There are two of us now, but last year I was the only trainee lawyer in a team with two partners, one of whom is in fact AKD's managing partner. That was a big deal at first; I had so many questions, and the first one I could ask was a partner! Obviously, they're very busy at that, so I didn't want to bother them all the time - even though they said their door was open any time. It took a lot of energy to work on assignments you've never done before. It also triggered me into giving things thought myself: how exactly does this work? What is my perspective here? Is there an alternative way?
After a few months I found that I quite enjoyed having my own responsibility. Even more so because if I get stuck on something I can always turn to one of the partners. There is no rigid hierarchy in our team, we're all colleagues, simple as that. There are no barriers, I can ask the partners any question or make any suggestion. Just give it a shot, they'll say. It's by doing that I learn most.
What I enjoy most is being at the epicentre of things. I often take on the role of project manager in deals. It's my job to oversee the process, guard the deadlines and see to it that all parties receive the right documentation. I always check for myself whether I understand the text as written down. Because if I don't understand it, the client won't either. Before I joined AKD, I imagined that legal documents were supposed to have long, winding, convoluted sentences. Not so at AKD. Quite the opposite, in fact. Our language is short and to the point: this here is the problem, this is our solution. That's the best for the client, who isn't interested in legal detours and roundabouts. Neither am I, for that matter.
Mid-market deals are more interesting than those humongous top-market deals, in my opinion. Smaller deals tend to call for a more personal approach. When the acquisition involves a family business, for example, and the deal has emotional value for the client. You have to switch off the automatic pilot in such a case, make deliberate choices and be able to explain them to the client. That adds a special value to my role as an adviser.
I can never plan very far ahead. Nearly every email I get in my mailbox has a level of urgency. Now that I'm a more experienced lawyer, I am better able to estimate what has to be done right now and what can wait until tomorrow. There are days I can go home at a normal time, but on the flip side we have periods when the whole team stays in until very late, when a closing is due, for instance. The only thing I know in advance are the calls I've scheduled for that day, and even those get postponed regularly. I don't mind, in fact I like the unpredictable nature of my work. Where I work also varies from one day to the other. When I have an early call, for example, I do that from home and don't go into the office until later that day. I like working from home on occasion, but it's more enjoyable at the office.
Two or three nights a week, I run. Apart from the benefits of staying fit, it's also a good way of emptying my head. I also enjoy cooking and making special dishes to try. Me and two colleagues have formed a sort of dining club and we like to dine out at restaurants once every so often. I still am in touch with many people I got to know during the legal professional training. We started out at AKD at about the same time, but have moved to different teams. We have drinks together sometimes, and we had a weekend in the country the other week.
I am more than happy that I took the decision to train at AKD two years ago. This big firm with small but closely-knit teams perfectly fits my idea of what work should be like. It's pretty amazing that the feeling I had when I first came here as a student has not changed since I became a lawyer.”