Clyde & Co Associate Insight
Georgia Amos graduated from University College London (UCL) with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Geography and obtained a Training Contract offer from Clyde & Co in the summer of graduation.
She is now an Associate in the Property & Cyber Liability team, following completion of her final-seat in the Clyde & Co Data Lab, which was the first rotation of its kind. Her day-to-day role in the Data Lab involved liaising with the machine learning engineers, global legal technologists, and the wider legal teams to scope out projects and build proofs of concept and minimum viable products for subsequent use by Clyde & Co.
Georgia has also undertaken a client secondment at a smart infrastructure solutions company as part of her Projects & Construction seat, an international secondment in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and a rotation in the Energy & Trade sanctions team in London.
Having studied Geography at university, what inspired your conversion to commercial law and has your degree been valuable in your career?
I have always focused on what I loved which is how I came to the decision to study Geography. I knew about the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) beforehand and knew I could always go back to studying law later. I had exposed myself to law in Sixth Form through programmes like the Cambridge Sixth Form Law Conference. My career questionnaires always pointed me towards becoming a solicitor or barrister so there was clearly a personality trait in me, as well as academics, that was suited to the law. So, I always had law on the back burner and spent my three years at university also exposing myself to other things to make sure it was the right decision.
With Geography, I focused on what my interests were, hence why I went for a very sector-focused firm as opposed to friends of mine who studied Economics and went for Magic Circle firms which focus on corporate or finance law. Luckily, I had a very broad degree and explored a lot of different areas. I did a module in Florida during my degree on shipping, ergo, Clyde & Co was very well suited to my shipping interest (although I have never sat in a shipping seat!). I also went to Ghana during the first summer of university because I was initially interested in oil and energy.
As well as having sector interests and looking at these when choosing law firms, I realised what I liked about Geography was bringing different schools of thought together and articulating a cohesive argument. Most of my degree was class, race, and gender-focused so I considered how to explore all those different streams of thought and influence on our society and bring them together through a concise articulation of intersectionality. That is exactly what we do as a lawyer, looking at different case law, each of which is formed from a different perspective, and applying such to a specific set of facts. I found a way of aligning the skillset from Geography to law and bringing my love of articulating an argument backed up by specific evidence into my future career.
What guidance would you offer for non-law students interested in going into law?
My biggest piece of advice for anyone from a non-law background is to see it as a massive advantage as you come with a unique perspective. You also have an easier time reconciling why you want to be a commercial lawyer because you do not have the default option of having studied law. I was talking to someone studying drama the other day whose dissertation was on law as performance. This was such a brilliant and unique platform from which to start her legal journey and application; focus on your unique selling points (USPs) as a non-lawyer for sure.
With legal technology, there is also definitely a push for STEM degrees now. I was at a Legal Geek seminar which talked about how the law is fundamentally going to change going forward; it is about the services and outcomes we provide to clients rather than this strict idea of lawyering that has been prevalent for so many years. I am a strong advocate for non-lawyers going into law and having broader backgrounds. A law degree is a brilliant degree and I am definitely not negating this, but as non-lawyers, we can internalise a feeling of being on the back foot from the beginning and we need to instead be confident in our USPs because of our amazing advantage.
What was your study abroad at university and international secondment with Clyde & Co like?
Although all three of my experiences have been very different, I think international exposure can teach you so much about yourself as a person, such as resilience, open-mindedness, and a curiosity to learn. Throughout all of those experiences, I was very much on my own as opposed to traveling with friends, family, or even working with other female professionals.
I took myself to Australia for a term on an international programme. It was honestly not even on my list of places to travel to and I did not have a set view in mind – the universities available to me were in Canada or Australia and I did not want to spend six months in the cold. I had an amazing time and it really inspired my dissertation on indigenous art and how it was presented in Australia's national galleries to comment on Australia's national identity. This coincidentally tied in with Clyde & Co as we have an art award which I have now managed to get involved in to cultivate my interest in the arts for good. This goes back to having broader interests and being a well-rounded person.
I then went to Ghana in my first year of university, which again presented another amazing personal growth opportunity, as well as an academic and career development experience. This taught me I was not actually that interested in oil and the importance of renewals and smart projects globally. During this time, it was also important for me to have the confidence to make the most of the experience whilst admitting that I was not learning from something. I did not want to sit at an oil firm that I was not interested in for two months so I requested to move to a local law firm.
The experience was invaluable as I was able to absorb a completely different working style marked by tenacity and entrepreneurial spirit. This energy was infectious with a three=hour commute on a minibus in Accra, not leading to the same kind of exhaustion it would have done in London but instead an attitude of positivity, humility, and gratitude.
Look forward Tanzania was the most challenging seat of my Training Contract because of what is required of you in a smaller office. It goes back to that entrepreneurial spirit, you are expected to hit the ground running and there is not a supervisory structure as with bigger offices in London, for example. You are working directly with the managing partner or another partner so there is full visibility of your work without any pre-review. Further, the relationship with regulators and the maturity of laws and regulatory input is also different in such jurisdictions, alongside the smaller network for business development opportunities in Tanzania.
