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Interviews

Adam Gamsa, Trainee Solicitor @ Field Fisher Waterhouse Interviews

Adam Gamsa, Trainee Solicitor @ Field Fisher Waterhouse
From scientist to solicitor…

Having completed a DPhil in Physics at the University of Oxford, Adam Gamsa decided to move away from academia and join Field Fisher Waterhouse as a trainee solicitor. We caught up with Adam to chat about his first nine months as a trainee, his vacation scheme and his enthusiasm for intellectual property law…


You’ve taken a fairly unconventional route into law. When and why did you decide that you wanted to leave academia behind and become a solicitor?

Towards the end of my doctorate, I realised that what I was doing was incredibly abstract and of interest to very few people around the world. I decided I’d rather be involved in a more mainstream line of work, where I could make a difference to businesses and a broader spectrum of people.

The career path for academics, at present, is also quite a risky one. Essentially, you find yourself having to do two or three postdocs; each of which take a couple of years to complete. What’s more, you might have to travel around the world, depending on where you are offered a place.

I’d reached the stage where I wanted to have a fixed place of work in London and embark on a career where I could reasonably expect to have employment in the UK for the foreseeable future.

The specific area of law that I’m interested in is patent disputes, which is scientific, so it’s not a complete departure from what I was doing before. But now I also get the opportunity to deal with the general public and make a difference to their businesses. I also have the added security that the legal profession offers.

You completed the LLB in one year. How did that come about?

I did the GDL at BPP to start with, but it was the first year when the college was given the right to award full degrees. I had to do a few extra courses over the summer and write a dissertation.

What work experience did you get before applying for training contracts?

The only work experience I did in law was the vacation placement here at Field Fisher Waterhouse. Before then, all my work experience had been engineering or physics-related.

Was the vacation scheme instrumental in your decision to join Field Fisher Waterhouse?

Absolutely. I did an Easter scheme and spent a couple of weeks in the IP department working on trademarks. It gave me great exposure to the kind of work that trainees were being asked to do, and I could see that the department was comprised of interesting people I could get along with.

How many firms did you apply to?

I applied to seven or eight different vacation placements, but this one was in Easter so it came first. I was offered a training contract without any further interviews. I went through all the partner interviews before they offered me the vacation scheme.

Talk us through the application process for Field Fisher Waterhouse. What did it involve? What was the most challenging part?

I had to complete an online application form, which essentially got me through the door. After that, I was invited to an assessment day before finally being offered a place on the vacation scheme.

On the assessment day, we were asked to do all sorts of things, including a legal problem. At that stage, I hadn’t done any legal training at all. They sat us down, gave us a scenario, gave us the statutes we needed, and asked us to write a letter of advice to the client based on the information we had been given.

They made it quite clear that they didn’t expect a legally sound response. I think they were just trying to judge the tone of the letter and whether or not we were saying acceptable things based on the statutes provided.

After the written task came partner interviews and HR interviews. Finally, I had to do a presentation on the topic: ‘How is the credit crunch going to affect legal businesses?’ It was quite a long process.

Do you think studying a scientific subject helped you stand out from the crowd?

It’s hard for me to say. Working as a trainee in a department that deals with intellectual property law and patents, however, does mean that a scientific background can be helpful, as it helps you understand what you’re dealing with.

The patents, after all, are mainly of a technical nature. Having a scientific background helps you click with the client, talk their language and understand the dispute.

When it comes to getting a vacation placement, though, I don’t think the recruiters favour candidates with a scientific background particularly.

What was your first day at FFW like?

It was only nine months ago, but it feels like a long time ago. I did my first seat in Property. I was working in the transactions group. You’re not just dropped in at the deep end. They realise that it’s been a while for some people since they studied land law and property. Therefore, they put on a full set of training courses.

My first day, I’m afraid to say, is not going to blow you away. We were revising the law of leases, break clauses and all of the different things we were going to have to deal with.

There was about a week’s worth of training, and then I started working in an office with my supervisor. Most of my work came from her and she dropped me straight in it really. After the training, we were shown the first lease we had to work on and all systems were go.

Your current seat is in IP litigation. What do you enjoy most about IP?

With IP, there’s a bigger spectrum of tasks. The person who walks in the door could be the inventor who’s having his invention copied, or it could be a big company that wants to license out their invention to another company.

Every job is different and every patent is different. One thing I’ve been working on recently is medical injectors. In the IP practice, you can work on a dispute about whether or not a particular form of injector device or syringe is new and protectable, and the next thing you’re working on is a telecoms contract where someone says they’re in dispute about whether they’ve breached a software license. The breadth of work is much wider here.

