During the final year of my civil engineering degree at the University of Bristol, I wanted to explore other ways of being involved in the STEM space without being an engineer. I pushed my grandpa's dream of having a granddaughter design the next Hong Kong airport (no pressure) aside and started researching commercial law. My decision to pursue a career at a City law firm was made instantly by the Herbert Smith Freehills campus presentation. The global scale of work, together with the fact that all the people I spoke to seemed genuinely down to earth and eager to get to know me, led me to the spring vacation scheme. This investment in the individual, for me, was reflected in how many people I met from the firm during the recruitment process (including the assessment day) and this theme has continued throughout my training contract so far.
My Future focus
BRINGING MORE STEM GRADUATES INTO LAW
My focus is on showing STEM students how exciting a career in law is and demonstrating how the skills you gain from a STEM degree are of value when approaching legal problems. I strongly believe that a STEM background provides a great basis for a career in commercial law and STEM students are an integral part of the future of law.
A day in the life of Jess
I always enjoy talking to people about my civil engineering degree. My degree has provided me with a great, and unique, start to a career in law because of the systems-thinking mind-set that it drills into you: you have to look at things as part of a wider system. To give a simple example, there is no point in designing a fabulous new tunnel if it won't end up being used and the need is not there or if it causes bottlenecks of traffic. The same could be said for law – there is no point in hammering out the intricacies of a deal without visualising how what is written down on paper will be put into practice on both an every-day and an emergency basis when things go wrong. A lawyer has to tap into this creativity when thinking about these scenarios and engineering has helped me think big-picture.
In addition to this over-arching theme, there is a beautiful logic to both engineering and law, a bit like when you get to the end of a long maths problem. I know there is not always a clear answer to the legal issues our clients face, but I can allow myself to trust my instincts more by applying the logic that I learnt over the course of my degree. Building on this, a STEM degree means you spend lots of time working as part of a team on assignments and helping friends out when they don't understand a concept (and also receiving that help from friends). I am happy to speak my mind, or speak up when I don't understand something as a result of this. I think this is a valuable asset to have as a trainee; you are always learning from your mistakes and trying to absorb as much information as possible from your 6 month seat and training contract as a whole.