These are different experiences but they all offer immense personal and career growth. Going abroad and putting yourself out there inspires your next move as you throw yourself into situations and build up your confidence. There were so many opportunities with a higher degree of responsibility in Tanzania, that I would not have had in London, and I will always be grateful for these.
How did you find the Graduate Diploma in Law and Legal Practice Course?
I would say that for me the GDL was tougher just because you are learning so much in such little time; you are essentially covering all the core modules of a law degree in a year which is shocking when you try and explain it to anyone outside of law or foreign-qualified. The GDL is the first time you learn to change how you answer different exam questions. In Geography, you answer completely differently; it is very much an essay and you go through with all of your evidence and readings. It is more of a creative process of answering questions whereas law is very formulaic. The volume of change in structure and the style of exam questions are the two most difficult points.
Having said this, I did it two-day timetable while working three days a week. So, you can work alongside it without much difficulty. I worked all through law school and achieved distinctions in both. That would be my big piece of advice for anyone concerned about whether you can do both work and study. However, I think it also depends on what you did at university; if, like me, you worked before, it is definitely easier to manage.
The LPC is more procedural, as opposed to learning about legal arguments and case studies. They teach you about skills like interviewing and advising and general business practice. The GDL is probably harder in the beginning but I enjoyed it more as I enjoy case law.
Moving on to Clyde & Co specifically, what attracted you to the firm?
I came to Clyde & Co a little late in my research and I realised they were perfect for me. For me, it was definitely the sector-focus that was very interesting. I knew I was not interested in finance or corporate practice so unless a Magic Circle had a very strong energy or technology practice they were not suited. I had completed shipping and energy modules during my degree which Clyde was renowned for and infrastructure is a huge part of human geography which complemented Clyde’s strong Projects & Construction practice.
An overarching theme across all of my interests was insurance especially as I had studied cyberwar and terrorism at university and looked at insurance policies for cyberwar. So, Clyde & Co being at the top of this sector was also a really attractive point for me.
Moving forward to our global offices, the international scope was obviously an important criterion for me so I did not look at regional firms. I needed somewhere that had links everywhere. I was especially interested in Ghana and going back there or to Nigeria, which I had visited previously. I knew from my research that Clyde & Co had not undertaken deals in this part of the world but also had a strong presence in Tanzania with a Regional Resource Centre across sub-Saharan Africa. This was very important for me because I knew how much I learned on the ground being in a different jurisdiction and knew how much it would support me personally and in my career.
Something that was also absolutely key for me, having been involved in Bright Network, my background as the first in my family to go to university, and coming from a state school, was that Clyde’s people were generally genuinely kind and warm. I had some not-so-great experiences with some firms and I recognised it was important to see aspects of my own values in the team around me. Clyde has demonstrated the extent to which it advocates for aspiring solicitors from all backgrounds so assisting with the Bright Futures Programme and other social mobility programmes have been invaluable to me giving back to those not unlike myself during school and university.
What kind of work have you been involved in during your training contract (seats, interesting deals, secondments)?
My first seat was in sanctions which was very niche and I was fortunate to sit directly with the Partner. It was at the time that the United States had just re-imposed sanctions on Iran which was a very complicated political issue. It taught me a lot about how politics interacts with the law and how naturally they go hand-in-hand; rarely in your seats will you observe politics influencing your job changes day-to-day to such an extent. Daily tasks would involve sanctions checks for mainly shipping and aviation clients, due to the cross-border nature of such transactions. Further, ensuring our US lawyers and US clients were sanctions compliant during the US-Iran political development was an imperative pro-active exercise. I also looked at European Union sanctions and export lists to explore, for example, if a particular bit of nanotechnology could be exported to a part of the world and what restrictions there were.
As part of my second seat, I went on a client secondment for three months at a smart infrastructure solutions company. A lot of my work there was working on huge transport projects and advising on amendments to the applicable contracts. This is where I got my first exposure to Intellectual Property and Technology law. The company was looking to bring more technology and smart infrastructure solutions into the fold so I gained a lot of exposure advising on IP clauses and understanding who would own background and foreground IP in the exploratory exercises. I was fortunate to work directly with the General Counsel, as I had done working directly with a Partner at Clyde, and I believe the direct relationship here is invaluable.
I returned to our Projects & Construction team and experienced the direct fallout of the Grenfell Tower tragedy. I dealt with changes to building contracts, advising on the potential effects of the inquiry on the sector, and the consequences of changes to approved inspectors’ insurance as a result. In addition, I undertook plenty of contract drafting and preparing bundles for upcoming construction litigation. The great thing about Projects & Construction is that oftentimes you walk past the projects you assisted to completion.
For my third seat in Tanzania, there were all manner of issues to tackle and kinds of legal tasks to complete and I was required to step up to an Associate level in the eyes of the broader team. This meant I was not limited to one area and I was able to complete a lot of work on regulations, employment, land, and corporate law and also advise large mining companies. It gave me a really good understanding of the global perspective of what we do as I found myself oftentimes explaining the local context of Tanzania.
