In interview with...
Amardeep Gill, Commercial Partner
Trowers & Hamlins
Amardeep Gill is a Partner at Trowers & Hamlins in Birmingham. Amardeep specialises in commercial law and specifically advises government, public bodies and SMEs on transformation or business critical projects. We interviewed Amardeep to find out more about the day in the life of a commercial partner!
What does a typical day in the life of a commercial partner look like for you?
I love the variety of what I do and therein lies the challenge and the reward as well. Today I have got a big contract that I am varying for a client, it’s a variation to a £60m deal. I’ve already reviewed most of it and will finalise my comments later today. I’ve just been instructed by a start-up to look at commercial agreements they need and I’m doing a big report for a public sector client that is looking at creating a £100m investment tourism location. That report will be very academic as I’ll be looking at legislation and what they can and can’t do.
As you can see, there’s a whole variety of work and at the core of all this work is finding solutions and a way forward for my clients.
Wow, that sounds busy! Do you think the life of a commercial lawyer offers a good work/life balance?
It does most of the time!
With any area of law there will always be times of peak activity. Early on in my career, I did a lot of all-nighters, probably one every few months. I haven’t in the last few years. The world has moved on but if you’re worried about this, have a look at the firm you’re applying to and what they expect of you. Generally, the most important thing is that you are hardworking and committed.
How did you decide that commercial law was the right fit for you?
I’ve always really enjoyed large scale contractual arrangements. Even during my training contract I always enjoyed doing the contract work whether it was during a real estate seat, commercial contracts seat or litigation seat.
When I qualified I used to do large scale PFI projects, this is where the public sector is asking the private sector to build hospitals, schools, motorways etc and they pay for that asset and services essentially via a mortgage arrangement. It’s quite a complex contractual arrangement and I just loved it. I got involved in the public sector work and just found it so engaging.
At the heart of all contracts is making relationships between the parties work as seamlessly as possible and getting the risk profile right between them.
As commercial law is extremely competitive, how do you think a trainee interested in commercial law can make themselves stand out?
If you’re in a business that offers a commercial seat, get that seat. When you’re in that seat, you really have to interrogate the work that you’re doing and get to grips with it. Show a broader understanding of what you’re being asked to do and be really enthusiastic. These are fundamental traits of any trainee looking for a job. You have to show enthusiasm, that you have a good understanding of the world, that you have a view of what’s going on around you and how these things are impacting on the economy and society. It is fundamental to have that broad understanding and really engage.
What would you say are the top 3 skills you use every day as a commercial lawyer?
Listening. Understanding. Taking constructive steps to progress matters for clients.
What would you say is the one thing that comes up the most in your projects?
The overall level of risk that an organisation is willing to accept - the threshold is different for every organisation and as a lawyer it’s really important to understand where that threshold sits.
What advice would you give to current junior lawyers looking to progress up the career ladder to (eventual) partnership?
I think it is really fundamental that you produce good quality work, that’s a given. That you are collegiate and cooperative with your broader team and that you not only invest in your relationships with your colleagues but also with clients. I think it’s really important that you show that level of commitment and enthusiasm.
How does progression work at Trowers?
We have a clear career matrix with transparent objectives that sit with each qualification level so if you’re working towards it, you will get promoted. This is not based on your position in the team, it is objective and based on the published matrix that is available to everyone.
Did you ever have to deal with rejection during your journey to partnership and if so, how did you deal with it?
Everyone that you come across has faced rejection. There are very few people that have a gifted journey where everything has happened in accordance with their expectations. The most important thing is how you respond when things don’t seem to be going your way or are not happening at the speed you would like. You can get angry, frustrated, upset or give up completely. This is all okay but if you are committed to something, part of that commitment is to expect that the journey isn’t going to be straightforward.
When you’re faced with a set of circumstances, remember that how you invest your energy is the only thing you can control. You can invest your energy by letting it chip away at you or you can use it as a teachable moment and learn from it to move forward. Ultimately you can sit still or move forward and that option is in everyone’s grasp in every situation and every context. It is easier said than done - I know!
That’s amazing advice! Rejection is definitely a part of an aspiring lawyer’s journey. What do you think an aspiring lawyer could do during a vac scheme to minimise the risk of rejection? How can they really stand out?
Vacation schemes are a very nerve wracking experience so huge kudos to students that go through it. What really stands out to me is when a student has a wider view of the world. The ability to think quickly and have real poise in your thinking. Someone that is intellectually strong and robust and has a personality that is both diligent and collaborative. Academics are great but that isn’t necessarily the be all and end all. We’ve taken students from non- traditional routes that have decided university was not for them. One of our most senior partners started his career in our post room. We just need to see the person’s intellectual capability, enthusiasm, collaborative approach and willingness to learn.
Have you ever had a candidate stand out for the wrong reasons at interview?
I’ve had a couple of car crash interviews! What really turns me off is not understanding our business, not understanding our USPs and simply just going through a process. Sometimes we’ve had students who do not know the firm and have not done any research or perhaps looked at the website on the day of the interview and it’s really obvious that they’ve not got to grips with the broad depth of what we do.
You should consider the interview as an opportunity to really sell yourself and in selling yourself demonstrate a commitment to the business. What kind of future do you want within our organisation and if you don’t know our organisation well enough, how can you really commit to it? The training contract is a big decision for a firm. It’s a big financial commitment for us so your attitude should reflect why that commitment should be made to you.
How can candidates show that they’ve really researched and understood the firm during an interview?
Find out who is interviewing you, look at the press about them, hunt around on LinkedIn, see what the senior partners are talking about. You should be reviewing our press releases for at least 6 months before you attend the interview. Do we have any campaigns that you’ve got a view on or can share a view on? Don’t just read it and regurgitate it but think laterally about it. I was really impressed when one of the students talked about one of our campaigns in real estate and talked about how regeneration for them is key in how they experience and see the world as a millennial.
Read the news and think laterally about it. Regurgitating only confirms that you’ve read it. But what does it actually mean to you? Why is it relevant? Why is it important? Applicability is not reading and regurgitating, it is about explaining how it speaks to you and why it is important. Don’t read and repeat. Read, repeat and add your own value to it.
Finally, what would you say is the one attribute that all trainees at Trowers have in common?
They’re all nice people and I enjoy spending time with them. How you get on with people is fundamental to being a good lawyer.