What seat are you doing next?

I don’t know yet. We have to submit a list of our preferences in August. We’re given a list of the different departments and asked to rank our top six. You have to write a cover letter explaining why your top choice is your number one preference and why you think you should get it. Ideally, I think I’d like to do Tax next.

How often do you have to state your seat preferences?

Every time. We do four lots of six month seats. Typically, when the first years join in September, they try and give the second year trainees first pick, as they’ve effectively only got two seats left and may not have been given the seats they wanted before.

Consequently, when you pick your first seat as a first year, you’re effectively choosing from what’s left. However, for the March placement, the second seat, it’s a level playing field and everyone gets a fair shot.

What area of law would you eventually like to specialise in?

I’m slanting towards IP because of the technical nature of it, but if I do get the Tax seat, that will be interesting as well, as it involves using numbers. Ultimately, you’re a pseudo accountant and I think my physics background could stand me in reasonably good stead.

You finished your undergraduate degree in 2004. Do you find that you’re a little bit older than other trainees? Do you think that gives you an advantage?

I’m not the oldest of the trainees actually. I would say 60% of our trainees are fresh out of university, but a fair few of us have done other things.

One girl came to us from the Civil Service and one guy came out of the Army. I’m not sure being older gives you an advantage as such, but you can bring a bit more experience to the table. I bring my technical knowledge, for instance.

What is the best part of your job?

I’m very lucky. I’ve been assigned a really good supervisor and we work very well together. He’s gone out on a limb slightly by giving me the sort of work that trainees wouldn’t usually be given. I’m doing little bits of associate and NQ work, and that’s excellent because it gives you an even better idea of what it would be like if you decided to apply for a position here after the training contract.

The part I enjoy most is having a team that I get on with. Part of the problem with staying around in academia was that I didn’t have an awful lot in common with the über-geeks that tend to populate theoretical physics departments.

I like coming in, chatting and working alongside people that I like and get along with.

What do you least enjoy about your job?

Although it’s nice to be given the experience of more complicated tasks, you still have to get on and do the day-to-day work that you’ve essentially been brought in to do as a trainee, such as bundling, counterfeiting work and disclosure exercises, where you have to spend several days reading through emails from the client to see if they are relevant to a dispute or not.

What is your ultimate ambition?

When I came into law, I was quite determined that, in the shortest possible time, I would start up my own firm and be my own boss. To a certain extent, I think that would still be a nice thing to do.

However, when you start working in a department like this, you realise that there is a whole support network behind the scenes, allowing the fee earners to get on with their roles. For instance, you’ve got the legal secretaries and you’ve got the risk department, which deals with all the SRA requirements.

If you’re going to set up on your own firm, you’re going to have to find a way to dot all those Is and cross all those Ts. You may also find yourself swamped by bureaucracy if you’re not careful, and unable to compete.

Starting my own firm may still be an ultimate ambition, but it’s a few years down the line from when I had originally hoped.

What advice would you give to people who are currently applying for training contracts?

Look into the firms as much as they’re looking into you. You can get a feeling when you’re writing all those training contract applications that you’re putting yourself out there and you’re just waiting for someone to make you an offer. But you really ought to be auditioning the firms. I’ve fallen on my feet here in that the firm I did my vacation placement with was a good match.

There’s a real danger that people will just say yes to their first offer, particularly when it’s so difficult to get a training contract. But I think it’s just as important for you to feel that you’re interviewing the firm.

To find out more about training contracts and vacation schemes at Field Fisher Waterhouse, please click here now!

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Georgina Blackwell: From Beautician to Barrister

Georgina Blackwell: From Beautician to Barrister

In 2009, Georgina Blackwell, a beautician at the time, stepped into the High Court and won a courtroom battle against a property development giant without any legal training. Following her victory, she was offered a full scholarship by BPP to complete the LLB. Two years later, she graduated with a first class honours degree. We caught up with Georgina to chat about her unique experiences of the legal profession so far…

Interviews

 Using Your Internship to Get into Investment Banking

Using Your Internship to Get into Investment Banking

You’ve probably heard that work experience is the best way forward when it comes to securing that golden graduate job. But how do you go about making the most of your internships to get into the highly competitive investment banking industry? Raisah, who is now a credit trading analyst at international bank J.P. Morgan has is covered…

