Careers: "I studied Law in order to make the world a better place"
Having graduated with a first class honours in LLB Law in 2017, Katerina Hemalova embarked on a career in law. She became a qualified solicitor in 2020, and is now working for the FCA as an Associate Lawyer.
Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your journey after graduating from SOAS?
I was born in a small village in the Czech Republic and moved to London on my own when I was 17. I studied LLB Law at SOAS, where I was awarded a First Class Honours. I then obtained my legal Training Contract with a City law firm (Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP) which I completed in 2020, becoming a qualified solicitor. I completed LLM Law at the University of Law with a Distinction. Prior to my solicitor qualification, I was working as a paralegal at the Serious Fraud Office. I joined the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in May 2022 as an Associate Lawyer.
Could you give us a brief overview of your current role and what you do on a day-to-day basis?
I currently work as an Associate Lawyer at the FCA. The FCA is a financial regulator which is ultimately accountable to the government and funded by the financial institutions that it regulates. I work in the Enforcement division of the FCA, where we investigate financial and regulatory misconduct.
My day-to-day responsibilities are very diverse. I have several investigation cases on the which I work on as a legal advisor. Some of my main responsibilities include:
- Interviewing suspects and witnesses
- Collating and reviewing evidence
- Preparing for and attending court hearings
My role also involves assisting with recruitment and diversity initiatives across the FCA.
What motivates you in your role?
I truly believe that my role has a positive impact on society. The FCA investigates financial and non-financial misconduct by firms in the UK. As a result, we create a better market for all participants (in particular, vulnerable consumers). I studied Law in order to 'make the world a better place' and I believe that my job, in its own way, allows me to do that.
Why did you choose to study LLB Law at SOAS?
Coming from Czech Republic (a very homogenous country), I wanted to make sure that I studied at a university that was multicultural and as welcoming as possible. A friend of mine recommended SOAS.
Whilst I wanted to study Law, I also wanted to pursue my interest in Japanese culture. When I did my research, I realised that I could study LLB Law and also take Japanese classes at SOAS, which is what solidified my decision.
How do you feel your studies at SOAS helped to prepare you for this role?
I truly believe that studying at SOAS made me more empathetic, open-minded and conscientious - qualities that I greatly benefit from in my current role.
What did you enjoy the most about studying at SOAS? Do you have a particular favourite memory?
I remember having llamas on campus every year - that was really fun! I also remember that my Japanese tutor was extremely dedicated which made studying a breeze. My personal tutor in my first year also helped me a great deal (both with personal and university related issues), something that I will never forget.
What advice would you give to someone looking to get into your field of work?
Legal careers can often be brutal and ruthless. Be resilient. Be confident. Build meaningful connections early on, because you will need the support.
Also, be aware that even if you think there's an area of law that you're interested in, you may need to do something that you're not so keen on to get there. And that's OK. Just keep on progressing towards your goals.
What one piece of careers advice do you wish you'd had when you were at university?
Don't just focus on work placements, internships and polishing your CV. Join societies. Attend Events. Network. Do things that you find enjoyable.
Having a good CV is important. But at the end of the day, it's your unique experiences and interests at university and beyond that people will ultimately connect with. You can leverage those even in a business setting.
Did you access any of the SOAS Careers' services whilst you were a student?
Yes, I received some helpful tips on how to structure my CV, tips which I still use to this day.