In this month’s ‘what I know now’ feature we speak to Andrew Batterton, a partner at multinational law firm, DLA Piper LLP.
Andrew is a planning partner at DLA Piper in Leeds. He trained with Hammonds (now Squire Patton Boggs) and qualified in 2002. His first move after qualification was to Addleshaw Goddard in 2005, and he has been involved with NQs and the development of junior lawyers for a number of years.
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO TRAIN AS A SOLICITOR?
I went to university to study chemistry but I was looking then to get into the business world. From attending a careers fair I realised that my science background might not prohibit me from a legal career, and indeed that it might give me a useful differentiator compared to those who’d studied the arts. I also realised that law might be a good direction in order to pay off student debt which reinforced my choice, and my mum was pleased.
HOW WELL DID YOUR EXPERIENCE AS A TRAINEE PREPARE YOU FOR BECOMING QUALIFIED?
I trained with a large firm and enjoyed a good level of exposure and responsibility as a trainee, though it was different when I qualified in 2002 to what it is today. That said, the ‘soft skills’ I developed even whilst training were time management, building rapport, and managing to keep various plates spinning, and those same skills are still essential today. Fortunately my training brought those skills to the fore.
DESCRIBE YOUR TRAINING PARTNER IN THREE WORDS.
Bald. No tie. Dapper.
WHAT WAS THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCE FOR YOU WHEN YOU WERE ADMITTED AND TOOK A FULL SOLICITOR ROLE?
Pretty much immediately people assumed I knew stuff! Whilst that was scary for a while, there is always something new to experience as a lawyer and that is part of the excitement and challenge so that confidence comes with post-qualification experience.
WHAT WERE THE FACTORS BEHIND YOU CHOOSING THE AREA OF LAW THAT YOU SPECIALISE IN?
I’ve always had a personal interest in architecture, the built environment, and in property development. Luckily early in my career I met a regeneration specialist, and the projects I saw working with him excited me as the legal work was making a real difference. So planning played to my interests and it has kept me interested ever since.
COMPARED TO YOUR OWN EXPERIENCE, HOW SIMILAR OR DIFFERENT DO YOU PERCEIVE THE CHALLENGES TO BE FACING NQS IN 2019?
Compared to when I qualified I think in a large international firm it is harder nowadays for junior lawyers to get responsibility for their own matters. Technology has now also changed how people interact, it has created new dynamics in the workplace, and that is a challenge for junior lawyers who have to adapt and be sensitive to the communication styles of more experienced colleagues and clients.
WHAT PIECE OF PRACTICAL ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE WHO IS AT THE START OF THEIR LEGAL CAREER?
Always try and say yes to an opportunity. Plan your day, know what gaps you have, and be prepared to communicate this to others. You need to understand time management, and if you are able to explain yourself that will go a long way in building confidence and trust with your colleagues and clients.
WITH HINDSIGHT WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU HAD KNOWN WHEN YOU WERE NEWLY QUALIFIED?
You have more ability to shape and influence what you get involved in than you perhaps realise, so don’t be afraid to speak up. If you have a good idea with commercial merit, even if it costs money then suggest it, and you might be surprised at how supportive your employer can be.
IF YOU WERE TO RECRUIT A LAWYER AT NQ LEVEL TO WORK CLOSELY WITH YOU, WHAT WOULD BE THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU’D LOOK FOR?
All the soft skills mentioned above – time management, rapport building, and the ability to juggle various priorities.
WHAT IS THE STRANGEST EXPERIENCE YOU’VE HAD IN AN INTERVIEW, AND HOW DID YOU HANDLE IT?
The partner who interviewed me for my first permanent legal post (as trainee) offered me the role in the interview. He was then promptly corrected by the HR representative that this was beyond his level of authority. Instead I was told “we’ll let you know”. I got the job, it wasn’t a great surprise.
Later in my career I proceeded to deliver a substantial answer to an interview question. I was so engrossed in my spiel that I’d failed to appreciate that the interviewer had in fact stopped listening to my response, and that only became apparent when I finished speaking and it went unnoticed for a considerable period of time. It was a prolonged awkward silence for both of us.
WHAT IS YOUR BEST INTERVIEW TIP?
Know what your pull and push factors are.
WHAT IS THE FUNNIEST THING THAT HAS HAPPENED TO YOU AT WORK?
It isn’t printable…a good deal of what amuses me perhaps isn’t for widespread circulation!
WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE ABOUT THE LEGAL PROFESSION?
As a profession we need to find a replacement for the billable hour…and it needs to be something which represents value for the client, rather than value to us as lawyers.
BESIDES BEING A LAWYER, IF MONEY WERE NO OBJECT AND YOU KNEW YOU COULDN’T FAIL, WHAT WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO TRY OR DO?
SUMMARISE YOUR EXPERIENCE OF LEGAL RECRUITERS IN 5 WORDS OR LESS.
If you meet they buy drinks.
Thanks for taking part, Andrew. The drinks are on us.