Interviews

Gavin Thomas, Travel Writer

Gavin Thomas, Travel Writer

After a two-year round-the-world trip, Gavin Thomas decided to move away from music journalism and started working as a travel editor with Rough Guides. After several years of editing, he was given the opportunity to author the first edition of the Rough Guide to Sri Lanka. Since becoming a freelance travel journalist in 2005, he has written a range of guidebooks about Dubai, Oman, Rajasthan, Delhi and Agra. We chatted to Gavin about becoming a travel writer, avoiding cliché and the time he was shot in the stomach by armed bandits in Mexico…

Interviews

Finance Apprenticeships: A Smith & Williamson Insight

Finance Apprenticeships: A Smith & Williamson Insight

Finance apprenticeships are increasingly on the up as an alternative to university for top school leavers. But what does an apprenticeship actually involve? Josh and Katie came from slightly different routes (A-levels and a Level 3 BTEC Extended Diploma in Business) and have now taken up tax and audit apprenticeships with financial services firm Smith & Williamson. They let us in on what their programmes involve…

Interviews

Diversity in Banking: An Insight

Diversity in Banking: An Insight

You’ll often here that nowadays banks implement diversity policies and programmes in all elements of their business. But what are they actually doing? Vinay Kapoor, UK Diversity & Inclusion Manager at BNP Paribas told us about how things are changing within the industry and what diversity and inclusion means at the Bank…

Interviews

Devan Nathwani, Actuarial Intern and Graduate at Aon

Devan Nathwani, Actuarial Intern and Graduate at Aon

Devan was curious about what an actuarial career may hold as a mathematics student, but wasn’t 100% sure what the industry actually entailed. A couple of years later, he has completed a summer internship in actuarial consulting within pensions with top actuarial firm Aon, and has now moved into their graduate scheme. So what did he gain from his summer internship?

Interviews

Deutsche Bank Experiences: Private & Business Clients

Deutsche Bank Experiences: Private & Business Clients

Private and business clients is a highly desired career path focus in the banking and finance world. Roya is gaining experience in this area with Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt, Germany – one of the world’s biggest financial hubs. She told us about the opportunities this is opening up.

Interviews

Deutsche Bank Experiences: Graduate Global Technology Strategy Analyst

Deutsche Bank Experiences: Graduate Global Technology Strategy Analyst

Leo is a Global Technology Strategy Analyst in Group Technology & Operations in London. His team pioneers technologies and re-engineers business processes to deliver innovation and world-class client service. From moving trillions of Euros through a business every day to integrating two organizations after a major acquisition, they face the technological challenges caused by growth, market change and constant competition…

Interviews

Dave Benson Phillips, Children’s Television Presenter

Dave Benson Phillips, Children’s Television Presenter

If you watched children’s television in the 90s, you will probably recognise the trademark smile of Dave Benson Phillips. Yep, that’s right! He’s the charming chap who presented Playdays, Get Your Own Back and Wake Up in the Wild Room. We caught up with Dave to chat about his life as a children’s television presenter, the 'World’s Largest Gunge Fight', and the internet death hoax that threatened to ruin his career…

Interviews

Confessions of a Recruitment Consultant

Confessions of a Recruitment Consultant

Prepare to be shocked, appalled and amused! We interviewed a graduate recruitment consultant to find out what really happens to your CV when you apply for a job through a recruitment agency. If you want an honest insight into the recruitment process, you’re in the right place. The person we interviewed has asked to remain anonymous. Get ready to find out why!

Interviews

Chibundu Onuzo, Student Novelist

Chibundu Onuzo, Student Novelist

Chibundu Onuzo started writing her debut novel when she was just 17 years old. Having secured a two-book deal with Faber at the age of 20, whilst studying history at King’s College London, she went on to receive widespread critical acclaim for The Spider King’s Daughter, which was recently shortlisted for the prestigious Dylan Thomas Prize. We chatted to Chibundu about tackling the writing process, getting published, and balancing academic work with a literary career…

Interviews

Catching Up with Browne Jacobson’s New Training Principal

Catching Up with Browne Jacobson’s New Training Principal

Mark Hughes has recently been appointed training principal at Browne Jacobson. Mark, a partner in Browne Jacobson’s corporate team specialises in all aspects of corporate advice, including acquisitions and disposals and has been with the firm since 1999. AllAboutCareers.com caught up with Mark, finding out about changes to Browne Jacobson’s trainee recruitment programme…

Interviews

Building a Brand: The World’s Best Tasting Popcorn

Building a Brand: The World’s Best Tasting Popcorn

Fresh from his recent appearance on Dragons’ Den, Martin McLaughlin (a.k.a. Ben ‘Jamaican Me Crazy’ McLaughlin) chatted to us about starting his own popcorn company, Love Da Popcorn, with two close friends. With a background in advertising and a tidy little bit of investment from Peter Jones, Love Da Popcorn’s products are likely to be making your tonsils tingle with happiness very, very soon…

Interviews

Are apprenticeships the best route into the accounting industry?

