Volunteer in the Spotlight: Rae Ahmed
Rae (International Business Law LLM, 2011) volunteered with the Pathways to Law programme for 2 consecutive years, advising students on how they could get the most out of attending the Law Fair on campus and also helped with the Client interviewing skills workshop. She has also facilated a workshop for students from the School of Law on applications to training contracts and vacation schemes. Rae currently mentors 2 students through the career mentoring scheme.
What do you do and where do you work?
I'm a construction and engineering solicitor at Womble Bond Dickinson. My primary seat is in Plymouth, but I also work in Bristol and London.
I undertake both transactional work (such as projects, asset protections, appointments) and litigation work (such as appearing in the Technology and Construction Court, adjudication, dispute resolutions).
How did you get into working in your field?
I have always been interested in buildings, their architecture, how they are built, how machines are made, designed and operate. So, I wanted a role that combined by love of law with the built environment, but I was not sure how to achieve this. Luckily, Womble Bond Dickinson has a large construction and engineering team across all our UK offices and I was able to do a seat with the team. Less than a week into my seat and I was hooked.
What is it like working in your role?
The role is both challenging and rewarding. I love that it is very technical both in terms of the law and the construction and engineering details. It is people oriented and requires practical and commercial advice and solutions. No 2 days, case or deals are the same. It's always changing and keeps me on my toe.
Litigation can be time pressured, for instance an adjudication (bit like a mini trial) is squeezed in to 28 days, so where you would have months to prepare and defend a claim, you to do much the same things in 28 days. This requires attention to detail and being organised.
Transactional work is not as time pressured, but you do need to keep an eye on progress. I work very closely with the in-house legal and commercial teams, so I need to understand the client's business, commercial need and nature of the projects. Good communication skills, people management and negotiation skills are needed.
As a firm we do a lot of high value litigation, projects and asset protection work, which means I do travel for meetings with clients, other side, site visits, negotiations and court hearings.
What are your top tips for getting into working in your field?
If you are interested in construction and engineering (I highly recommend it) try to get as much work experience as possible. This should not be just legal work experience. Try working for a charity that works aboard on building homes for poor communities, a council, contractor, surveyors etc. My first ever work experience aged 14 was with the Devon County Council's architect overseeing the rebuilding of 5 major high schools in Exeter. The architect took me to each of the five sites to talk to the builders, project managers and inspect the sites. That gave me an insight into the different professions in the field and how they all work together.
And finally, what inspires you to volunteer your time to help Exeter students?
I was inspired to volunteer with Exeter, because when I was a student an alumnus, Marcus Harling (a partner at Burges Salmon) was my mentor. Marcus' advice and support has been invaluable to me. We are now friends and he still provides me with support and mentoring. I personally experienced the how impactful and valuable mentoring from an alumnus can be and feel I should support the next generation of Exeter students too.
Date: 16 July 2019