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In this article, Diya Gupta interviews Jaysen Sutton, an entrepreneur who has a Masters in Law and runs The Corporate Law Academy – a go-to platform for aspiring solicitors. Jaysen speaks about his work today and unique journey in shifting from a traditional legal career to a more business-focused one.
Hi Jaysen, please could you introduce yourself and your current role.
Hey, I run a company called The Corporate Law Academy, commonly known as TCLA. Our goal is to ensure an individual’s background, circumstances, or location does not prevent them from succeeding in the working world.
When and why did you decide to pursue a career in law?
I think I first decided to become a lawyer and then had to work out my actual reasons for why I wanted to be one. I did particularly enjoy writing and studying law as an academic degree, so the career felt like the natural next step.
Having completed various vacation schemes, what factors influenced your decision in which form to choose to train at?
Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP had long stood out to me: it seemed to be a place where people were driven, friendly and the culture felt like a good fit with my personality. When I did the vacation scheme, I had such a great time sitting in litigation, and I admired how dedicated my supervisor (Chris Marks) was. I had always heard that you’ll know when you meet the firm that’s right for you, and I felt that with Weil.
What triggered you to leave your position as a trainee solicitor?
The truth is that I was struggling. I don’t think I was ready to enter the working world, let alone the legal profession, and it took me a couple of years after I left to deal with my own personal challenges. At the time, all I knew was that I wasn’t looking after myself well, so I woke up one day and realised I could actually leave, so I did. Full credit to my firm here, they acted so nice about it, it made it even harder to leave – I’ll always respect the firm for dealing with it in the way they did.
What has been the most challenging part of working in the legal industry as an entrepreneur?
Many law firms carefully guard their external image. My favourite graduate recruiters that we work with at TCLA are refreshingly candid about what the experience is like. Gemma Baker from Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP and Paul Gascoyne from Shearman & Sterling LLP come to mind here.
Being honest about what the firm is like won’t deter most people from applying, if anything, it’s a draw for the right applicant: it allows them to better work out which firm they should apply to (and therefore they are less likely to have a shock once they start).
Please could you share a little bit more about the Junior Lawyers’ Community.
Many junior trainees I speak to carry with them fears of being the only one finding it tough, a feeling of having to be careful what they say to not impact their chances of progression, and it can be hard not to lose some of the wonder they had before they began a career.
One of the nicest things about TCLA is that we get to work with applicants who are now trainees and associates across most of the London law firms. After having more confidential calls with these trainees, the JLC started as a confidential place for trainees to ask questions.
What does a typical day look like for you?
We work in the WeWork in Canary Wharf. I usually arrive at 9:30am and will speak to the team about their schedules for the day (in the busy season, they’ll usually be delivering 4-5 practise interviews a day, as well as onboarding calls, scholarship calls, application reviews or live classes).
I like to have a block of concentrated work on my biggest task between 10am-12pm. I’ll then have a working lunch and head to the gym until 2pm.
I’ll catch up with the team about 5:30pm, where they share reflections on each candidate. I’ll then work on admin until about 7pm/8pm.
With the plethora of materials (guides, subscriptions, etc) claiming to assist students in securing a training contract, what would you say is the most helpful resource?
The challenge with having so much information available is that it can be hard to discern what is useful information. My advice is to learn towards practise; guides and courses are a nice-to-have, but nothing is better than putting yourself in situations that simulate the real thing as closely as possible. It’s for this reason that we run live classes at TCLA for candidates to practise discussing the financial markets.
Given the importance of commercial awareness, what is the best method for familiarising yourself with challenging and slightly alien financial concepts, in your opinion?
I think immersion is the best point I’d make here. It’s very similar to learning a new language; the fastest way to learn is to restructure your sources of information so you are developing your understanding in a passive and active manner.
Find a relevant book you like, listen to podcasts, read the business news, watch related films, write about financial topics, discuss stories that interest you with others, and follow financial experts on social media.
What advice would you give to individuals hoping to obtain a training contract, but consistently facing rejections?
Rejection IS the process. When you start the journey into law, it’s tempting to think a rejection means you’re not good enough. Actually, if there’s anything I’ve learnt since starting TCLA, all the trainees and associates were in the same place as you right now. The biggest difference is what you do with the rejection: do you give up, blame the process, or do you try to do one thing better each time?
Having recently launched the Solicitor Apprenticeship forum, what aspirations do you have for TCLA in the next few years and where do you see yourself?
Thanks for the mention – yes, our graduate recruitment expert Jessica Booker has been a huge driver in thinking about what we can do for solicitor apprentices.
The goal for us is impact. We want to share the things we wish we’d known to a far bigger audience, so people starting their journey into law don’t have to face as much struggle. The long term goal is to ‘Khan Academy for the working world’; in other words, we want to give millions of students and graduates access to high quality information.
I see myself doing exactly what I’m doing now, just on a bigger scale.