Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
My name is Olivia. I went to Durham University and studied French and ab initio Italian before doing the GDL and LPC at BPP University in London. Prior to that, I completed most of my high school education in Auckland, New Zealand where much of my family lives. I enjoy tennis (watching and playing), bouldering and using my languages when I get the chance.
What inspired you to apply for this role with Goodwin?
A piece of advice that I once received was to go wherever the action is and to be part of a rising tide. Goodwin definitely feels like a rising tide with its rapid expansion plan seeing its lawyer headcount increase exponentially across both its London and European offices. I like that the firm has a clear business plan, and that it specialises in many key growth areas such as technology, life sciences and private equity. As a result of all of these factors, I would say that there is a dynamism and energy to the firm that would be hard to replicate anywhere else. I wanted to be a part of this movement, particularly during my formative years as a trainee lawyer. It seemed to me like the ideal place to learn and to realise my professional ambitions.
What is your role at Goodwin?
I am currently a 1st seat trainee in Goodwin’s private equity department.
What has been the single most important thing you learnt so far in your job?
That human relationships are essential to this job. At Goodwin you can be given work, but often it is up to you to go out and find your own work. To do this, you need to establish relationships within your team. While this originally seemed a little daunting to me, it is in fact a fantastic opportunity to take the reins in steering your training contract and learning in the direction of your choice. I have already worked with a range of talented lawyers from varying backgrounds who bring their own style and expertise to each deal. This has allowed me to build up a clear picture of what my strengths and weaknesses are, and has taught me a lot about which areas of private equity interest me the most. Strong relationships and communication can also dramatically improve the efficiency of a deal, so they are definitely worth the time and investment.
What would a ‘normal’ day look like for someone in your role?
As a trainee, there are some tasks that you will be routinely involved in such as due diligence. I am lucky enough to have been put on a deal in its early stages, so I am currently largely responsible for the diligence process of a transaction. Diligence (on the buyer side) is all about vetting the company that a client wants to buy and investigating the risks attached to it. It is an essential part of the transaction, as findings can influence the purchase price and can even lead to the buyer walking away in extreme cases. As part of this process I monitor the data room (an electronic database to be filled with documents and information about the target company) for inconsistent or missing information that could be material to the buyer. I flag any such information and ultimately combine my findings, and those of other specialist departments reviewing the data room, into a report called the due diligence report. I am really enjoying this task as it allows for me to take ownership of my work. It also often involves liaising with different departments across the business units and even across the firm’s different offices, which I personally enjoy a lot. Trainees can also play a big role in closings and signings and can practise their drafting skills in non-disclosure agreements. Non-disclosure agreement (NDA) drafting is another one of my favourite tasks. As a trainee your input and comments are really valued, as associates might not have the same amount of time as you do to go through the contract with a fine-toothed comb. Trainees can also partake in the negotiation of NDAs, even though negotiation is something typically reserved for qualified lawyers.
What do you find most interesting with the sector/industry you’re in?
What I like about private equity so far is the variety and project management involved in the seat. I have written summaries on topics ranging from pensions regulations to health and safety policies and foreign real estate. I feel like this has given me great exposure to many different practice areas and I have learned a lot in the process. On the project management side of things, I have also really liked being the point of contact in a transaction, whether over the phone or by email. This has given me positive interaction with many different lawyers both within and outside of the firm, while teaching me about what being a lawyer entails and how to collaborate with all types of personalities.
What is the company culture like?
Based on everyone that I have met so far, Goodwin does not have an internally competitive environment. The firm’s culture is, in fact, very supportive and collaborative, from partner down to trainee level. In my experience, each lawyer is encouraged to forge their own path, whatever that might look like. For example, having listened to a talk on financial restructuring this morning as part of the trainee training program, I decided to contact a partner who worked in this area on the private equity side. This would undoubtedly be considered a bold move for a trainee at some firms, but at Goodwin I was not surprised when my emails were met with a positive response and when the partner scheduled a time to meet me to discuss his area of expertise. To this effect, I feel as if the firm takes a modern approach to the working environment, seeking to distinguish itself from more traditional firms which prefer a rigid hierarchical structure. At Goodwin, there truly is an open-door policy and I honestly cannot think of anyone that I would feel too intimidated to talk to in an elevator!
How important is diversity to you and what is Goodwin doing in this space at the moment?
Diversity is paramount to me and clearly it is to Goodwin too. I was not even fully aware of my own internalised biases and assumptions about the legal profession until I did a vacation scheme (in person) at the firm back in 2019. When I was younger, I used to believe that you needed a certain type of education, background, personality and, perhaps, even gender to be a successful city lawyer. Goodwin has demonstrated to me how flawed this thinking is. At Goodwin, lawyers come from an incredibly wide range of backgrounds whether ethnically, professionally or socio-economically, and this is one of the firm’s greatest strengths. I do not consider myself an enormously loud or assertive person, and I thought that this might hinder my progress at an American firm in particular, but I was luckily wrong about that and have found my unique personality traits to be an asset rather than a hindrance.
Finally, any tips for anyone who’d like to apply for a role at Goodwin?
My advice to anyone applying to Goodwin is to be yourself throughout the application process, and to let your personality shine through - particularly at interview. Apart from that, I would suggest reaching out to trainees at Goodwin with your questions and attending law fairs/recruitment events where Goodwin is present so that you can get under the skin of the firm. It is difficult trying to convince someone you want to work somewhere when your knowledge of the place itself is limited, so do all of the digging that you can!