‘A law degree can open doors’ – law graduate shares her post-LLM journey into corporate governance

My name is Grâce Bogba and I completed my LLM in Banking and Finance Law from Bristol Law School in September 2019 and have been working at Nestor advisors, a London-based advisory firm focused exclusively on corporate governance, ever since. The firm advises European and emerging market financial institutions, States and corporates as well as charities, family-owned and private-equity-backed companies.

I initially joined Nestor advisors as an intern and have been working as a junior analyst since April 2020.

What does a corporate governance analyst do?

Before getting into the specifics of my role, I would like to first define corporate governance because if you are anything like me at the time I applied for the position, you probably do not know much about corporate governance.

According to the Chartered Governance InstituteCorporate Governance refers to the way in which companies are governed and to what purpose. It identifies who has power and accountability, and who makes decisions. It is, in essence, a toolkit that enables management and the board to deal more effectively with the challenges of running a company. Corporate governance ensures that businesses have appropriate decision-making processes and controls in place so that the interests of all stakeholders (shareholders, employees, suppliers, customers and the community) are balanced.”

As a corporate governance analyst, my role includes completing basic and advanced analytical governance research, conducting benchmarking and gap analysis exercises against national and international best practices and writing client-specific reports and documentation (i.e. internal terms of reference, regulations and charters). I am also involved in the preparation of business proposals, presentations and workshops as well as interviews of clients’ key personnel. Since joining the firm in September 2019, I have worked on a variety of projects ranging from the review of the performances of boards of financial institutions to the update and development of national corporate governance codes.

What skills are required to work as a corporate governance analyst?

There is a legal aspect to corporate governance, albeit a limited one, as many of the requirements regarding the formation and activities of companies are dictated by law or regulation. In that sense, my legal knowledge as well as the analytical and problem-solving skills acquired during my studies were of great help to me both during the recruitment process and afterwards. As a matter of fact,  the team at Nestor advisors is multidisciplinary with backgrounds in law, economics, finance, management, and social sciences, and interestingly enough the founding director himself is a lawyer.

Moreover, given the diversity of the firm’s clients, most of whom are based in Africa, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East, fluency in one or more foreign languages is an asset.

More importantly, creativity, the will and the ability to learn quickly as well as a “can-do attitude” are, in my opinion, the main skills needed to evolve in this fast-paced environment. Consultancy work can be demanding at times and involves long hours so flexibility is a must.

“Since working in this field I have developed new skills and competencies – such as data collection and analysis skills – while also putting to use my legal skills.”

Getting started as a corporate governance analyst

As mentioned earlier I started working at Nestor Advisors right after completing my LLM program. At the time, I was not looking for a career beyond traditional law firms and was actually scrolling through the Careers Service website in search of a training contract opportunity when I stumbled across Nestor advisors’ 6-month internship offer.

Back then, I did not think I met the criteria since I had no knowledge of corporate governance but went ahead and booked an appointment with a careers support officer who gave me invaluable advice on how to tailor my resume and cover letter to that specific offer.

At intern level, the recruitment process itself comprised of 3 steps:

  • Review of the applicants’ resume and cover letter;
  • Short-listed applicants are sent a practical case to complete in a set timeframe; and
  • Successful applicants are invited to an interview with a senior analyst.

The whole process, especially the practical case, seemed quite daunting at the time but in retrospect, it was a good learning opportunity as conducting the necessary research allowed me to get an understanding of corporate governance as well as its implications and challenges, which obviously came in handy during the interview.

Key advice

My advice for law students researching a career is:

  • Make use of all the resources that Bristol Law School and the Careers service has to offer It is worth giving it a try whether you are looking for interview tips, help with your resume or simply would like feedback on your cover letter.
  • Don’t limit your job search. (Big) law firms are not your only options. A law degree can open doors in banking, consulting, lobbying etc so I strongly recommend keeping an open mind.
  • Be audacious. Apply to positions even when they are not exactly law-related or you don’t meet all the required qualifications.
  • Put an emphasis on transferable skills. By studying law, you acquire much more than just a degree, you develop strong analytical, problem-solving and time-management skills to name a few. Make sure to highlight them on your resume.
  • Make use of your social connections. I would suggest considering setting a LinkedIn profile. Longer than a resume and more representative of who you are, it can be a big help in finding a job.

