Who? Matthew Bonye, partner and head of real estate dispute resolution at Herbert Smith Freehills, London.
Why is he in the news? The firm acted for the board of trustees of London’s Tate Gallery in a High Court case brought by the owners of four flats who claimed the Tate walkway creates a nuisance and infringes their article eight right to privacy. Mr Justice Mann dismissed the residents’ claim. The residents are considering an appeal.
Thoughts on the case: ‘Real estate litigation might sound like a specialism within a specialism, yet I am constantly surprised by how land and property matters interlink with much broader legal subjects. Matters that, at first glance, may seem specific only to real estate frequently interplay with other areas, for example public policy for inner-city regeneration, charity law, aviation, banking or agriculture. In this case, issues arising included human rights and the law of nuisance, which reflects how varied our subject is.’
Dealing with the media: ‘Within the field of real estate, the industry press clearly appreciates the intrinsic links between legal issues and the commercial picture. The wider media has paid attention to real estate stories over the last few years, whether this is tied to the survival of high street retail, CVAs [company voluntary arrangements] and business rates, or issues relating to building standards and safety.’
Why become a lawyer? ‘I studied history at university working part-time for a civil rights and criminal defence law firm in London. I was fortunate to experience a huge amount of court cases first hand, from trials at the Old Bailey through to magistrates’ court committals. It was obvious to me how important all the matters I dealt with were for the participating parties and I wanted to take that role on within a civil law framework. Real estate was the ideal focus as the legal complexity and variety of issues appealed and I am constantly enthralled with the projects my clients take forward.’
Career high: ‘I once had a major case where the counterparty claimant simply discontinued its action against my client a fortnight before a long-awaited trial, which perhaps should make the list. Equally, we won a small case last year to set aside a noise abatement notice that had been wrongly served by a local authority, and the importance of getting a fair outcome for my client made that an important day.’
Career low: ‘On a site inspection as a trainee, I was once left hanging by my arms from a subterranean pipe when a wooden floor gave way in a light well beneath a West End department store. It took a minute or two for me to be rescued, by which time I was covered in concrete dust. That was pretty low in both senses of the word.’