PwC Legal LLP is an independent law firm that’s part of the PwC network, one of the world’s largest international networks of professional services organisations. PwC assists business clients in a very wide range of areas, including audit, corporate finance, consultancy, law and tax.
Could you outline your career to date?
I trained at a leading City firm and qualified into their corporate department. I stayed there for two further years, then worked at another City firm for three years, and moved to PwC Legal just under two years ago. Here I primarily work on corporate structuring and mergers and acquisitions (M&A) deals.
Corporate structuring means looking at how the group of companies that make up a large corporate is structured and helping them to rearrange this structure to make it simpler to manage, to make it more commercially effective in other ways, or to increase its tax efficiency. Not many firms offer corporate structuring as a standalone service, but we make a virtue of specialising in it. We can do so because through the PwC network we can work very closely with the other types of professional advisers that need to be involved in these projects.
On the M&A side we tend to do a lot of work with entrepreneurs, for example, business owners selling their company to a private equity firm. Because of PwC’s large overseas network, we also get involved in a lot of M&A work for foreign clients who are looking to buy or sell a UK business – for example, recently I worked for a Swiss client acquiring a UK financial services business.
Why did you decide to join PwC Legal and what do you enjoy about working here?
PwC Legal offered me the opportunity to take a more rounded view of transactions. Although we’re a separate firm to the rest of PwC, we’re able to liaise much more closely with other teams of professional advisers at PwC than I found was the case at other law firms. So we’re able to understand much better what our clients are looking for and offer them a wider and more joined-up professional service.
For example, on M&A deals we work alongside PwC teams advising on the financial aspects of the transaction. We’re able to collaborate more closely with these financial advisers than lawyers usually are. We’re therefore better able to understand the structure of deals and the commercial drivers behind them, meaning we can reflect these factors in the legal documentation from an earlier stage and with better insight than if we were drafting the documents in isolation. It also means that we’re able to exchange information easily with the financial advisers and understand each other’s issues throughout the deal process, and go to the client with solutions rather than problems.
I was also attracted by the impressive list of existing clients and the huge potential client base that PwC Legal has through its association with the PwC network.
Would you encourage students to consider applying for a training contract at PwC Legal?
Yes – I think there are a number of advantages.
We have really good clients, both high-profile household name corporates and some smaller, but still very interesting, ones.
We’re a relatively small practice of about 200 fee earners, though linked to the wider PwC network. So people know you as an individual and you have opportunities to stand out and make your mark.
Trainees also benefit from working closely with non-legal PwC teams, getting a more rounded view of the matters on which they’re working. You see the strategic and commercial elements as well as the legal side of things, which will stand you in good stead for your future development.
How does the PwC Legal training contract work?
Trainees do four six-month seats in different departments. Many do both corporate and litigation seats as these are at the root of what we do. They’re also good seats for getting a rounded experience because in them you often get to see other areas of law. For example, if you’re a corporate trainee you might talk to the intellectual property team about a company’s trademarks and patents. We also have a market-leading immigration team, which provides trainees who do a seat there with a different perspective on the work of some of our corporate clients and high profile private clients.
In each seat, you’ll be closely supervised by a more senior lawyer in that department – I’m a supervisor for one of the trainees in corporate. In addition, you have a people manager: a senior lawyer who’s responsible for your overall development throughout your training contract. They’re part mentor, part appraiser, and you can go to see them whenever you have any questions or issues.
What kind of graduates do you look for at PwC Legal?
We’re looking for bright individuals who can bring strong powers of analysis and fresh ideas to our work. But we’re also looking for rounded individuals because succeeding here is about more than simply how clever you are. So we’re interested in people with a wide base of strong interpersonal skills who are going to contribute in many different ways to the team. For example, we want graduates with initiative, drive, and the ability to communicate with lots of different people.
Could you outline your career to date?
I did a law degree at the University of Leeds and then the corporate-focused Legal Practice Course at the College of Law. I’m now in the second seat of my training contract at PwC Legal.
Why did you choose to train at PwC Legal?
I studied corporate law modules at university and found those the most interesting, so I knew that I wanted to do commercial law. But as well as my law modules, I’d also enjoyed looking at what was going on in the economy and in politics, so I wanted a training contract where I could engage with more than just legal issues. PwC Legal appealed to me because I knew I’d get wider exposure than I would at other firms.
What kind of work have you been involved in?
My first seat was in immigration, where there were two main elements to the work that I did. First, I worked on visa applications for the employees of our big corporate clients. The second half was government policy work, which was really interesting. I was part of a team working to obtain responses from our corporate clients on immigration policy in answer to the Migration Advisory Committee’s consultation paper for the government. That was fascinating, and one of the highlights of the seat for me. We got to go to the Houses of Parliament a few times and meet the ministers involved. It was really interesting to be at the forefront of something you hear about in the news.
At the moment, I’m in the corporate department. Here we mostly do a mixture of corporate structuring and mergers and acquisitions (M&A) work, both of which you get involved in as a trainee. I’ve also been involved in the conversion of the legal form of some of our clients from a company-based structure into a limited liability partnership (LLP), which is a company/partnership hybrid often used by firms of professional advisers and increasingly by trading businesses.
On the corporate structuring side, trainees might analyse the records of the company in question at the beginning of the process. We’ll then get involved in drafting, negotiating and amending the documents needed to effect the structuring, such as board minutes, board resolutions and powers of attorney (documents by which a person authorises someone else to sign one or more documents on their behalf). We also get to sit in on phone calls and meetings with clients and hear the issues that are coming up and the legal advice that more senior lawyers are giving. On M&A deals, we might get involved in due diligence – a process through which we analyse a company which our client is considering buying. We review the public records held on that company and any documents released in data rooms which disclose information about the company’s operations including its employee records, commercial contracts, constitutional documents, and details of disputes and past transactions. These enable us to advise our client on the merits and risks of making an offer to purchase/proceeding with the deal, and on what legal issues might need to be tackled. We then play a role in the drafting of a due diligence report and the transaction documents.
What have you enjoyed the most during your time at PwC Legal so far?
One thing is definitely working with the people here. I get on well with them all and really feel like I’m part of the team. I’ve been able to get closely involved with the things I’ve been working on and have worked with people at all levels – partners, managers and associates.
The client contact I’ve had has been exceptional. I’ve had lots of responsibility, particularly in immigration where you’re given your own clients to work with – I had about 25! What you do is overseen by your supervisor, but they’re quite happy for you to liaise with clients by email and phone yourself. I’ve also been able to get involved in a lot of client presentations and seminars. I’d help prepare a presentation for a partner to give, and afterwards, we’d meet the clients, talk to them about the presentation and answer their questions, giving me the opportunity to start to bring business into the firm myself. I’ve also been able to go to client meetings, sometimes with extremely senior people including board members of FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 companies.
The international nature of the work we do has also been a highlight – our overseas network is absolutely enormous and we work a lot with lawyers all across it.
What advice do you have for students applying for training contracts?
Your academic grades are very important, but it’s about your wider experience as well. Legal work experience, such as doing a vacation scheme, is obviously fantastic, but experience in other commercial organisations is very relevant too because then you get to see things from a client’s point of view. You also have to be able to pick out what skills you’re learning from your experiences and explain how they’re relevant to what a law firm (and in particular a firm like ours) is looking for. Getting a training contract is hard and rejections can be disheartening, but don’t lose your enthusiasm and keep the momentum going!