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Christopher Birks

International Relations – St Andrews

I studied International Relations at the University of St Andrews, and completed both the GDL and LPC in London.

Moving from International Relations into law, I knew that the firm I wanted to work for would have to share my global outlook. It was because of HFW’s position as one of the world’s foremost law firms in international commerce, as well as its formidable reputation in contentious legal work, that I chose to apply to the firm for a vacation scheme.

Based in the aerospace department, I was quickly able to put my command of French to use researching French civil aviation law with regards to a helicopter accident. Another exciting task I worked on was a report assessing the political situation in an African country that had lost all of its military aircraft due to a rebel bombing. After the vacation scheme, I was offered a training contract.

I am currently in my first seat in the fraud and insolvency department, where I have been exposed to a range of cases. In one significant case, the team has been representing the trustees in bankruptcy of the insolvent estate of a Russian oligarch in a fraud claim brought during the oligarch's lifetime by a major Russian airline. As part of these proceedings, we have been carrying out a disclosure exercise, using e-discovery software to analyse documents in English, Russian, French and German for relevance to the issues in dispute. Whilst being heard in London, the case touches on matters of Swiss and Russian law — typical of the sort of cases that HFW takes on. The case has involved a form of alternative dispute resolution which gave me a better sense of the many and varied routes a lawyer can take to accomplish the client’s goals in the event of a dispute.

In another case, I worked on an urgent freezing injunction application. This involved attending a criminal hearing incognito to collect valuable information for inclusion in a witness statement. The application was heard in the High Court recently—a tense but exciting day—and we were successful in obtaining the injunction.

I am looking forward to my next seat in Paris, where I will be working in a range of sectors, including shipping and commodities.