Further information

For more information on exploring specific career options, current law students can access tailored careers advice through our regular Employability Bulletin and a wealth of resources on our Blackboard page here. See our full Careers and Employability webpages here.

If you are interested in studying one of our postgraduate law courses, such as the LLM in Banking and Finance, you can join our next virtual open event on 4 March 2021. Sign up to the event via our virtual events webpage.

“Combining my legal and technical skills” – navigating a less traditional career path into LegalTech and academia by law alumna, Amy Conroy

Blog post by recent Bristol LLB Law and MSc Computer Science graduate, Amy Conroy on LegalTech, academia and navigating a less traditional career path.

I graduated with my LLB from Bristol Law School in 2019 and ended up heading down an unconventional route shortly after. I was drawn away by Legal Tech while writing my final year research project on artificial intelligence and its compatibility with the Right to be Forgotten from the GDPR. After that I decided to get a more hands on experience with technology by enrolling in the MSc Computer Science conversion at Bristol University which I finished this September. 

Developing an Automatic Case Judgment Summarisation System 

As part of my MSc thesis I developed a system that automatically summarises case judgments – something I sure wish I had during my law degree! A year ago, I didn’t even know how to code a simple program, and now I am submitting articles to conferences based on my work using machine learning. The biggest key to my success with my thesis was my existing legal knowledge, something that isn’t common in the computer science field. I was able to identify normal clues that indicated precedents in judgments and shape my system around that.  

Combining my legal and technical skills has opened up an excellent opportunity in academia, which I continue to explore in my free time as I am still working on and improving my research. I am a firm believer that the critical thinking skills I gained during my law degree helped me to be successful completing my masters, as a lot of computer science is figuring out the best way to do something, not just using the first way that works.  

openTenancy: An Open Source Legal Aid Website 

This past July, my friend Ana Shmyglya and I decided to start openTenancy, an open source website that provides free advice on tenancy rights. On the back of my thesis, this has been the perfect way to combine my legal knowledge with my new technical skills. We decided to start openTenancy after I talked to Ana about how often my friends were approaching me to ask for advice regarding their tenancies (especially during COVID-19), and how frustrated I was that there wasn’t a simple way you can fill out a questionnaire and get a clear document explaining your tenancy rights. In the same respect, we felt that a lot of people, students especially, were missing out on enforcing their tenancy rights because of how hard it is for them to understand exactly what they are. So, the aim of openTenancy is to do just that – we’re hoping to make it simple for anyone to enforce their tenancy rights with a simple questionnaire!  

We’re currently still developing openTenancy and are looking for contributors to help us write decision trees about tenancy rights. These decision trees are essentially pathways that guide a user through the interview, with each selection opening new questions depending on their answers. This is a really exciting opportunity for you to get involved in changing the current landscape of legal aid in the UK by using automation on an open source platform. Open source is something commonly used in the technology field, which we’re hoping to bring to the legal world – this means that every aspect of openTenancy is freely available, and open for anyone to contribute to. If you’re interested in getting involved, you can get in touch with me personally via email or send an email to the openTenancy team 

Legal Tech Careers Outside of Law Firms 

Despite falling in love with coding through my conversion course, I knew that I still wanted to be involved in the legal world and put to use the amazing skills I’d gained from my law degree. For that reason I decided to look for a career beyond traditional legal firms, and I’m now working for a Legal Tech document automation company called Avvoka. Although I’ve only worked there for a few weeks, my work has been incredibly varied – covering marketing, sales, automation, contract review and more! I’ve loved the opportunity to work with leading automation technology, while also putting to use my legal skills and continuing to be involved in the legal market. I’d seriously recommend that you consider exploring work opportunities with Legal Tech startups if you are interested in Legal Technology, or even if you are just looking at alternative career paths. 

