Ryan Dougal, Legal Assistant at Herbert Smith Freehills Belfast gives us the lowdown on his career path…
Where did you grow up/go to school/university?
I grew up in Four Winds in South Belfast and attended Campbell College. I went to Queen’s University Belfast to study Accountancy and then completed a Masters in Legal Science.
What was your first ever job?
Strangely, my first ever job was at the age of five for a local Northern Irish supermarket commercial. Shortly after, I enrolled with an agent which lead to various parts in radio plays and short films, through to an appearance in local BBC satire ‘Give My Head Peace’.
What is the best thing about your job?
The most exciting thing about working at Herbert Smith Freehills Belfast (HSF) is getting exposure to high value international commercial disputes and transactions, as well as working alongside legal experts – a dream come true for a young aspiring commercial lawyer.
What have been your main challenges?
I was aware of how difficult and competitive it was (and still is) to secure a job offer after graduation. Having a degree on its own just isn’t enough. It is crucial to build a CV that truly stands out. Engaging in extra-curricular activities is hugely important. For example, I enrolled on the Advisor Training Programme offered by Citizens Advice Bureau and volunteered one day a week during my legal studies.
What personal qualities have helped you to succeed?
Flexibility and an open mind – I think both qualities have been important and will help me continue to choose paths that ensure what I do remains worthwhile, challenging and fulfilling.
Who has influenced you most during your career?
I had a great A-level teacher who really tested my abilities and taught me that high levels of discipline are required to reach your maximum potential.
What do you define as your greatest success?
From a career perspective, it is definitely securing a job at HSF. My greatest achievement outside of work would be getting a place on the National Youth Theatre (aged fourteen), which involved spending time at a top drama school in London.
How do you switch off when not working?
I find exercise is a great way for me to unwind as well as going out with friends and family at the weekend.
What would you be doing if not in your current job?
If I wasn’t in my current job I’d like to travel globally, perhaps across America or Asia. This is something I’d love to combine with my career ambitions and potentially have the opportunity to do as part of my future career with HSF.