When studying A-Level Law, students can be forgiven for thinking that solicitors only practice contentious criminal and civil law. In reality however, solicitors do much more. The law is a critical component of the commercial world, and the expertise of solicitors is typically required to negotiate contracts and facilitate complex, corporate transactions. The Swinburne Maddison Corporate team strive to achieve the very best outcome for their clients when negotiating some of the North East’s biggest business deals.
In this interview we speak with Rory Ogden, trainee solicitor who is currently undertaking his training contract, working within the Corporate and Commercial team.
You are currently undergoing your training contract. What have you done so far in your career to get to this position?
Following completion of my undergraduate degree and while studying on the GDL and LPC courses, I did as much as I could to gain broad legal experience. I participated in two vacation schemes at commercial firms, spent a short period shadowing a Circuit Judge in Durham and did a stint on placement with the legal team at a Local Authority.
Once my studies were complete, I worked briefly for a political party and then at a national law firm based in Newcastle. I subsequently worked as a commercial property paralegal at a smaller firm before eventually commencing my training contract at Swinburne Maddison.
How does the training contract in practice differ from studying law at University?
The training contract experience is in my opinion, almost completely dissimilar to full-time study. Fundamentally, it is a job. Professional development is a central feature of a training contract, but the task is to achieve this while also providing a service to clients and being of value to the team I work in.
By contrast, full-time study at university is an independent experience and strictly academic. University helped me to become familiar with fundamental legal principles, but it is mainly through my experience at work that I have developed practical knowledge.
You have been spending time in different teams as part of your training. Is it difficult to adjust each time you move?
Moving is naturally a challenge as it involves working in a different practice area and team, usually with which I will have little or no familiarity. This challenge is offset however by the Firm’s dedication to supporting trainees as they move around departments.
I moved from Dispute Resolution to a seat in the Corporate team earlier this year, and leading up to this I was given a steady supply of corporate work to assist on, in addition to my existing litigation caseload. This meant that by the time I actually changed seats (both in terms of my training contract and physically), I was well-acquainted with some of the work, and knew broadly how the Corporate team operated.
Which type of law were you interested in when you joined Swinburne Maddison and has this changed since beginning your training contract?
When I first joined the Firm the area of law that most appealed to me was employment law. Since starting my training contract however I have been exposed to other areas of law and my interests have broadened.
I particularly enjoy working on complex commercial disputes, which are typically challenging and very interesting.
You are currently in the Corporate team, what has been the most interesting or challenging deal you have worked on so far?
My corporate experience is relatively limited as I joined the team quite recently. Notwithstanding this, I have had the opportunity to assist on some genuinely interesting matters. For example, in the early part of this year I contributed on a fairly complex group restructure. The particular character of the deal meant that there were numerous tax and risk considerations for the client, which although intricate, made the matter interesting. As a trainee, I was fortunate to contribute on the transaction from the very beginning and learned a lot.
What kind of deal would you like to get involved with?
Given my interest in employment law, I would quite like to get involved on a deal where there are extensive TUPE or other employee considerations.
What advice would you give to a young law student?
I would probably tell them to remain positive and get as much experience as you can. In the North East of England particularly, the market for law graduates is incredibly competitive. As a student and as a graduate I was reminded frequently that finding a training contract would be difficult, and although this advice was fair, it was discouraging. In recognition of this I tried to gain as much useful experience as possible; working variously as a legal assistant and paralegal, and doing additional voluntary activities where possible.
The experience I accumulated was genuinely beneficial, and I think critical, to my securing a training contract.