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Meet Edward Downes

26 May 2020

Philosophy graduate Edward Downes on his work experience at DWF.

1. Describe your background and education/work experience history

I have been looking to enter the legal profession from a non-law background, having studied philosophy at university. Throughout university I had always been engaged in the applied aspects of philosophy: semantics, the philosophy of science, logic, and ethical topics like the environment, AI and law. Emergent technologies and scientific progressions are endlessly fascinating, and in light of my interest in the area of law and philosophy, I chose to write my dissertation on how artificially genetically engineered posthumans would be integrated into the criminal justice system as compared to natural humans.

After my plans to join the Royal Marines became impossible to pursue, my long-term goal of becoming a lawyer was to be my next step forward. Having only worked as an assistant manager at a local bar, I was short of legal work experience up until the summer of 2019, when I was fortunately offered to opportunity to spend some time with DWF Law LLP. I was very pleased to have been granted this work experience as it was exactly what I needed to introduce me to the practical side of law.

2. Why did you apply for work experience at DWF?

I had been familiar with DWF for a while, and heard much about its rapid growth over recent years. This fact along with DWF’s forward thinking business model, size, and that it is headquartered in Manchester made the prospect of spending time with the firm rather exciting.

I had not expected to have been so lucky to spend time at DWF, and so I was delighted when I was offered the opportunity to come in and spend time with regulatory, real estate, commercial insurance, employment and police & prisons. The broad taste of law was invaluable, as it assisted in forming ideas about the law I would have otherwise not been able to. This is another great benefit of DWF: the varied practice areas meant I could get a good idea about the scope of the law, and the differences between each area.

3. How was your work experience?

As a wheelchair user, DWF has been superb and accommodating. When seeking work experience itself, I found people very willing to help. Florence Van Schependom-Brown was a brilliant representative of DWF, and was willing to put in a lot of time and effort to get me in for some work experience, which I am truly grateful for.

When coming into the offices, I was reassured it would be no problem for me at all, and I was even provided with accessible parking to make my life easier. The offices were fantastic, they were well designed, modern and spacious with lots of floor space. A lot of small things that can get in the way and cause issues were absent.

In addition to the ease of access, I found the staff to be highly accommodating and considerate, and they made me feel comfortable being there. The work assigned was neither impossible nor difficult for me to complete because of my disability, which was of course ideal. Thankfully things didn’t require use of the lower appendages!

4. What skills have you developed during your work experience at DWF?

The first thing I noticed was the people; before this summer I had never been able to interact with nor watch lawyers at work, and it was particularly interesting to see experienced partners and solicitors talking to clients. I was able to see how they did their job so effortlessly, and it allowed me to learn what goes into that client-lawyer relationship, and what makes it work so well. Watching the team at work made it clear how key the legal service aspect is to a firm like DWF. From this I was able to develop my people skills, and hopefully one day I will be able to apply it in the same way I saw it applied by lawyers at DWF.

On top of this, being able to engage with the legal work itself was a significant learning point for me. My past lack of exposure to the law meant that much of the work I took part in was entirely novel, which was fortuitous, as every day presented new learning experiences. Being able to look through and work on witness statements, insurance claims and employment agreements greatly helped me develop my analytical skills, which I am sure will be indispensable.

5. Has the work experience made you think more clearly about your future career?

There is little doubt I wish to continue on my chosen career route, and my work experience at DWF has shown how exciting the legal world is. Without gaining any legal work experience, entering the legal world would have felt like a step in the dark compared to how it feels now.

Being able to have a mixed experience of different legal areas has also helped me figure out what I would potentially like to practice in the future; I particularly enjoyed the more people-driven, litigious law, and I can see myself preferring this area even though I certainly do appreciate the more transactional side of things too.

6. There are now five generations in the workplace. What can employers do to adapt to our changing workforce?

With five generations, there is surely expansive diversity and distinctness from the oldest generation to the youngest. Being able to cater for so many of the different needs and desires of both employees and clients can only be achieved through great effort on the part of law firms though. Being conscious of the needs of different generations, and the differing values each group has is important in fostering a healthy workplace environment.

In my time with DWF, this has been something the firm has displayed impressive awareness of. There was an excellent mix of people in the office, and experiences I had there were unique and exciting thanks to the broad range of individuals within the firm.

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