A Day in the Life of / Life / Life after law school

‘Day in the Life of’ …a new solicitor…

Henry Hillind - Wellington crop

Name:  Henry Hillind
Job title:  Solicitor
Employer, city/country:  Buddle Findlay, Wellington
Length of time in current role:  1 year (from January 2016)
Where and when you studied law:  Victoria University of Wellington, 2011 to 2015

Describe a typical day in your job?

No day in my job is typical, as I do such a broad range of work across corporate and financial law.  Much of my work is writing or reviewing commercial contracts and legal opinions, with a variety of research tasks as well.  My primary area of work is in transactional banking law, which tends to involve lengthy projects that can take weeks or even months to complete.  The past year has been a busy one in this area due to the regulatory changes in the sector.  I work closely with many clients on the regulatory requirements of, and compliance with, the Financial Markets Conduct Act 2013.  Mixed in with the longer projects are numerous questions of corporate governance that clients need speedy answers to, as well as assisting with mergers and acquisition work, which is always a thrill as it is highly confidential and fast-paced.  I could arrive at work one morning to find we have an urgent corporate due diligence to complete within the week, or that we need to submit an application to a market regulator within a tight time-frame.  Working on multiple complex issues at once can be challenging, but it is rewarding and satisfying work and can be quite exciting.


How did you get into this job?

It took me about 2 years.  At first, I struggled to decide on the field of law I most wanted to work in and had no idea where to apply for relevant jobs.  I started making applications at the beginning of my second to last year of study.  Summer Clerk programmes were advertised widely but it took a little more effort to find other listings.  My first piece of research work was for a small law firm that needed assistance on a one-off project.  Not long after, I got a part-time job at the Law Commission and also worked as the student editor for a university law journal.  As I came to understand my own interests, I was better able to target appropriate job openings.  It is necessary to be persistent and to apply to a wide number of firms to find the right match between you and a new employer.


Are there particular study subjects or working experience you would recommend to prepare for a similar role to yours?

If your desire is to work in a national law firm but you are yet to decide on what area of law, then all subjects are good subjects when interviewing for a Summer Clerk programme.  Work experience is helpful, particularly volunteer work that demonstrates your interests in law outside of studying it.  If you are already passionate about a particular field, then electives in that area will provide a foundation to build on.  However, many things can also be learned on the job.  My first elective paper was on securities law, which I took without knowing what it was about.  As I found it interesting, I elected to do my research paper the following year on an aspect of financial markets law, and also took companies law.  These helped me to develop some understanding of the area of law and ultimately led to me interviewing for a position specifically in that area.


What are the highlights of the job?

I find the work interesting, intellectually stimulating and widely varied.  It is all the more enjoyable working with knowledgeable people in a supportive environment.  A big highlight for me is being given many opportunities to work on projects that address new issues in financial markets law, issues that have not come before a court before but which we need to form an opinion on.  These can be quite exciting but also difficult problems to work on, and everyone’s input is considered and valued.  Even in my first year, I was attending meetings with clients and communicating with them directly, which was exciting and helped to build my confidence in my own work.


What are the challenges of the job?

At times, the work can be demanding due to time constraints and the pressures of multiple deadlines different projects.  Managing time is always a challenge but can be met through good communication within the team.  The work itself is intellectually challenging which I like, particularly when I am given something tricky to research, such as how a question of law is treated in comparative jurisdictions.


What kind of personal qualities are suited to this job?

This depends on the employer!  At Buddle Findlay, fitting in with the team is important.  Certain personal qualities and abilities are valued, such as time management, multitasking and meeting deadlines, as is punctuality and the ability to work independently.  For the type of work I do, a keen eye for details is helpful.


What one thing do you wish someone had told you at law school?

At law school I was never really aware of how important statutory interpretation is to giving legal advice.  Typically, when we receive a question from a client, the starting place is a statute.  Often the answer is clear, but where there is ambiguity we still need to advise on how the provision applies, often with no case law to turn to and very limited commentary.  Interpretation is a vital skill for these instances.


Any other advice for law students wanting to get into a similar role?

My advice would be to find the areas of law that you are most passionate about and persevere in applying for job openings in those areas.  Where possible, make use of contacts from your university, such as lecturers of the subjects you enjoyed the most.  I found they were always open to discuss career options.  Make sure to tailor your applications to the particular position you are applying for; your cover letter says a lot more about you than your grades ever will.