Kathrine Moore | Master Agreements Negotiator/Legal Advisor at BNP Paribas
Our next guest is Kathrine Moore. Kathrine is a Master Agreements Negotiator and Legal Advisor at BNP Paribas. She obtained a first-class LLB degree with Honours from Napier in 2017 and took an alternative route into the legal profession. She has kindly participated in an interview with the Law Review to share her journey and insights with the hope to inspire any students who are considering alternative routes into law.
1. Tell us a bit about your background. What university did you attend? Did you take a year abroad? What were your favourite/worst subjects in university? Did you participate in any societies?
My name is Kathrine, but friends and family call me Katie! I ventured south to Edinburgh from the far north (John O’Groats) in 2013 to study the LLB at Edinburgh Napier University.
I was definitely the type ‘straight law’ student. (I thought) I knew what I wanted; the direction in which I was heading in and so in the first three years chose to study the modules I thought would make me most attractive to prospective employers. Ironically, I didn’t end up following the typical route coming out of university so definitely wish I had been more flexible in my module choices earlier, including taking the opportunity to spend a year or semester abroad!
My favourite subjects at university International Law, Tax Law (I think I am the only one!), Construction Law and Contracts, and Company Law. My least favourite was Obligations 1 (despite the fact I now work daily with contracts of a sort…) – I can’t put my finger on why but I found it particularly challenging.
During my time at Napier, I participated in a number of societies and volunteering opportunities. I was involved in the Ladies Football Club, Christian Union, and of course the Law Society. I was on the Management Team of the Law Clinic in its first year of running, which was a valuable experience! And I also participated in lots of external events such as those run by the Scottish Young Lawyers’ Association and the Arbitration Centre in Edinburgh.
2. What made you choose to pursue a career in the legal profession? Why did you decide to take an alternative route rather than the typical Diploma route?
I came to university with the full intention of practising as a solicitor in private practice because of my passion for helping others and my keen sense of justice. During my time at university, I found my natural strengths lay in the ‘commercial’ law sphere rather than the likes of family law or criminal law and so was drawn more and more to the idea of training as a commercial solicitor.
During my third and fourth year, I went through the usual route of applying for (what felt like) hundreds of traineeships with firms in Scotland. With each application, I felt more disengaged and unfulfilled. But I did not know how else I could pursue a legal career so I carried on with applications.
Finally, in my fourth year when researching for my dissertation (about Alternative Business Structures and how the Scottish legal profession’s attitude towards such changes was hindering innovation), I decided I definitely did not want to work in private practice.
After an initial panic, and a few unsuccessful applications for banking graduate schemes, I realised that I didn’t really know what I wanted to do and that my not knowing was not going to stop the world from turning.
I took a few years ‘out’ of law – first in an HR role, and then in a governance role within a large retail bank. Finally, in 2020 (just under three years after graduating) I decided I was missing the challenge of a legal role and decided to search for alternative legal career options here in Scotland. That’s when my current role – Master Agreements Negotiator / Legal Counsel – at BNP Paribas came up!
3. When applying for roles after graduation, how did you find the process? Did you already have a lot of experience before applying?
As mentioned above, I applied for many roles before graduation (traineeships and other graduate schemes). I found the process to be relatively daunting – despite having been through a similar process the year prior for summer vacation schemes. And quite honestly, a lot of hard work to only get 1 or 2 interviews which were particularly disheartening. I thought my high grades, and lots of work experience (I worked full-time before university and part-time during) would see me through but in the end, it seemed otherwise.
My first full-time role after graduating was an HR role at Tesco. Throughout university, I worked part-time at Tesco, in-store on the checkouts, and the HR role came up 2 weeks before my final exams. I decided to apply as I knew I could draw on my legal knowledge and skills, and after 2 interviews, found out I was successful.
I would definitely recommend working whilst at university, as you never know which doors it may open and the opportunities it might lead to!
4. Do you think enough was done to address the alternative career options available in the legal profession? Did you feel pressured to follow the Diploma route? Do you have any ideas on how more awareness can be given to students?
In my personal experience, very little attention was paid to alternative career options – there was a brief mention of government and diplomacy roles based in London, and generic legal secretary and paralegal roles for those who did not want to qualify but wanted to work in law.
I certainly felt like the only real option, if you wanted to pursue a legal career, was to follow the Diploma route. However, I am glad that I did not follow the crowd and spend lots of money on a course that I was uncertain about studying.
In terms of increasing awareness of alternative legal careers in Scotland or the UK more widely, I think it would be valuable to have guest speakers who work within different roles in law firms – legal practice managers, legal accountants, researchers, IP attorneys. Out with law firms, this could include those working in in-house legal functions, legal technology, banking, governance, compliance and risk, commercial functions (including procurement, contracts, etc.), property, and so on.
5. What advice would you give yourself as a law student looking back now?
Choose variety over ‘straight law’! Be more flexible with your module choices, the summer internships you apply for, the professional events you attend. Widen your scope for opportunities.
6. What does your role as a Master Agreements Negotiator/Legal Advisor at BNP Paribas CIB look like day-to-day? Did you get to work with partners or have any client contact?
