Continuing our exploration of the trainee-led initiatives at Clyde & Co, this week we caught up with Annie Wood and Helena Mardon. Both of them lead teams within the Climate Change Group and gave us some fantastic insight into the work they do as part of the project.
Annie Wood & Helena Mardon
Tell us a bit about yourself:
Annie: I studied Law with Hispanic Law at UCL and did my year abroad at UC3M in Madrid. I am currently in my third seat, in the Property Cyber Liability team, and have had the opportunity to work on some chargeable climate change work which was exciting. I joined the Climate Change Group (CCG) in my second seat, just as it was getting started, but had already participated in a couple of the initiatives Clyde & Co had prior to the CCG. I currently lead the Energy Team.
Helena: I am a second-year trainee currently on secondment with one of our key clients. I studied Law with American Studies LLB at the University of Sussex with a year abroad at the University of California. I took a module in Environmental Law in my final year of study so was delighted to be asked to join the CCG group and proud to be one of the founding members, and the leader of the Climate Equality team, originally set up as Pro Bono Broker team.
What does the Climate Change Group do?
Annie: As Zaneta, the founder of the CCG, and Anisha Hira, the leader of our Climate Calendar team, set out in previous interviews with Bright Network (here and here), the CCG is a trainee-led initiative that allows trainees to gain first-hand experience in business development while focusing on pro bono climate change-related projects. As of September 2020, the CCG has now more than doubled in size to 32 members split across different teams covering, for example, conservation work, energy start-ups, and broker initiatives.
What motivated you to join the Climate Change Group and become a team-leader?
Annie: I have been interested in the various efforts made at an international level to combat climate change since I applied to university, and whilst on my year abroad I wrote a dissertation on the subject. At the same time, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in commercial law, and particularly in the field of insurance. The CCG allows me to blend those two interests together quite naturally. I set up the Energy Team to develop my knowledge of clean energy solutions which will contribute significantly to net zero targets, build relationships around the firm, and develop leadership skills.
Helena: I have always been interested in social justice and long felt a sense of responsibility to the society and world in which we live. At university I was part of an environmental charity group that campaigned for more environmentally friendly policies and looked at how we could use the law to support such campaigns. I had an idea of the responsibilities a leadership role would entail and wanted to push myself to lead from the front with a topic I really cared about, and most importantly motivate others to do the same.
How do your teams promote climate change-related pro bono opportunities within Clyde & Co?
Helena: The Climate Equality team initially started as the Pro Bono Broker team led by Rebecca Williams, who has since qualified. Together with Caroline Loving, Clyde & Co Pro Bono Manager, we work to identify new climate change-related pro bono projects. As the Pro Bono Broker team we worked to identify potential new pro bono brokers, who we could partner with on climate-related projects. Pro bono brokers are organisations who connect pro bono projects with lawyers that have the required expertise. Once we had presented our recommendations, we started looking at the intersectionality between certain communities and the effects of climate change. We felt that the effects of climate change on the world are disproportionately felt by those least protected in our society who often also fail to be in a position to reap any of the "benefits" that cause the pollution. It was from this understanding that we decided to re-focus my team's efforts on "Climate Equality" and arrived at the idea for the next project. My team are now working on setting up learning sessions based on the idea of Climate Equality. Each panel shall feature professionals with experience in the field of climate change and vulnerable groups such as refugees, women or minority communities, and discuss the links between the two topics. This is primarily an educational and awareness raising project to support our existing climate change initiatives, but through our research, we have identified some areas of unmet legal need and so are hoping to also apply what we learn to the development of associated pro bono projects..
Annie: The Energy team is split into sub-teams, two of which focus on researching emerging technology in the home and transport sectors. Each member researches how we might lend our legal expertise to support the development of that technology and fills in a research template providing an overview of the key aspects. With support from Caroline and the relevant Clyde & Co departments, we then establish our pro bono offering and open the opportunity to provide pro bono advice to lawyers with the relevant expertise and any paralegals and trainees who are interested in getting involved.
