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Modern Languages and Cultures

Frances Jenkins

Frances Jenkins is an international dispute resolution lawyer with a particular focus on commercial disputes emanating from Russia and the CIS. She graduated from Manchester with a BA in French and Russian in 2010.

Here, she talks about what she does and how she got there following her time at Manchester.

On deciding on a law career

Law has always interested me, so during my third year abroad as part of my degree at Manchester, I worked as a 'stagiaire' in Paris for the French office of a small English law firm for six months. 

Frances Jenkins

I worked with a bilingual English solicitor and my primary role was to translate various legal documents from French into English and vice versa.

However, in order to translate a deed of trust, for example, I needed to understand what a trust actually was. The more the supervising solicitor explained basic legal concepts to me, the more interested in law I became. I then decided to train as a lawyer.

After graduation, I studied the Graduate Diploma in Law and the Legal Practice Course at the College of Law in Manchester.

In 2012, I started my training contract at an American law firm in London and qualified as a solicitor in 2014. I moved into Russian/CIS disputes in 2017 and have not looked back!

On the best things about being a lawyer

Without a doubt, the best part of my job is going to hearings! It is really exciting when you have worked for months, or even years, on a case and you finally have the opportunity to put your case in front of a judge. It makes all the hard work worth it.

Furthermore, the disputes I work on tend to be high value and therefore factually and/or legally complex. This means that every day I learn something new!

As I like to be intellectually challenged, I really enjoy the process of trying to find an answer to legal questions.

On the career benefits of studying Russian

Firstly, studying Russian at university has made me stand out from the crowd. It is fairly unusual to meet people who have a degree in Russian, so my motivation for studying the language is usually one of the first questions I am asked by interviewers!

Secondly, Russia and the CIS region are emerging economies which offer plenty of opportunities in almost every sphere of work.

In relation to dispute resolution, there is a very strong market in England for disputes emanating from those regions, because the English judicial system has an excellent reputation for both efficiency and integrity. Numerous oligarchs have appeared before our courts in recent years, including the famous Roman Abramovich.

Finally, my clients are Russian, so the fact that I have lived in Russia (as part of my year abroad) and am able to speak the language breaks down any cultural and linguistic barriers between us.

On advice for budding lawyers

Without hesitation, I would recommend that students study a foreign language either as part of their degree or as an elective. Law is an extremely competitive profession and it is really important to be able to make your CV stand out from the crowd.  

So far, every single job I have had in the legal profession since qualifying has been given to me because I speak a foreign language. Whilst it is not a pre-requisite to a career in law, it is an excellent way of making your CV stand out from the crowd and getting you that first interview.

Furthermore, when representing the interests of international clients, the knowledge and experience you gain as a language graduate puts you in an excellent position to understand and engage with such clients.