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People Profiles: Justin Leung

Book open Reading time: 4 mins

I am a Canadian expat currently working as a trainee solicitor in the debt finance department at White & Case. In my role, I assist the team in advising banks, corporate borrowers and other finance providers on various finance transactions including acquisition leveraged finance and emerging markets transactions.

What course did you study and where?

Bristol (LLB) and Cambridge (MCL)

Why did you decide on a career in law?

I will answer this question in respect of commercial law. First, I decided on a career in commercial law because of my overarching interest in business, finance, economics and technology. Commercial law offers the perfect convergence of these disciplines without having to work in these fields. Second, I was attracted to the advisory aspect of the career. At a firm like White & Case, we are routinely entrusted with advising some of the world’s preeminent organisations regarding their most significant decisions. The stakes are often high which makes the career dynamic and exciting. Finally, a career in commercial law is both challenging and intellectually rewarding. I appreciate being surrounded by like-minded individuals who are driven and conscientious, thereby pushing me to be the best version of myself. 

What attracted you to the firm?

I was primarily attracted to the top-tier nature of the legal work which the Firm engages in. The W&C office in London is extremely balanced and consists of market-leading transactional and disputes practices. This means I can experience a range of practice areas prior to qualification. Moreover, I was attracted to the global ethos of the Firm. The Firm’s vast network of international offices is a competitive advantage and allows the Firm to service our clients effectively and efficiently. I was also enticed by the guaranteed international secondment at an overseas office, which remains one of the Firm’s USP’s. Also, I was attracted to the Firm’s blended training programme which offers a combination of hands-on training and structured learning. Finally, having completed a vacation scheme with the Firm, I was drawn to the Firm’s culture which can best be described as collegiate. It was important to me that I enjoyed my place of work.

What was the application process like?

The Firm’s graduate resourcing team is top-notch and so the process was relatively straightforward. I applied for the First-Year Scheme (which I highly encourage) and was fast-tracked to the vacation scheme assessment centre consisting of a written exercise and interview. Thereafter, I landed a spot on the Summer Vacation Scheme which culminated in an interview with two partners for a training contract position. Securing a training contract is undeniably a long process but receiving the call at the end of the journey makes it worthwhile.

What’s a typical day like as a trainee solicitor/what does your training contract involve?

No two days are the same but trainees in debt finance work on multiple transactions concurrently. A key skill is the ability to juggle competing deadlines. Most of the deals we work on are multi-jurisdictional and much of the job is liaising with local counsel and running conditions precedent checklists. Typical trainee tasks in debt finance include general project management, drafting legal opinions, filing and releasing charges, reviewing corporate authorisations and initiating company search reports. A great trainee, I am told, should have a 360-degree view of what is going on at all times. Additionally, debt finance is a very busy seat which means trainees are routinely entrusted to liaise with clients, local counsel and counterparties very early on. 

What part of your job do you enjoy the most?

I enjoy contributing to a team. It is a great feeling being useful.

What are the challenges?

Debt finance is a complex area which has its own vernacular, and it can be difficult sometimes to understand the wider context of certain tasks. Fortunately, the associates in the team are incredibly friendly and willing to offer you their time to explain how your work product fits into the greater picture. This helps immensely in flattening, in my opinion, one of the steepest learning curves one can find in a trainee seat. Another challenge is the high levels of responsibility given to trainees which sometimes means it can be difficult to find time for yourself. However, this challenge is more of a reflection of being a new joiner, and I am certain I will find balance with time. Indeed, the Firm goes to great lengths to care for its people by offering a range of benefits including but not limited to free food via our cafeteria, a health and wellness allowance and agile working policy.

There are a lot of stereotypes about working in law, can you debunk a myth?

That Magic Circle lawyers somehow work less than lawyers at US firms. We regularly work across from Magic Circle firms, and I can promise you they work just as hard.

What are your career ambitions?

Too soon to tell now, but my immediate ambition is to receive an associate offer at the Firm. 

Why should future trainees consider applying to the firm?

You will be routinely entrusted with advising some of the world’s preeminent organisations, and in doing so work alongside highly intellectual individuals within a collegiate setting. What more could one want in a professional career? If you take your job seriously, have a great attitude and apply yourself, the sky is the limit at White & Case.