I was also able to work on a unique Fintech contract which formed part of a regulatory sandbox across various jurisdictions in sub-Saharan Africa and involved pilot testing a financial technology platform. For anyone with an understanding of Tanzania and East Africa more broadly, mobile phones are like gold; wallets are accessed through mobile money and insurance can be obtained on their device. It really helps accessibility due to the rural nature of a large majority of the population and helps connect the uninsured and unbanked. It was interesting to be part of a Fintech pilot no one had really done before.
Could you please tell us more about Clyde & Co AI Data Lab and the work you have been doing?
This is an entirely different ballgame as I am the first Trainee to sit in the Data Lab. It is kind of hard to explain exactly what I do; imagine yourself as a translator for project ideas that come from our legal or legal technology team, for example, our cyber insurance team, that are broken down to provide instructions to the machine learning engineers.
An example would be a regulatory breach that occurs frequently for our clients. We are required to investigate how to streamline that process because there is a lot of data to go through in a short window of time to write a report and answer regulators’ questions. So, we have this bottleneck we need to solve. As a Trainee, I take that process and whittle it down to a few simple questions:
Is tech the right solution?
What questions does it need to answer?
What data flows are involved?
Does this data fit in the different categories highlighted by regulators?
How do the data categories change by jurisdiction?
I take these broad questions down to machine-learning engineers to create a simple process flow of what data we need for each and how best to present it. I also liaise between the legal and tech teams to establish the must-have features of the eventual product and the nice-to-have features which we could integrate at a later date.
I am by no means coder, I have learnt SQL, which is a data analytics language, and a little bit of Python whilst I have been in the seat. It is more about having the legal expertise to understand the problem as it is all about collaboration between different experts rather than being a one-woman enterprise.
I have also had the opportunity with COVID-19 to use low-code or no code solutions through programmes we have with various third parties to build quite simple technology to assist on our matters in a short period of time. This could be a simple Q&A tree to answer basic coverage questions for example.
What key changes can we anticipate in regard to the future relationship between the legal sector and technology, particularly in light of COVID-19?
It has definitely taught the legal world that we can work remotely and collaborate to a greater extent. Law has traditionally been office-based and I have personally experienced a positive lifestyle change myself just by working from home. Post-COVID-19 we are also definitely looking towards our data more to see what it can teach us about the situation and how we dealt with it to ensure preparedness and resilience for clients moving forward. Law is a very old industry with a rich history but this crisis definitely taught us how the industry must adapt moving forward.
The majority of most firms’ expenditure on legal technology is focused on the back office but should really be spent on client facing functions. This is a key area where we need to innovate. Technology to help lawyers is definitely necessary but you need to embrace technology in how you deal with clients and present them with outcomes.
For a simple and obvious example, we should start with how we liaise with our clients. We all use emails but none of us distinguish our communication methods. We need more than just dropping what we normally do into Zoom – that is not innovation but rather doing our day-to-day functions in video format.
It is the same issue with courts; as much as we have been able to undertake virtual hearings, that is not true transformation, it is just adapting to an unprecedented scenario. Innovation is about using technology for the entire legal process to offer the best outcome for clients. Can we use Artificial Intelligence to more successfully predict the outcome of a patent dispute, better than a lawyer could? Can we mediate simple cases online and when do we actually need people in the courts? Do we ever need people in courts – could we consider virtual and augmented reality through a VR court room? This is not to say that judges are redundant but how can we really apply technology in a way that is transformative? The government investment into Law Tech UK has involved some amazing judges that are at the forefront of making this possible.
Will aspiring solicitors be required to understand legal tech in order to prove themselves indispensable in the future?
My personal opinion is that you do not need to be involved in technology if you are not interested in it. There are obviously brilliant opportunities if you are someone who is interested in technology and being a lawyer. For example, I am personally very much focused on how we can do what we do and advise clients but in a better, and potentially different, way.
Nevertheless, over the next 10 years, it will no longer really be a choice in terms of educating yourself on certain technologies. I cannot imagine that there are going to be many firms that will stay behind and not expect that from their lawyers. It is not necessarily for everyone but I do think legal technologies will be a requirement of legal education. You need to relearn all the time as a lawyer so it should not be any more extensive.
However, it is about having the right experts in the room, not about lawyers suddenly become coders which would be a completely redundant exercise. It is about understanding as much as you can, broadening your knowledge and aspiring to learn more. Your Training Contract is a wonderful opportunity to try out different sectors, every three to six months depending on the firm, and find out what really intrigues you and what you are passionate about. All sectors change, although some more than others such as cyber, and are undergoing developments so law is a great career to experience this growth.
What are you looking most forward to upon your qualification in September?
As a Trainee having that learning time is great but changing seats can be exhausting because just as you get the hang of it, you need to move and start all over again. You can obviously take transferable skills from all of seats but continually starting again is difficult and requires continuous resilience. Once you find what you want to do, you want to start developing a relationship with your team, practice and clients.
My Training Contract definitely went by really fast but I felt ready to be an Associate due to the high-level exposure and responsibility throughout. I am excited to be part of the cyber-team but also maintaining my relationship with the Data Lab and hopefully build a hybrid career which Clyde is very in support of. I could not really ask for a better team to be going into or a better firm at this point in my career, from my perspective.