Understanding the Responsibilities of a Compensation LawyerDecember 6, 2020
The Future Lawyer Weekly Update – w/c 7th DecemberDecember 6, 2020
In this article, Jordan Chan interviews Hari Pannum, a future trainee at Clifford Chance. Hari shares his insight into studying the GDL and why he chose to train at Clifford Chance and what he is most looking forward towards during his training contract.
Hi Hari! Can you share a brief background about yourself?
I was brought up in Birmingham and was an assisted-place student at King Edward’s School. After taking the International Baccalaureate, I studied Spanish and Portuguese with a year abroad at University College London and graduated with first class honours. I recently completed the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) with a commendation and I will start the Legal Practice Course (LPC) in January, which will lead directly into my Training Contract.
How was the transition from your undergraduate years to doing the GDL? Are there any striking differences in workload, lifestyle etc?
Having studied a BA, the transition to the GDL was at times testing in relation to module content but smooth in terms of workload. Within an essay-based undergraduate degree, the relative freedom of critical thinking and interpretative ability contrasted with the rules-based interpretation of statute. Although it took time to adjust, the methodical approach to such work was an enjoyable change.
During the GDL, the workload is pretty constant, allowing you to get into a good routine in which the majority of the work can be done during the week. Although inconsistently done during my undergraduate degree, getting on top of things early (especially the Independent Research Essay) reaps its benefits when it comes to the revision period.
Going into the GDL, one main benefit that I initially overlooked was the benefit of peer collaboration. During degrees, there’s a natural tendency to work independently due to dissertation-centric course structures and wide-ranging optional modules. However, as everyone is in the same boat during the GDL, due to the largely fixed course structure, cooperation for seminars and exam preparation was a welcomed change.
How did you choose what type of law you wanted to go into and were there any experiences that helped you decide?
From the first year of my degree, commercial law at an international firm was always the main goal. Given the global emphasis of my degree, multi-jurisdictional work was an important factor as I wanted to use my cultural knowledge and adaptability within the commercial sphere.
At the end of my first year, I did briefly explore mini-pupillages and shadowed a defence barrister at No5 Chambers. However, after attending a First Year Scheme at Herbert Smith Freehills, I learnt of the team-orientated approach to tackling client issues and the chance to specialise and progress in a niche area of law, which confirmed my commitment to the solicitor route.
Undoubtedly however, the work of Rare Recruitment was integral to expanding my interest in commercial law. Rare provide invaluable opportunities for students striving to enter the legal profession, breaking down barriers in order to create a more diverse industry. Being accepted onto the Rare Articles Programme was a fundamental learning curve in the application process. It taught me the value of mentorship in the legal profession and how insight days really do give candidates a crucial advantage in gaining unique knowledge about a firm and forming relationships with current lawyers.
Why did Clifford Chance stand out to you?
Clifford Chance stood out in two main ways for me. Firstly, the firm’s genuine commitment to diversity was a unique factor when compared with other City firms. For example, the target of 15% ethnic minority partners by 2025 and the well-established reverse mentoring scheme display active sensitivity to issues ranging from career progression to daily microaggressions that occur for BAME professionals. Having completed another vacation scheme at an international City firm, the contrast in proactive addressing of structural inequalities was a deciding factor.
Secondly, the firm’s multi-faceted emphasis on the training of its lawyers. In the field of technology, for example, Clifford Chance has introduced the IGNITE Training Contract tailored around legal tech, allowing trainees to be proactive in seeking client solutions through the use of AI and other technology. This is supplemented by the firm’s Tech Academy, which provides all lawyers with technology-focused learning and development, such as coding training.
This development is also extended to future trainees like myself. The recently launched LIFT (Learning Internships for Future Trainees) programme focuses on the professional development of non-legal skills such as product management and business operations. Through LIFT, I was lucky enough to gain an internship at iManage, a leading provider of work product management solutions for law firms.
What are you looking forward to most about working in a corporate environment?
Probably the freebies. Jokes aside, I would say the continuous learning provided by working with industry experts. However, I am excited by both the sector-specific and tacit knowledge that can be gained within a corporate environment. As stated in a recent LinkedIn post by a Clifford Chance partner regarding the impact of Covid-19, the tacit knowledge gained from being around senior lawyers on a daily basis such as values and practice is something I hadn’t previously thought about but am now definitely anticipating.
Secondly, I am eager to get involved in the external networking opportunities given to lawyers at the early stages of their careers. In particular, client and overseas secondments provide greater responsibility in varying commercial environments. In relation to the former, the business acumen gained through working with non-lawyers and the long-term relationships formed provides key expertise in how to successfully act as external counsel in the future.
What do you see being the biggest change to the legal landscape after Covid-19?
This is a tricky one to narrow down. For me though, the commoditisation of legal services will be an instrumental change to the legal landscape after Covid-19. Through the use of technology, systematisation through processes such as document automation and review can enhance the efficiency of legal services through automated workflows. However, the knowledge management required for this to succeed must first be optimised, through the use of high quality data and investment in AI. Although this may lead to additional front-end costs, the eventual externalisation of such legal services means that lawyers can pre-package their expertise and make it readily available for clients. Providing new service structures would therefore give rise to much needed innovative alternative fee arrangements that are cost efficient for clients in such uncertain times.