Flocks, Flamingos and NFTs: An Interview with Stephenson Law

Olivia is a LPC LLM graduate and Trainee Solicitor at Stephenson Law, a multi-award winning legal services provider with a particular focus on technology, blockchain and start-ups.

Personal Journey:

In a nutshell, can you please describe your journey prior to securing a training contract at Stephenson Law?

I did my undergraduate degree in English Language and Literature, followed by a year of working in the hospitality and legal sectors. After working part-time at a local hotel/gym, I finally got my big break when I began working at a high street trade mark firm as a paralegal after a fun-packed week of work experience – that’s when I discovered my passion for intellectual property! My manager, who became a true friend and mentor, encouraged me to take the GDL and LPC saying, “as much as I don’t want to lose you, you can’t stay here forever! You have to go out there and get qualified.” And so, my journey to becoming a solicitor began…

Why did you choose Stephenson Law?

During my studies, I increased my profile and network on LinkedIn – that’s where I discovered Alice, Stephenson Law’s Founder and CEO! I admired her passion and drive to disrupt the archaic and outdated traits of the legal profession, so I followed her on social media and attended the webinars that she spoke at.

Eventually, I plucked up the courage to apply for a role at Stephenson Law. But, this was no ordinary application. After sending my CV, I decided that this forward-thinking, innovative team needed to see my creative side. As such, I submitted an application – with a twist.

I put together a short slideshow of images and videos that opened a window into my personal life. Growing up, I learned to play the piano, so I recorded the background music to the video myself, playing one of my favourite pieces by Einaudi, ‘I Giorni’. I’m also half Maltese, so made sure to wave the flag and represent my heritage!

It was a risk, and although it felt cheesy and weird at first, I was proud of myself for thinking outside the box to get noticed… and it worked! Alice personally emailed me back to offer me a part-time position as a Content Assistant. Once I graduated from the LPC LLM, I joined the firm full-time as a paralegal, and a mere two months later, was offered a training contract! Sometimes, it pays off to put yourself out there and do something that initially makes you feel a little uncomfortable.

Break the mould! Make your application stands out and change something that is usually so formal into something a little more interesting to read.

Work Life:

What has your experience been like working at Stephenson Law so far?

The firm’s culture encourages trainees to step up, get involved, and take more responsibility than may usually be expected from junior team members. This means that I have gained exposure to a huge range of skills and experiences, from drafting documents autonomously, to leading client calls.

So far, I’ve worked with the data protection, blockchain, financial regulation and financial tech team (which all works under the umbrella of ‘technology’), so I have had four supervisors in one seat! This has been challenging at times, as I have had to be really organised and manage my (large!) workload between the teams.

My day-to-day is never the same: one minute I’m drafting a software contract, the next, I’m wearing an Oculus 2 headset for a metaverse project!

The firm operates under a very friendly and robust support system. No one is ever left feeling overwhelmed, and our amazing Operations & People teams make sure we are rewarded for our efforts – sometimes it’s just a Teams message from our wonderful Mother Flocker (Head of Business and People Operations, Laura French), other times, it’s a sweet treat in the post, or a balloon to recognise a work anniversary. We also have a ‘Kudos’ channel on Teams where anyone can celebrate the hard work or achievement of a team or an individual – it’s so heart-warming and encouraging to hear about what everyone else is up to, and that they’re always smashing it!

Based on your previous interactions, can you draw any comparisons between other firms and Stephenson Law?

Stephenson Law is unlike any other company (let alone law firm) that I have ever worked for.

For starters, we are completely remote. I have my own space that I have decorated in my own style – and the lack of commute is definitely a perk!

In terms of our work portfolio, we support clients through corporate deals and commercial negotiations, and have a wealth of knowledge in employment, data protection and intellectual property. We’re also pioneering more niche sectors of expertise, particularly technology, fintech, finreg and blockchain.

We were the first law firm to mint and sell its own NFTs, and are number one on the Google search list for ‘NFT lawyer’. However, it’s not just about hitting targets and meeting deadlines here – we also take great pride in our work and great care of our clients, but we are so much more than a law firm. We’re a family and we’re not afraid to disrupt the industry!