Have there been any obstacles you had to overcome along the way? How did you go about them?
Annie: I have a fear of public speaking, even in front of groups where I know everyone, let alone in front of strangers! Taking on a leadership role has meant that I have to present to my team members and the wider business, which can be challenging but very rewarding. The support of my team members and others in the CCG has been invaluable.
Helena: We have lots of ideas about where we want the Climate Equality team to go and there are so many great causes that we could help with. Ensuring that climate change is the central thread between all our pro bono endeavours helps keep us on track but also means we must disregard a lot of worthwhile projects as unsuitable for the work of the CCG which can be disheartening.
What is the most valuable lesson you have learned as a leader of a team within the Climate Change Group?
Annie: You can achieve so much more when all the team get involved and are engaged, as everyone approaches things differently and has their own take on things. We have lots of different expertise in my team, including two Environmental Science graduates, and I really value their input on every aspect. It's also very rewarding as the product is truly a team effort and teamwork makes the dream work.
Helena: Making sure that everyone is happy and feels like they have ownership of the work even when they aren’t a team leader is key. The process can be slow to get things set up so keeping people motivated is important. It’s a balancing act between giving people lots of things to do to keep it exciting and appreciating that everyone is busy with other fee earning work, which is challenging balance to strike.
What would you recommend to Bright Network members who are thinking of joining Clyde & Co and the Climate Change Group?
Helena: Clyde & Co is an ambitious firm looking for future trainees that are driven to succeed. Do not worry about your background or knowing loads about climate change regulations or legislation before you start. We have some amazing peer-to-peer learning sessions and part of what's exciting about the Climate Change Group is the opportunity to explore different aspects of climate change and come up with innovative ideas on how to combat them. More important is having enthusiasm and inventive ideas, and skills that you might have picked up from other projects or from your learning at university. The work of the CCG has really shown me how if you have an idea and can back it up with a plan of how you can follow it through, there really is the capacity to do anything you want. The firm are incredibly supportive in helping you achieve your goals.
If you have any questions about Clyde & Co, you can contact me or Annie, or alternatively our Early Careers team who can be reached at email@example.com
Example of a part of the presentation delivered by the Energy team to introduce university graduates to the work of the Climate Change Group
Quotes from members of Helena's and Annie's teams:
Energy team led by Annie
Harry Little: "I joined the Energy team because it focuses on researching organisations and topics in the energy/climate change sphere, allowing me to gain much deeper knowledge about this area. It also gives me exposure to work that I would not otherwise be involved in, working with a much wider group of colleagues across the firm."
Conor Macaire Duncan: "I had initially intended on pursuing a career in Renewable Energy, but, after working in solar energy in Australia, I realised the power that law has in legislating for such technologies, and so I returned to the UK to study law. As part of the Energy team, I research innovative renewable energy technologies and have the prospect of working with interesting start-ups in the sector."
Sachin Shah: “The Energy Team is great for honing my commercial awareness and keeping abreast of all the latest developments in the industry, as we produce reports on new and innovative technologies every other month. Also, the opportunity to research emerging technology is a huge responsibility, and one which can equip you with a plethora of new commercial skills."
Climate Equality team led by Helena
Alisha Kumar: "Whilst I have always known of the devastating impacts of climate change, I lacked knowledge as to why this was happening and what could be done to combat this. To get these answers, I joined the Climate Change Group alongside like-minded individuals, in a bid to expand my knowledge and work towards something worthwhile."
Gabriella Bligh: "Coming from a degree in International Relations, the Climate Equality Team gives me a great opportunity to build on my knowledge and consider ways in which large employers can use their resources to make a positive impact."
Matthew Cockerill: "The Climate Equality Team is a brilliant chance to make a tangible contribution to the biggest issue we are facing as a society at the moment. It also provides exposure to the business development side of law, which a trainee would otherwise seldom see. It is a privilege to be a part of such a fantastic initiative by the firm."
To find out more about what Clyde & Co has on offer for bright members like you, click here to view their profile and live opportunities.