six continents.
  • I worked with David Blaine and considered being a magician before opting for a career in law.

If you had not decided to become a lawyer, what career would you have chosen?

Something to do with working in the movies – perhaps as a screenplay writer.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career in law?

I would advise that working hard is key. You should expect there to be a lot of competition, as the market is very saturated at the moment, but this should simply be motivation for you to work even harder. It is not an easy path but the job satisfaction and rewards at the end are well worth it.