Are apprenticeships the best route into the accounting industry?

Mike Day is the Head of the Accounting Academy Partnership, an apprenticeship scheme which helps young people to become qualified accounting technicians in just 14 months. We chatted to Mike about the increasing importance of apprenticeships in the accounting industry, especially now the government has announced its scheme to create 360,000 apprenticeships in the UK this financial year…

Interviews

An Interview with the Attorney General

An Interview with the Attorney General

Appointed as the Attorney General by Prime Minister David Cameron in May, 2010, Dominic Grieve QC MP is the Chief Legal Adviser to the Crown. A champion of student pro bono projects, he also chairs the Attorney General’s Pro Bono Committee. We were lucky enough to get the chance to talk to the Attorney General about the importance of student pro bono projects, his own personal experiences of pro bono work, and the possible impact that the proposed legal aid cuts will have on pro bono initiatives in the UK…

Interviews

An Interview with an Ambassador

An Interview with an Ambassador

His Excellency Ric Todd has recently been appointed Her Majesty’s Governor to Turks and Caicos Islands. Previously he was the 56th British Ambassador to Poland. We were lucky enough to get the chance to talk to Ric about his career so far, his advice for people considering a career as a British Ambassador, the challenge of learning new languages and meeting Pope John Paul II...

Interviews

An Insider’s Guide to City Vacation Schemes

An Insider’s Guide to City Vacation Schemes

Sussing out the law firm you want to work for is a tricky old business! It can be difficult to really pinpoint the best way to do it. Of course, one the best ways is to get yourself onto a vacation scheme with a firm. But what will you get out of your one or two weeks in the office? Andrew Pollock is now a trainee with top City firm King & Wood Mallesons SJ Berwin after finding the perfect fit through a vacation scheme! Here’s what he got up to…

Interviews

An Employer’s Perspective on Modern Apprenticeships

An Employer’s Perspective on Modern Apprenticeships

Employers Jessica Addis and James Vaughan-Smith needed to hire additional staff recently and took a chance on apprentice Chloe Hutchinson-Brown. Having had a positive experience of utilising an apprenticeship scheme, Jessica and James spoke to AllAboutCareers.com about how hiring an apprentice worked for their company and should be a serious consideration for all school leavers.

Interviews

Alice Coates, Teach First Maths Ambassador

Alice Coates, Teach First Maths Ambassador

Alice Coates gained a multitude of different experiences working with young people through her studies before she took on the challenge of the Teach First Leadership Development Programme as a maths teacher in the Yorkshire and The Humber area. A couple of years later, she’s now a Lower School Assistant Head in Sheffield! She chatted to us about her experiences on the programme and what teaching means to her…

Interviews

A Vacation Scheme with International Law Firm Taylor Wessing

A Vacation Scheme with International Law Firm Taylor Wessing

Clara Garfield completed a vacation scheme at international firm, Taylor Wessing in 2011. Throughout the scheme, Clara felt well supported by the firm and commends the ethos of the firm and their hiring policy – Taylor Wessing look for people who are a good fit for the firm’s culture, not just those with top grades.

Interviews

A Life in Social Care

A Life in Social Care

Many of the people who pursue a career in social care are initially drawn by the simple motivation of ‘helping people’ or ‘giving something back’. Behind such simplicity is a complicated range of values. For example, a recognition of the inherent value of every person and their right to be considered equal with every other citizen.

Interviews

A Different Kind of Accountant

A Different Kind of Accountant

When you hear the word Mazuma, you might think of those irritating adverts which invite you to exchange your mobile phone for cash. But wait! There is another company with the same name. Started by two friends, Mazuma provides expert accountancy services to small businesses and independent contractors. We had a chat with Sophie Hughes about starting up her own business and what it’s like to be a woman in a male-dominated industry…

Interviews

A Day in the Life of a Trainee Actuarial Consultant

A Day in the Life of a Trainee Actuarial Consultant

After graduating from the University of Warwick with a degree in Maths, Operational Research, Statistics and Economics (MORSE), Tom Williams joined Aon as a trainee actuarial consultant. We caught up with him to find out more about the professional life of an actuary… 

Interviews

Why I Chose My Sponsored Degree in Engineering

Why I Chose My Sponsored Degree in Engineering

Sponsored Degree Programmes can be ideal for those looking for a career change too. Lee Dennis was initially an engineer with the Royal Navy, and took his career in a new direction into the power system industry through the National Grid Engineer Training Programme…

Interviews