Key Advice 

I would really recommend that you try everything! The skills that you gain with your law degree can genuinely be applied to any field, and it’s important that you don’t feel forced down one specific route. Both the Law School and the Careers Service at Bristol run a variety of events on different career paths and opportunities, and I’d recommend you take full advantage of that. On top of that, one big benefit of the shift to remote working is that a lot of companies are now offering short courses and other sessions online. For example, if you’re interested in seeing what the hype surrounding document automation is all about, my company Avvoka runs academy sessions where you can get hands-on experience with an automation tool used in a lot of law firms and commercial companies. Fun fact – before I applied to Avvoka I actually went to an academy session myself, after a great experience working with their platform I decided to try my luck by applying for a role!  

I would also suggest considering setting up a Twitter account and following those that are working in the industries that you’re interested in (even if you’re not sure what you want to do, or even what field you’re interested in). Most of my opportunities have come from connecting with those in the Legal Tech world this way, including the lovely Catherine Bamford who has helped get openTenancy off the ground – her mentorship and now friendship has been so helpful navigating potential careers in Legal Tech as well.  

Remember that you are on no schedule to figure out your own career path, so take your time to find something you enjoy and don’t compare your own experience and journey with anyone else’s.

Feel free to reach out to me if you’re looking for some advice or guidance particularly in navigating less traditional career paths after your law degree, or if you have any questions at all. I can be contacted through my websiteon twitter or on LinkedIn 

Further information

If like Amy, you are considering pursuing a less traditional legal career path and would like some guidance, the Law School offers the opportunity for second year LLB and MA students to be mentored on the Law in Society mentoring scheme, aimed at matching students with legal graduates in non-corporate/commercial career paths, such as human rights, government, policy and LegalTech. Applications close on Monday 2 November – find out more online.

Do More with Law – why it is time to learn about Self-Sovereign Identity

A blogpost by recent Bristol law graduate, Alex Tweeddale who now works in the area of data protection and privacy law.

The ‘Route-1’ approach of firing applications to law firms and hoping one will land is almost outdated. Perhaps this was the best approach for previous generations, however, there is a now a new modern, agile way of working which simply isn’t spoken about so much in University career days. For example, going to work in a developing start-up gives you experiences you simply would not get by jumping straight into a training contract.

Moreover, if you do work in a start-up and want to transition into a city law firm, you will have built up such a strong portfolio of skills, publications and contacts, meaning you may stand out from people who have been trained rigorously to the practices of a city law firm for 2 years.

An Emerging Industry – Self-Sovereign Identity

Alex Tweeddale, a recent graduate from the University of Bristol has joined IDWorks, a London based start-up, who are creating a Self-Sovereign Identity (SSI) solution for companies and individuals. Alex is attempting to spread awareness about the benefits which an SSI model can provide society and wants to encourage Bristol students to get involved in the industry.

What is SSI?

Self-Sovereign Identity (SSI) is a new, innovative, technological approach to digital identity, which puts the control and ownership of personal data into the hands of an individual, rather than multiple organisations. It also adds trust to digital interactions by using signed digital attributes called ‘Credentials’.

Currently, an individual’s digital identity and personal data is scattered across multiple companies’ centralised databases. For example, your Facebook profile is owned by Facebook, and if Facebook were to shut down, you would lose part of your digital identity. Similarly, to rely on a copy of your University diploma, you must request a physical copy from your University and it often it must be sealed and stamped. SSI is a technology which takes the concept of this sealed and stamped envelope and puts it into a digital format (Credential), using cryptography, and anchors it to an individual’s mobile device.

When the individual needs to share this digital diploma as proof of their degree or their identity, the verifying party can ascertain, through cryptographic resolution, that the diploma credential had been issued and digitally stamped by the University. This is more efficient and trustworthy because it removes the potential for fraudulent documentation.

Why is this necessary?

