Graduate recruiters will have expected you to have researched the different practise areas within their respective firms. You should read our summaries below and conduct your own research before applying for a training contract or vacation scheme.
Asset managers are firms of skilled financial professionals who invest capital on behalf of a wide variety of market participants, including pension funds, endowments, family offices and certain private individuals. They use sophisticated investment techniques and invest in a wide variety of asset classes. The asset management sector performs a crucial economic function by pooling capital so that it can be allocated efficiently, while also offering investors access to financial expertise and investment opportunities that might not otherwise be available to them.
Banking & Finance
Banking has been, for the last few years, and remains today, the focus of a great deal of attention, scrutiny and criticism, and is central not just to the British economy but to the global economy. This dramatic backdrop to banking today makes it an exciting, challenging and stimulating area of law to practise. Banking can take the form of lending money to blue-chip companies to finance new business plans, issuing high-yield bonds or helping investors acquire whole businesses. The lawyer’s role in this field is varied and dynamic, acting both for borrowers and lenders to create, negotiate and deliver a bespoke financing package to suit a myriad of circumstances.
Corporate law involves advisory and transactional work for business organisations and for individuals with business interests. Corporate lawyers advise on a variety of areas, including mergers and acquisitions, stock market flotations and fundraisings, restructurings and reorganisations, investments and joint ventures.
Corporate law encompasses a surprisingly broad range of work, which is generally centred around the drafting and negotiation of contracts and advising on matters of company law. It is usually non-contentious and therefore corporate lawyers rarely spend any time in court.
Most dispute resolution departments focus on handling civil and commercial disputes between individuals, groups, companies or organisations. They could be based here or overseas. The possible range of subject matter is limitless and although many disputes ultimately boil down to an argument between two parties to a contract, no two cases are ever identical. There are also many occasions where the dispute is not about a contract at all – allegations of fraud and defamation are prime examples. You will find that firms vary in the extent to which their dispute resolution department deals with more specialist categories such as employment disputes and competition, and other regulatory investigations.
While a litigator might represent a client in court proceedings or in arbitration, this does not happen in every case. In fact, one of the most important skills of a good litigator is the ability to enable your client to resolve its dispute in the best and most cost-effective way possible, which may mean not going to court at all. Litigators are therefore regularly involved at the very outset of a dispute and use a range of settlement strategies to bring a case to a satisfactory conclusion, well before the client needs to step into the court room.
Employment & Pensions
Employment law covers a wide range of areas and involves both contentious and non-contentious work. Broadly speaking, it encompasses any area of the law that relates to the employment of individuals. This can involve not only advising on areas such as redundancies, dismissals and grievance situations, but also supporting corporate and commercial lawyers involved in the sale and purchase of businesses and advice on property matters (for example where there is a change in ownership of a building or services being provided to a property).
Employment lawyers need to be able to offer commercial advice, as well as advising on the legal aspects of an issue. Employment law can be extremely technical, and employment lawyers need to be able to break down these technical rules in order to advise clients on the risks involved in particular courses of action, as well as offering innovative solutions. Along with this ability to offer commercial advice, employment lawyers also need to be personable, as there is a high level of interaction with clients directly and their HR departments. Attention to detail is a necessity, especially as matters can often lead to litigation.
Solicitors practising in the area of private equity law are principally divided into two categories: (i) those advising private equity funds in connection with ‘raising a fund’, ie the arrangements between the fund manager and the investors in the fund; and (ii) advising private equity funds investing the fund and selling its investments, most commonly being the acquiring and disposal of companies and any legal issues that arise during the time they own a company. This page focuses on the work of the second category.
A private equity fund is a type of investment fund set up by a private equity firm (the fund manager), which invests other people’s money, such as that of pension funds, insurance companies and sovereign wealth funds, by buying and owning businesses. Typically, a private equity firm will buy a majority of the shares of a private company (being a company whose shares are not traded on a stock exchange), control the company and put the firm’s representatives on the management board. The private equity firm will hold that company for usually between about two to five years, during which time it will seek to provide operational input to improve and grow the business of the company, following which it will look to sell the company, hopefully at a profit, and return the proceeds to the investors in the fund. A private equity firm will usually not only use the money in the fund to acquire a target company, but will try to ‘leverage’ its returns by also using debt finance provided either by a bank or an alternative provider of finance (such as a credit fund or the bond market).
Mergers & Acquisitions
In broad terms, M&A practice is concerned with the sale and purchase of companies and/or their assets. The transactions we advise on range from relatively simple acquisitions or disposals of private companies based solely in the UK, to larger and more complex deals which involve a number of jurisdictions and companies that have their securities traded publicly. Although the size and scope of the deals we advise on varies, the work we undertake is typically complex and is almost always cross-border.
It’s the global Samsung v Apple smartphone wars, the ‘understated and extreme simplicity’ of Apple’s iPad, the disappearance of The Pirate Bay, the reason why anyone can publish the football fixtures, the law preventing you from ‘jailbreaking’ your games console, the reason that you don’t buy your Predator football boots from ‘Adidos’ and can’t wear a Topshop T-shirt with Rihanna’s face on it, the secret behind the distinct taste of Coca-cola and your love of seedless grapes, to name but a few!
Intellectual property law protects those rights that are intangible intellectual creations. The obvious rights covering most of the examples referred to above are patents (protecting inventions), trade marks (brands), designs (3D shape/conformation) and copyright (in relation to literary and artistic works), but there are other rights such as database rights, confidential information, trade secrets and plant variety rights.
There are many opportunities in IP, and your work can involve any part of the lifecycle of an IP right. This can include involvement in the creation and registration of rights, for example, or in the drafting and processing of patent/trade mark applications with registries in the UK and abroad. It can also entail assisting in transactions involving IP rights to allow a rights holder to exploit and make money from its right, for example, by drafting and negotiating R&D agreements, or dealing with the transfer or licensing of IP rights in corporate transactions. Of course, it can also involve litigating IP rights when it all goes wrong!