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Hana Bell arrived in London from Canada in 2020 amid COVID-19 restrictions and hiring freezes. It took a year before she joined Simmons & Simmons’ corporate law team, but she used her time wisely.

Hana Bell Simmons & Simmons corporate law Canadian London ICAEW Corporate Financier career paths

Where did your interest in law begin?

It was ballet dancing I took deadly seriously growing up – I’d been dancing from the age of three. But having grown up with a lot of creatives, I knew how important it was for me to pursue some sort of higher education.

My dad was a lawyer at Davis LLP [now DLA Piper] in Toronto, so inevitably a career in law was always at the back of my mind. I’d had some work experience at the Davis office before I went to McGill University in Montreal and majored in English literature. While there, I decided I wanted to really challenge myself intellectually, so I enrolled at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto.

Why corporate law?

I took my articles with Borden Ladner Gervais in Toronto. Training is probably more general than it is in the UK. I did get into corporate quite early through an opportunity in the public markets team, although I also had some exposure to private markets work. I felt my skills were most suited to corporate law. I was good at project management and could work efficiently and quickly.

Why the move to London?

I had moved around a lot growing up, as I have family in Japan and in different parts of America and Canada. I was comfortable in Toronto, but wanted to experience something new. My Canadian training meant I could practise law in the UK. I thought London, having a big financial services market, would be a really interesting city to do corporate law; the proximity to Europe was alluring, too. I finished my articles in June 2020, and even though we were still under COVID-19 restrictions to an extent, I came to London. 

I’d been in contact with Simmons & Simmons before I moved, but they had a hiring freeze when I arrived. So I did a lot of different things – taught English as a second language to Japanese and Chinese children, did a stint in streaming video games and became an operations manager at Penrose Partners – a start-up blockchain consultancy firm. I now have cryptocurrency and blockchain clients, so it helps being able to understand the underlying technology. Then, about a year after I arrived in the UK, I joined Simmons & Simmons. 

What is your role now?

I am an associate in the corporate law team and mostly do private M&A transactions – many different types of companies, but a lot with blockchain and crypto companies and exchanges, and gaming clients. I also have a practice advising start-ups with their capital raises, VC investments and general corporate advice. Earlier in the year, I was working on two or three small deals in the investment manager space, including Waystone’s acquisition of Link Group – that big deal took up most of my time. It was signed in April and now I’m juggling about 15 small transactions.

You also do pro bono work?

I was active in the pro bono sector back in Canada, particularly for LGBTQ+ rights and advocacy issues. Simmons & Simmons has a pretty active pro bono team, which regularly sends requests around the company to seek ad hoc assistance. I realised that colleagues in the firm found it difficult to feel engaged with these ad hoc requests, so I initiated a special partnership with one specific organisation called BelEve, a women’s empowerment charity. We’ve built our relationship over the past couple of years and mostly help it with ad hoc legal queries and corporate or employment issues. We’ve also hosted a few full-day events to provide skills and leadership sessions for the young women who are part of the BelEve mentoring programme that we spearheaded. 

What are your plans for the future?

I am half Japanese and speak Japanese. I’ve done some work with Japanese clients alongside our partner, Jason Daniel, who is focused on Japanese clients. However, earlier this year I got to immerse myself more in this space by going on a business trip and mini secondment to our Tokyo office. One of my immediate goals is to build my Japanese business practice further. I have also started a podcast at Simmons & Simmons, focused on gaming and immersive tech. I want to keep increasing my exposure to gaming and technology companies because that’s where my personal interest lies.