Lawcommonroom: To start off with, can you tell us a bit about your professional background?
Lauren Topper: I am currently an NQ associate in the Eversheds Cambridge office, I qualified into the Construction team here in September 2016. I also trained in this office. I completed seats in Planning, Corporate and Commercial Dispute Resolution. Before the start of my training contract, I worked as an in-house legal advisor for a book manufacturing company in Cornwall, during this time I completed my LPC part-time.
LCR: Out of all of the firms in the city, why Eversheds?
LT: I chose Eversheds firstly because of its incredible reputation: it is a globally renowned law firm and is well known for its innovative nature and ambition. I knew that if I could get a job with Eversheds I would be given the best training, be exposed to the best international and national clients and get the opportunity to work with some incredible people who are not only experts but leaders in their field of law.
LCR: In your first seat of your training contract, you assisted in negotiating and drawing up various agreements. Did you enjoy working in the Planning department?
LT: I did enjoy my Planning seat, going into it I wasn’t sure what “planning” actually entailed as it is quite a niche area, but it is a really interesting area of law that is highly influenced by politics which made it particularly topical. Although I enjoyed planning I ultimately decided it was a little too technical for me, it is sometimes heavily based in “black letter law” which although I found interesting, was very complicated!
LCR: You are currently in your final seat in the Commercial department. What do you enjoy the most about in this seat?
LT: I really enjoyed my final seat with the Commercial team. The team consists of three sub-teams: Intellectual Property, Commercial Contracts and Data Protection. This means I received a fantastic variety of work. The Intellectual Property team here focuses on life sciences work which is very technical but also incredibly interesting. The thing I enjoyed most about this area of law is that it is very applicable, every business needs a Commercial law so the client base is varied and therefore the work is very different from client to client.
LCR: Using three words, can you please describe life as a trainee at Eversheds?
LT: Interesting, challenging and international.
LCR: As a trainee solicitor at Eversheds, what is your definition of commercial awareness and how do law students develop it?
LT: I remember commercial awareness being this abstract concept that I couldn’t grasp when I was starting to think about applying for a training contract. My definition of commercial awareness back then would be very different to my definition of it now! Now I can really appreciate what commercial awareness is because we have to be commercially aware all the time working at Eversheds. It is the ability to understand the driving motivation behind the reason your client has asked you for legal advice and the factors that are important to that particular client be that speed, money, reputation etc. It is also about understanding your client, from knowing how they like to receive advice, how they work and their background. In summary, all these things allow you to give the most commercially sensible, sound, rounded advice to a client and that advice is going to be practical and achieve the best outcome via the best means for your client.
LCR: You worked as a Receptionist for a few months. Were there any transferable skills you learnt there that you were able to use in your legal career?
LT: Yes! Being a receptionist involves using your interpersonal skills all the time. Learning to deal with people is important; these skills are transferable into law because you have to deal with colleagues, clients, other lawyers and external advisors all the time. Knowing how to manage people and communicate effectively is very important. I was also able to transfer my teamwork skills, working on a busy reception involves working with and relying on your team in much the same way you do as a lawyer.
LCR: You have expertise in commercial litigation, how do you think, you as a commercial lawyer, may be impacted by Brexit?
LT: I think Brexit, in whatever form it takes, will pose some challenges but also some great opportunities. Eversheds was prepared for both eventualities on the 23 June 2016 and I feel reassured that the firm is well equipped to deal with the changes that Brexit might bring. I can only speculate on the impact Brexit will have on me as a commercial lawyer but I know that it may require a change in the type and/or location of work we are targeting. Either way, I am very confident that Eversheds will be able to adapt quickly and effectively.
LCR: Many law firms have claimed the night before the EU referendum they didn’t get any sleep because all their clients were calling them to find out how this will impact them because they had offices in London. Did a similar scenario occur at Eversheds?
LT: I don’t know about all night (!) but we have had a lot of calls from clients who were understandably concerned or had questions about what the result meant for them. Eversheds has a wealth of material for clients that you can see here which we were able to direct clients to our page.
LCR: There is the talk of there being a recruitment freeze. Do you think Eversheds will reduce their training contracts or stop hiring altogether in 2 years’ time?
LT: Eversheds, like most other businesses, are closely monitoring the situation at the moment. There is no talk of Eversheds reducing training contracts or stopping hiring now or in two years’ time. Of course, a reduction in recruitment is a possibility should demand to reduce but as I mentioned earlier, Eversheds is already positioned to take advantage of the opportunities that might result from Brexit and although work in one area might reduce, in other areas it will increase.
LCR: There is an air of uncertainty at the moment with the UK leaving the EU. In your opinion, what does a future for the UK hold?
LT: The UK is a considerable economic power. The referendum result has caused uncertainty which I would expect and I think has made foreign investment a little hesitant, but, as soon as the Government resolves the plan for the UK pending negotiation with the other Member States, I am hopeful that, as we are an important economy in the world, we will soon recover from the temporary instability that the result caused and will retain our reputation as a global leader in legal and financial services. Our Brexit steering committee has been briefing us all regularly. I took reassurance from our recent update with the group that several countries including New Zealand, South Korea, Australia and India have all begun to express a strong interest in negotiating trade deals with the UK which to me, shows the amount of influence we have on the world stage.
Lauren Topper is an associate in Eversheds Litigation and Dispute Management group specialising in both non-contentious and contentious construction matters. She advises on all aspects of construction law and advises public and private companies and funders on JCT contracts.
With special thanks to Lauren for giving up her time to talk to us!
You can contact Lauren via LinkedIn.