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Interview and article by Zainab Hassan
Jahed Hussain graduated with a First-Class Honours in Law from Birmingham City University in 2016. He held various roles at university societies and balanced the LPC part-time with full time paralegal work in private practice and in-house. Jahed is currently a trainee solicitor at Euro Car Parts Limited and is due to qualify in October 2020.
In this interview, Jahed shares his thoughts on in-house training contracts, building your commercial awareness and managing studying alongside employment.
Hi Jahed – thank you for joining us. Please share with us what stage of your career you’re at and tell us about your role
I am a Trainee Solicitor working for one the largest automotive parts distributor in the UK (£1.4bn turnover in 2019!)
I graduated with a First Class Honours in LL.B Law at Birmingham City University in 2016. Due to financial constraints, whilst also appreciating the changing legal market, I decided to embark on the LPC part-time at the University of Law. During this period, I worked at national law firm Gateley Plc, now Gateley Legal, and Openreach which is part of BT Group.
I then went onto secure a Training Contract with Euro Car Parts Limited and I am due to qualify in October 2020.
Working in-house for Euro Car Parts has given me the opportunity to gain exposure in providing legal services to a company with a European and International presence. My primary role requires me to review a diverse range of commercial contracts such as: IT agreements, distribution agreements, terms and conditions for sale of goods and services and agency contracts – amongst many more! However, due to the nature of working in-house, I also assist Senior Legal Counsel and Head of Legal with regulatory work, employment contracts, intellectual property and civil disputes.
In-house training contracts are almost never advertised. How did you go about obtaining yours?
At university I was determined to make the most of any opportunities presented to me. This resulted in me being involved in the following roles:
- Senior Mooting Manager for the Mooting Society;
- Retail Assistant for the Student’s Union campus shop;
- Employment Law Telephone Advisor for the university’s pro-bono clinic, amongst other roles
I believe these roles significantly improved my chances of securing a role in a competitive legal field. I learnt about in-house roles when I saw a paralegal role advertised for at Openreach. As I never heard about in-house positions, it was very appealing to me and I applied for the role. During the interview, I was able to demonstrate a significant interest in commercial law and the company I applied for by demonstrating the transferable skills I had during my time at university and Gateley.
In my role at Openreach, I was immediately given my own case load and was able to enjoy having responsibility for my own work without being micromanaged for simple drafting exercises. This role helped me get appointed as a single point of contact for a major client of Openreach to help them install telecommunication apparatus across the UK.
After approximately one year, I noticed a role being advertised at Euro Car Parts seeking a Commercial Paralegal. I researched the company and acknowledged the potential exposure I might get to high-quality legal work. After approximately 7 months into the role, I was able to impress my team and was then offered a training contract by the Head of Legal.
What tips would you share with aspiring lawyers given the competition within the legal sector?
I would advise all aspiring lawyers to find a mentor who is a qualified lawyer and a mentor who understands how businesses work. This can be done by participating in mentoring schemes such as Inspiring Futures which is offered by Birmingham City University. If your university does not have a scheme, then approach your careers team to ask them to find you one – that’s what I did!
I raised my chances of employability by obtaining constructive feedback on my strengths and weaknesses from other people that I wasn’t aware of – that way they would be honest with me and this allowed me to identify areas of development.
What is the best thing about working in-house?
The best things about working in-house are:
- the variety of work and exposure to different areas of law;
- the level of commerciality you get in-house will always beat private practice. This is because the only way to get commercial awareness is by getting practical experience working in the industry. You also get involved in projects and work closely with internal stakeholders;
- there is no time recording but you still need to be time-efficient and cost-effective when dealing with matters, as in-house legal departments are a cost;
- but shorter working hours are a myth!
We all hear about commercial awareness whilst applying for training contracts and how important it is – what does this look like in practice?
In practice being commercially aware requires a lawyer to always be updated on what issues can affect their client and take these issues into consideration when drafting contracts or providing advice. For example, if the client wants advice on a finance-related software contract, not only do you need to be aware of any legal updates within the financial industry but also need to consider how you can reduce any financial and legal exposure to the client by ensuring clear drafting.
To maintain commercial awareness, I have to stay updated with business and legal affairs affecting my client. This involves reading free blogs and articles that can be found on websites such as LexisNexis and Reuters.
My client does not differ at all from private practice clients. I still have to provide high quality, cost-effective and timely advice that can be understood by the client. The difference is that I am part of the entire process instead of just doing one task (like a trainee or junior lawyer would do in private practice).
Finally, please share tips on how you managed your time between part-time LPC studies and your employment.
Studying part-time (weekends) and working full-time was the most difficult thing I have ever done. I had to utilise effective time management skills by staying focused on the end goal and doing all preparatory reading every evening after work and all my notes and workshop tasks on the weekends.
Although doing the LPC part time and working full time was mentally exhausting, I obtained many skills (time management, organisational skills and working under pressure). I also developed contacts and friends on the LPC course as most students were trainee solicitors and paralegals, which is great if you want to learn more about a particular firm.