What type of work have you been involved in so far?

As mentioned, I am currently working in the Tech team, which covers a huge variety of tasks such as:

  • Drafting terms and conditions;
  • Reviewing privacy policies;
  • Conducting data protection health checks;
  • Researching regulation on cryptocurrencies and tokenomics;
  • Reviewing NFT and metaverse terms and conditions; and
  • Training household name companies on blockchain.

Next up, commercial subscriptions! *Rubs hands together with delight*

Firm Expertise and Commercial Awareness:

Stephenson Law is one of the leading firms in legal NFT and blockchain technology. Can you tell us a little more about the firm’s work in these areas (such as the recent ’TriNFTy’ project and so on)?

Our TriNFTy project was a huge hit – the lucky buyers gained access to an hour of time with our Head of Blockchain, Will Foulkes, or our Head of FinReg, Gareth Malna, or a 30-minute tea break with our CEO, Alice Stephenson!

We did it all ourselves – the minting, (via OpenSea and Polygon, some of the more eco-friendly blockchains and marketplaces), graphic design, marketing, and the production were carried out by our amazing technologists and creatives.

I assisted in drafting the terms and conditions that were attached to the purchase process. As the law on blockchain and crypto is still being developed in the UK, this was an extremely important but also very challenging task, and one without many resources to work with! Luckily, we’re privileged to be working closely with the Law Commission, so we are the first to know about any updates, and get front row seats to the latest blockchain advancements in legislation.

Are there any important emerging trends that you have noticed in your practice areas that aspiring lawyers should be aware of?

Everything blockchain. If you are new to this space, I’d recommend you read/listen to the following:

Otherwise, keep an eye on the field that you’re interested in! Whether that’s through LinkedIn, attending events, or reading books and articles (resources such as Law Careers Net, Lexology, The Law Society Gazette, Bankless DAO, and Crypto Curry Club are all really good). Be informed of general worldwide news too, as this can have a significant impact on certain legal sectors.

Mentoring and Alternative Routes Into Law:

You are a GROW mentor. Can you tell us more about this opportunity, how you came to be a mentor, and how it can help aspiring solicitors?

Once I had completed the GDL, I started researching all the ways I could gain experience in areas that I lacked or wasn’t very confident in (aside from vacation schemes and jobs).

I applied to be a GROW mentor because I wanted to help answer common questions and boost the confidence of students going through the laborious academic experience of law, and highlight all their options if they hadn’t started the journey yet. Most people want to know how to get a training contract or work experience – how to be the best the quickest way, essentially – but there is no right answer, I’m afraid. I always tell mentees that the best way to get noticed and do well is to be yourself, don’t be afraid to be creative, and take risks!

You have mentioned that apprenticeships are an opportunity that should be made more apparent to aspiring lawyers. What should students know about this alternative route into law?

Had I been aware at the fresh-faced age of 18 of the opportunity to embark on an apprenticeship with a law firm, complete my studies (and get it all paid for!) whilst getting paid, I wouldn’t have batted an eyelid before signing on the dotted line.

University is very overrated and NOT the only way to get into a career in law. I would recommend following @mylegalcareer, @thatlawblog and @inhousepotter on Instagram to get an idea of what it’s like to work in the legal sphere without doing it the traditional way. And, if you haven’t heard of Chrissie Wolfe, then where have you been throughout lockdown?!

Finally, tell us something about Stephenson Law that you would not know about unless you worked there.

Our secret language is GIFs, and we’re a big fan of birds, like flamingos and pigeons! One of our mottos is ‘be a flamingo in a flock of pigeons’ – the pigeons being the representation of dull, drab lawyers, and the flamingo representing, at first Alice, and now her thriving team! 

On a more serious note, we run a monthly ‘Highs and Lows’ session which invites the teams to share the ups and downs of their work life. It’s a fantastic opportunity for colleagues at all levels to open up about mistakes they have made, which means that juniors get to see that it’s not all rainbows and sunshine when you qualify, but also opens the floor to recognize achievements and learning moments too. Having taken part myself, it is a truly liberating experience!

This article was written by Shreya Menon. Shreya is a second year Law LLB student at the London School of Economics.

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