In short, the current state of data management is fundamentally insecure, and as such, individuals have lost their security, control and privacy on the internet. Individuals no longer know where their personal data is being used and companies are exploiting your data for commercial gain behind your back, and by using ‘clickwraps’ which skirt round the GDPR’s consent requirements.

It is time to take back control of your identity online!

Why should you consider this route?

Working in a start-up in an emerging technology allows you to be more creative and flexible than working in a traditional law firm. You can be creative in how you market, pitch and sell your product and the working hours are often flexible and allow remote work. Additionally, you are working towards something which will genuinely make a difference in how the world functions at its core. And if I haven’t convinced you already, often you will earn a higher salary per hours of work than starting in a law firm.

Sounds cool? Want to get involved? Drop Alex an email at: alex@idworks.io 

‘My journey from law student to pupillage and everything in between’ a blog by Harrison Burroughs

Harrison Burroughs studied LLB Law at the University of Bristol Law School, graduating in 2019. Here Harrison details his journey throughout his course and the steps he took along the way to bring him closer to his goal of building a career at the Bar.

I started my law degree at Bristol in 2016, fresh from finishing my A Levels. Coming to a university like Bristol to study law can feel like a daunting experience; thankfully Bristol could not have been better at supporting me during my degree and my career aspirations.

Work Experience

Key to any application in the legal sector is work experience. Experience is vital to show both interest and skill in a chosen area. Admittedly, when I began my degree, I didn’t even know where to find these experiences, let alone how to be successful in obtaining them.

My main tip to anyone looking for work experience would be to start small. One or two days shadowing or volunteering is a great place to start, allowing you to build up your CV over time and go on to attain more substantial schemes. Equally, pay attention to your student societies, such as Bar Soc or Pro Bono Society, as these can be a great place to find work opportunities.

Scholarships

What separates becoming a barrister as a career choice is not just the significant financial investment, but also the immense competition for pupillage spaces.

Scholarships and awards are vital to overcoming both of these issues, covering some of the costs of the BPTC year and looking great on your CV.

Each year the four Inns of Court offer millions of pounds of awards to prospective barristers, significantly contributing to BPTC fees and other expenses. Each Inn has a slightly different application process and marking criteria, but all generally focus on aspects important to a barrister like academic ability and public speaking skill. The written applications for these scholarships close in November, with interviews in the spring, so keep an eye out!

With the help of the Careers Service and Law School Employability team at Bristol, I was able to tailor my application to best suit my strengths – both on paper and in interview – and was lucky enough to be awarded a Lord Denning Scholarship from Lincoln’s Inn.

However, it is important to remember that there are many other scholarships out there. For example, the Guru Nanak Social Mobility Award is provided by Mukhtiar Singh each year to offer funding and mentoring for aspiring barristers from disadvantaged backgrounds. As the inaugural winner of this scholarship, I can’t stress enough how important and helpful this award has been for my career.

Pupillage

I was receiving my first invitations to pupillage interviews when Corona virus struck. This offered the slightly odd experience of taking almost half my interviews in person (pre-lockdown) and half over a combination of Skype, zoom, teams and practically every other video-conferencing software available.

Despite the oddity of delivering answers to your laptop’s webcam, the fundamentals of video interviews are ultimately the same as those in person. You have to be calm, clear and concise and deliver your answers well – albeit sometimes with the added difficulty of your neighbour conducting DIY through the wall.

After a stressful spring period, balancing interviews with exam prep, I accepted an offer of pupillage with No5 Chambers, specialising in Personal Injury and Clinical Negligence.

It’s hard to put into words the amazing feeling when you receive that phone call informing you of your success. For me, this was the culmination of years of work and studying. It made all my hard work feel worth it.

I hope this blog has helped any students considering a career at the Bar. The Bar is undoubtedly an immensely difficult career path and my own experiences show it requires a lot of hard work. However, with a great deal of perseverance, success can be within reach.

Further information

For more information on exploring specific career options, current law students can access tailored careers advice through our regular Employability Bulletin and a wealth of resources on our Blackboard page here. See our full Careers and Employability webpages here.