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Interview with Michael Tozzi, Former Editor-in-Chief of St Andrews Law Review

Michael Tozzi graduated from the University of St Andrews in 2023 with a MA (Hons) in Modern History and International Relations. He has been involved with the St Andrews Law Review since 2020, first as a writer, then an editor, and finally as editor-in-chief during his final year. 



Michael is currently working as a paralegal for Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer US LLP as part of a two-year training program prior to attending law school. At Freshfields, Michael works with the global transactions practice group on finance and mergers and acquisitions (M&A) matters.


What was your academic experience at St Andrews like?


My academic experience at St Andrews was incredibly rewarding. The tutorial system, beginning in first year, really helped build a truly dynamic learning environment that was driven by what we found interesting as students. Personal academic highlights of my time at St Andrews included my modern history dissertation and the International Relations of Outer Space class in my final year. In the former, I was able to engage in archival research and write a thesis about an often-ignored topic that did not have much written about it, namely the role of non-government actors in the U.S. pivot from Taiwan to Mainland China in the Cold War. In the latter, I had genuine fun learning about space in a geopolitical context and became aware of space law as a career path that could combine multiple interests in a way that I had never considered before. 

 

Outside of the St Andrews Law Review, which extracurriculars did you get involved in that helped your personal and professional development? 


Outside of the Law Review, my extracurriculars tended to skew towards being more purely recreational, yet they all provided opportunities for growth. Leading a radio show for STAR Student Radio gave me experience and confidence in setting agendas and executing creative plans. I really enjoyed the way that my time at the Archery Club allowed me to pick up an entirely new skill despite having zero prior knowledge of archery; this was rewarding on its own but I think that it also bolstered my overall willingness to try new things no matter the learning curve.  I also served as treasurer of the Coffee Society, and assisted with organizing social events such as coffee tastings in addition to overseeing its finances - I think that any lawyer would agree that adequate caffeination is just as vital to one’s professional development as project management!


What previous legal and non-legal work experience did you gain prior to graduating? How did this help you discern your career path?


The most valuable work experience that I had prior to graduating was a compliance internship with Angelo Gordon, an alternative investment management firm. This involved working with the firm’s compliance team on internal projects such as updating the restricted securities list and external ones such as conducting due diligence checks on individuals and entities. 


That internship really opened my eyes to the scope of what you could do as a lawyer - there are endless possibilities and diverse pathways that you can embark upon with a law degree. The experience working with in-house lawyers eventually helped me visualize how I could one day combine my interests in law and space exploration by working as a lawyer in the aerospace industry. I think that the fact that this internship, which involved my first experiences with reading through legal documents for work on a regular basis, coincided with me first becoming an editor for the Law Review was a really pivotal moment in discerning law as a career path. 


What made you interested in working as a paralegal for Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer? Were there any alternative post-graduation law paths that you were interested in before choosing your current one?


In many ways, becoming a paralegal at Freshfields was driven by awareness of what I didn’t know and wanted to learn about a career in law rather than a specific post-graduation vision, and it has been an absolutely incredible opportunity in that regard. 


I looked at law conversion courses in the U.K. as well as law schools in the U.S. but I wanted to get some professional experience after graduation instead of immediately jumping into further studies. I also didn’t know whether I wanted to end up in the U.S. or U.K. long-term and wanted to gain some perspective on how people have pursued careers in law in order to make a more informed decision. So while I applied to other law-adjacent jobs such as compliance for financial services firms, I ultimately felt drawn by the learning opportunities that working at a firm like Freshfields could offer. 

 

What did the transition out of St Andrews and into the professional sphere look like for you? What were the expected vs unexpected challenges? What was easier than you anticipated?


I found the transition out of St Andrews and into the professional sphere fairly smooth - although it was a bit unsettling to go from being a fourth year in “the bubble” to being  a complete novice at a large multinational law firm! I have been fortunate enough to have been surrounded by other paralegals in the same program as me who are also between college and law school, so there is a real sense of camaraderie as we have learned alongside each other, both about the job and about law school applications. 


The expected challenges of this job have mainly consisted of learning lots of technical information and applying it across long work hours. Whether that information is terminology within documents or how to use a particular computer program, I have learned a lot and am continuing to learn every day! I think that the amount of overtime on the job ended up proving easier than anticipated - I remember working late one night and feeling as though I was back in the St Andrews library (with the difference of seeing the Chrysler Building instead of St Salvator’s outside the window). 


I think that a more unexpected challenge would be the pace of work inherent to the job and the way that different projects pull you in different directions. Multitasking productively isn’t just about doing things quickly, it’s about putting in the groundwork so that you can pause and resume ongoing tasks when a more time-sensitive one takes precedence. For me, this has involved learning how to ask the right questions ahead of time so that I can work more efficiently, as well as learning how to accept constructive criticism in the spirit that it was given to  adapt from past mistakes and improve in the future. 


How did your time at the St Andrews Law Review help you obtain your position with Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer?


I think that my time at the Law Review definitely helped showcase my abilities in a way that the people involved in the recruiting process noticed. Working as editor and editor-in-chief involved looking at both the big picture of the editing and publication schedule as well as closely reading and reviewing the individual articles that were written prior to publication. Similarly, working as a paralegal requires that you be able to look at the big picture for matters, and helping attorneys update closing checklists or tracker spreadsheets - as well as proofing documents for details as small as a comma in an entity’s name. I also found that while editing documents for the Law Review, I would do my own background reading on the topic at hand so that I could see whether the writers were supporting their arguments well; this ability to quickly do background research on a matter is also applicable for paralegal work, whether you are trying to pull a particular credit agreement filed with the SEC and need context to locate it better or if you are doing due diligence and trying to work out the best set of criteria for a lien search against a debtor. Lastly, I edited several interviews with St Andrews alumni that have gone on to law school and learned a lot from what they did after graduating. 


Do you have any advice for non-law undergraduate students who are looking to gain experience in the legal field?


I think that it’s crucial to not stress out over not having a complete career plan as an undergraduate - there is still so much time to learn about your strengths and ambitions after graduation. With that said, I would very strongly encourage people to start thinking about what sorts of legal roles play to their strengths and interests and to get involved in extracurriculars that relate to these - even if it is not explicitly linked to law, doing something like pursuing a committee position in a society that you feel passionate about is a great opportunity to showcase skills that recruiters are looking for. I may be biased here, but writing for the St Andrews Law Review is a great opportunity to get involved in student journalism in a way that can showcase the areas of law that you are most interested in - so apply to write today!

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