Interested in studying law but not sure what the future holds after you’ve completed your degree? We’ve been talking to a range of ULaw alumni to get an insight into their experience and what they’ve been up to since graduating. Here, we’re chatting to Ben Ruggles, UK Legal Counsel at leading global beer brewer, Anheuser-Busch Inbev.
What made you want to study law?
I chose law as one of my A Level subjects on the basis that it’s just a good subject to do. Once I started studying it, I really enjoyed the logic behind it. As a subject, it’s very formulaic but requires creativity – you follow the prescribed steps, get an answer and then have to creatively apply it to a scenario. It requires you to think about the most logical and practical next steps – and then think again if next steps aren’t leading you to the conclusion you need. I then decided to do it at degree level and it was then that I knew I wanted to be a lawyer – so it was all based on a hunch.
What was your experience like at the University of Law?
I chose to head to London as I wanted to start living in the capital – I was at the Moorgate campus. On the whole, I had a positive experience; the tutors were very good and, as ex-City lawyers, you have faith in what they’re talking about and telling you. They were also relaxed and personable, and gave good pointers on how to get through the course.
On the social side of things, I was very lucky in my group – everyone had very similar mindsets. We were all there because we already had training contracts so there wasn’t too much pressure in that respect.
What were the top things you learnt at ULaw?
As a course, it’s quite paper heavy, so it’s good from an organisational point of view. Keeping on top of everything is key, and it's good training for life as a trainee.
It’s also a good way to learn to interact with people on a level you’re not necessarily used to. Talking to people at law school is different from when you’re at uni, so from a sort of ‘mini networking’ perspective, it’s great. You get skilled at starting the sorts of conversations you’ll inevitably have in the professional world.
What made you decide to move away from a traditional law firm?
I qualified in September and I wanted to go into commercial law with an intellectual property aspect. Unfortunately, that wasn’t really an option at the firm I trained at. So I started to look around and, as you don’t often get the chance to be a beer lawyer, I thought I’d go for it and here I am. It’s a less ‘City’ environment but it’s not necessarily less corporate – it’s a business in the same way that a law firm is a business. We wear jeans and a shirt, it’s all open plan, people wander around and chat to each other. I wasn’t necessarily looking for a non-City environment – I enjoyed City life – but this opportunity came up and it was just an added perk that you don’t have to wear a suit every day.
And what are the top things you’ve learnt since graduating? Particularly from Anheuser-Busch Inbev and the beer industry?
Knowledge of your market – that’s fundamental to succeeding in this profession. Understanding and immersing yourself in the area you’re in is how you differentiate yourself and provide added value. A willingness and drive to understand the area you work in makes a good lawyer into a great one.
Another extremely important thing is dedication. Being a lawyer isn’t like it is in Suits. About 90 percent of the time it’s less glamorous than that, certainly when you’re a trainee or newly qualified in the City. You won’t be lavished with praise when you do a good job – that’s just expected. There are great benefits and you do get to do really impressive stuff, but you have to have the dedication to know that, before you get to the good stuff, you have to do the stuff at the bottom of the pile.
If you could share one piece of advice with current students applying for their first jobs, what would it be?
Read your application form, read it again and then get somebody else to read it. There will be a mistake. I can 100 percent guarantee that in your first applications there will be a grammatical error or extra full stop. Firms need a filtering system and grammatical errors are a good way to find yourself in the bin on the first round of cuts. If they’ve got 5,000 applications but they’re only taking 300 people, they need a first filter.
Secondly, try and relate your answers in your application form specifically to the law firm and what it is they do. You see a lot of applications that are too generic and you can tell they’ve been trotted out across multiple firms. So you need to demonstrate to that law firm that you want to train there in particular and the reasons why. Generic just won’t cut it.
Further information on applying for a course at the University of Law.