Joe Burton

Trainee Solicitor

University and degree subject (or equivalent)

University of Exeter, Law with International Study 

Joe studied Law with International Study at the University of Exeter, which included a year abroad studying South East Asian Law. Joe was offered a training contract at Taylor Wessing in 2020, taking a year out to work in Lidl, before commencing his Legal Practitioner Course (LPC) in 2021. Joe is now a trainee at Taylor Wessing, having commenced his training contract in August 2022.  

What course did you study and where?

I studied Law with International Study at the University of Exeter. As part of my degree, I was offered the opportunity to live in Singapore for a year and study South East Asian Law, which was an amazing experience. 

Why did you decide on a career in law?

Even though I studied Law at university, I was unsure whether a legal career was truly for me – mainly because I had not been lucky enough to have had any real work experience within the legal sector during my time at school and university. However, after speaking with people who I had met on my course who graduated before me and had begun their training contracts, I was sold. They really made a career in law sound exhilarating, with the range of tasks you are involved with, as well as the variety of clients you work with, being the real sell for me.  

What attracted you to the firm?

For me, firstly, it was a mix between the practice areas the firm works in, as well as its major sector focuses. I have always had a passion for technology and life sciences, and what Taylor Wessing's clients in this space are doing is incredibly interesting. What better way to pursue my interests in technology and life sciences than to work with some of the biggest players in these spaces on a daily basis.

Secondly, it was the culture of the firm I experienced when on my vacation scheme in 2020. I found that, despite doing my vacation scheme virtually due to the effects of COVID 19 and the associated first lockdown, everyone was so supportive and willing to take time out of their day to talk to me about my work or topics that interested me – regardless of their seniority in the firm. 

What was the application process like?

The application process was challenging but rewarding. You are first asked to complete a written application to the firm, answering questions about yourself, why you are interested in Taylor Wessing and the legal sector generally, as well as other general competency questions.

It is important to be clear and concise on your reasons for applying for Taylor Wessing and as to what skillsets you have which will be of importance to being a successful trainee solicitor. If successful, you are then asked to carry out an online assessment. Next stage is the assessment centre, where you are assessed on a variety of different tasks – including a group task, a written task and an interview with two partners of the firm. The assessment centre was a very intense experience, but if you are well prepared and enthusiastic about the firm and its work, you will do well. 

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

I refuse to believe there is truly such a thing as a 'typical day' as a trainee solicitor due to the variety of work we often find ourselves involved with. However, as a general rule, people will often come to me throughout each day with a range of different tasks they need my support on. These tasks vary, but the most common tasks are researching a legal issue for a client, drafting legal documents or drafting emails to go out to clients. My days are often incredibly busy and thus my ability to manage my time effectively and communicate any potential problems I spot to others around me as soon as they are spotted, is crucial.  

What part of your job do you enjoy the most?

The best part of my job is the feeling I get when seeing that I have made a difference to the lives of our clients and subsequently the world. While the job can be stressful, challenging and hard work, it makes it all worth it to know that you have delivered a satisfactory outcome for the client and helped them better the world in some way. A great example of this is work I did for a client which allowed them to raise the capital needed to market their life-changing pharmaceuticals to customers in the US. 

What are the challenges?

As a trainee, almost everything I experience is new to me and often technical information/tasks I have never had sight of before. This inexperience, coupled with what can be intense time pressures, can cause me to feel a little overwhelmed here and there. However, if you remain calm and relaxed, seeking support when needed, this feeling never lasts long. Alongside this, there are the challenges of moving seat every 6 months.

By the end of a seat, you start to feel comfortable in the work you are being asked to produce and can even carry out tasks that took you hours at the beginning of your seat in no time and to a much better standard. However, when you transition to a new seat, you are once again back at square one, having to learn a whole new area of law and way of doing things. However, if you are adaptable and keen to learn, the transitions are never as rough as they first appear.  

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

One myth I would love to debunk is that you need to have had previous experience working in a law firm or in the legal sector in order to maximise your chances of being successful in the application process and in securing vacation schemes and training contracts.

I, myself, had no legal work experience when I applied for Taylor Wessing, but this did not prevent me from being successful in the application and vacation scheme processes. When asked competency questions, I was able to rely on my work experiences at retail and fashion brands, doing part-time work, to exemplify the skills that I thought all good trainee solicitors need. These skills are often transferable, so don’t be afraid to use your non-legal work experiences to show why you would make a good trainee solicitor. 

What are your career ambitions?

At such an early stage of my career, it is hard to know for certain where I would like to see myself come the end of it. For me, from a young age, I have always wanted to be in a position of responsibility, whether that be as a partner at an international law firm like Taylor Wessing or at another smaller national firm. I have always enjoyed managing teams so maybe even being head of a practice area at a law firm would be something I wish to aim for in the future. 

Why should future trainees consider applying to the firm?

For those with a good attitude and willingness to learn, there is nowhere better to train than Taylor Wessing. In a very short time at the firm I have grown so much as a solicitor, and that is because of the responsibility and opportunities placed on me by my colleagues and supervisors from an early stage, which has accelerated my learning process. If you want a firm that will allow develop you to be the best solicitor you can be, while working on interesting matters for some of the most exciting companies in the world, then Taylor Wessing is the ideal place for you to train.   

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