In my current role, I work contracts in relation to a range of financial instruments such as derivatives, repo transactions, commodities, energy-linked derivatives – to name but a few. A large part of my role is drafting and negotiating the terms of these contracts on behalf of BNP Paribas (facing clients as the ‘opposite side’). These contracts can relate to clients based in many countries across the world, set up as different types of the company so I spend a lot of time researching the relevant legislation, regulations, and requirements that apply to each contract with each client. Oftentimes, this includes reaching out to external legal counsel for opinions.
My role includes liaising with internal stakeholders such as those in our risk, business, collateral management, and treasury teams. I also advise teams such as relationship management, and those on the front trading desks, on legal points in relation to the contracts mentioned above.
One thing I love about my job is that I communicate directly with clients and their counsel to negotiate these contracts which definitely ensures variety!
7. What is the most rewarding part of your role?
Definitely, the feeling you get when you have successfully closed a negotiation with a high-value client.
8. Do you work from home all the time or do you work in the office on occasion?
At the moment, I work from home all of the time. We hope to be back in the office in Summer!
9. What is your work/life balance like? Do you find that your workload has increased or decreased since the lockdown?
I joined BNP Paribas in Summer last year – in the middle of the pandemic – so cannot comment too much on this. However, I do know that our team’s workload has increased since lockdown due to the nature of the markets we operate in!
10. What is the firm culture like where you are currently working?
It is an open culture, where everyone is encouraged to be themselves. I don’t feel like there is any part of me I need to hide or tone down at work, which I really value. From day one, senior management made me feel welcome and despite being in lockdown, for the most part, I have met a number of key senior individuals in legal either in person (when allowed) or virtually. I genuinely feel like management care about their colleagues.
11. In your opinion, what are the most important skills required for a successful career in the legal industry?
I hate to say it because it’s so cliché – commercial awareness. I don’t mean the type where you read the legal news and have lots of ‘knowledge’, but the ability to think “how does X affect my role? What do I need to know and are there any actions I need to take?”. I didn’t really understand this until putting it into practice, and now it is a skill I develop daily without really knowing it.
12. How do you feel about the future of the legal industry? Do you think dealing with clients will become more virtual permanently?
I welcome change to the legal industry in Scotland! I think the rapid acceleration of the use of technology is great and brings the industry in line with the legal industry in other countries. I would also say that people are now more personable and open about their home life – given that you can’t hide pets or children who wander into video calls!
In terms of meeting with clients – I think virtual dealings are challenging (technology not always working, harder to develop relationships, etc). However, I believe technology provides the opportunity for firms to reach a wider audience and also makes accessing services less challenging in some ways (e.g no need for rural clients to travel into cities for high-quality legal services, etc).
13. How do you stay commercially aware with current events and what would you recommend for students?
I would say widen your network! Get involved in ‘non-law’ professional networks, events and opportunities, in sectors such as – banking, technology, defence, politics, and so on. This will give you a better understanding of how current events affect different sectors. A practical example would be – how the price of oil affects the market, and in turn the effects I see working in derivatives and commodities. Therefore, it’s important that I keep tuned in to what is happening in the defence, aviation, energy industries.
Don’t overcomplicate things – try to understand current affairs and events in very simple, practical terms. If you have a key area of interest, then research according to this and really focus on understanding how a current event might impact that sector or industry.
14. How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Analytical, forward-thinking, and honest.
15. Who was your role model growing up and why?
Maybe cliché, but my mum! When I was young, she was a single parent working 3 jobs and studying so in my eyes she is superwoman. She has such a massive heart for people, is so generous, and loves to laugh.
16. What is your proudest achievement?
Buying my first house shortly before my 21st birthday! It took a lot of sacrifices (no nights out, meals out, spending money on random rubbish I don’t need) but it was the best investment I could have ever made.
17. If you could travel anywhere right now, where would you go and why?
Anywhere with sunshine! I think I would go to Croatia – I love the beaches, the sights (lots of historical sites to visit) the people, the food. And of course the amazing weather.
18. What is your favourite pastime/hobby you like to do in your spare time? What Television series are you watching at the moment?
Most of my non-working time is spent on church activities! I am a leader in my church, volunteer in the finances team (doing the balance sheets), and also attend bible school part-time. I absolutely love it and although it includes lots of early rises, lunchtimes spent doing work, and late evenings – it is the most fulfilling way of life.
I have just started watching Wanda Vision on Disney+!
19. If not law, what other career would you be interested in pursuing and why?
I would have loved to be a history buff! Making documentaries about the history and geopolitics of significant cities across the world. Still awaiting my call from the BBC…
20. If you could write a book/film about your life, what would the title be and why?
“Overcomer” – I have overcome many barriers in life including leaving school with no qualifications due to ill health, coming from an ‘underprivileged’ background with no financial support, and many other personal challenges. But I would hope that my story would inspire those who have struggled with events or circumstances in their life, to keep working hard to achieve what is in their heart.
Interviewed by Sean Doig (Editor-in-Chief 2020/21). We would like to thank Kathrine Moore for taking the time out of her busy schedule to participate in the interview for the Law Review. You can connect with Kathrine on LinkedIn and, if you have any further questions of your own or want some encouragement/advice, please feel free to email Kathrine at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would like to participate in an interview with the Law Review, please do not hesitate to contact us at email@example.com