[My role entails] demystifying the legal profession and taking an academic profession into the 21st century with data led insights.
More about Stefan
Stefan studied LLB (Hons) Law and graduated in 2015. He is a Legal Counsel at TravelPerk in London and talks about his experience at NTU.
Why did you choose to study at NTU?
I came to undertake my undergraduate slightly later than a lot of students at NTU. Having decided on a career change I started looking for a university that aligned with what I was looking for both inside and outside the classroom. NLS’ reputation as a centre of excellence made the choice an easy one, I also had a number of friends who attended university in Nottingham (both Trent and University of Nottingham) so the decision was a no-brainer.
What did you learn – both inside and outside of lectures?
“The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry”. When I went to University, I thought studying law was all about hard work and already knowing what you wanted to do when you left. I could not have been more wrong, the main learning was try everything you can. You will meet people and have experiences that will help you to see the world through so many different lenses.
Some of my best memories are exactly that, big events like competing in events in a sports team I would never have joined to smaller day-to-day events like spending time with your best friends from your team or course.
What extra-curricular activities did you take part in?
I was very heavily involved in the NTU rowing team. I without a doubt credit the team for being my escape and support network during my time at NTU. The team allowed me to meet people who have become my absolute best of friends, it pushed me to my physical and mental limits but also allowed me to make some of the most amazing memories.
If you undertook a placement year, what was your experience of this?
In my second year I undertook a placement at Nottingham Coroner’s Court as part of the Scale-Up pilot program. The experience was incredibly insightful, it showed another area of law I had never known about but also the importance of trying things. Although I enjoyed my time, it was not the practice area for me and as such my focus shifted more towards the practice area I find myself in today.
What does your current day involve?
I currently work in-house for one of the fastest growing SaaS companies in Europe so naturally no two days are the same. My primary practice area is as a commercial lawyer, leading on negotiations for our sell-side contracts alongside a multitude of colleagues throughout the business. I also focus on the use of legal tech platforms within the organisation.
This involves looking at the traditional legal processes and thinking about how to use technology to make it smoother, simpler and easier to access for my colleagues and our customers, demystifying the legal profession and taking an academic profession into the 21st century with data led insights. This practice is one of my core interest areas in both normal negotiations as well as post-acquisition integration projects.
What attracted you to this field of work?
Working in-house as a commercial/corporate lawyer is a team effort. You are not successful unless you are part of a well-functioning team. It can be challenging as you contribute to the overall success of your business but naturally you all share in the victories.
What challenges have you faced?
My A-levels are not the best and prior to university never thought a career in law, let alone being a solicitor, was ever an option. This at the start led to a lot of frustrations trying to follow a route to qualification. One thing that you learn as a junior lawyer is that perseverance is key!
That is especially true when trying to break into the profession, as such after a fair few knockbacks I self-funded my LPC (this was just before you could get a government loan) and studied part-time whilst working full-time in contract management.
I did this in-house for a few years before getting a training contract whilst running the contract management team for an international financial services institution. This experience, although challenging, allowed me to add real material value in discussions and project at a very early stage in my career thanks to some real-life experience.
What have been the highlights and biggest challenges of your career so far?
I have recently returned from a two-month secondment to our Barcelona office. This has 100% been the highlight of my career. Being in a different culture and environment, learning from and helping develop our team into an internationally focused practice area was incredible. The opportunity to combine work with travel is never a chore (although I am tapas’d out).
A challenge has been stuckism within the legal profession. Trying to move the conversation within established practices is always difficult and can make the process of change incredibly difficult, especially as a junior lawyer. This can either motivate you or demoralise you and this is where your inner resilience can be tested.
What are your plans for the future?
I plan to continue working in my current practice area and developing expertise in the intersection between tech and law. I have a passion for helping develop talent in the industry and using these novel platforms to build a team/network of professionals to provide top level legal business partnering services to the organisations or projects I am involved in.
If you had a time machine, what would you go back and tell yourself at university?
Don’t beat yourself up if things don’t go as planned, life is not a race. Uni is an amazing time to start finding out who you are, and this doesn’t end the day you get that diploma so enjoy it. Use the opportunity to try more new things, meet new people and explore your passions. This is the time of your life to take every opportunity and if you don’t like it that’s cool, at least now you know.