Law appealed to me as a kid growing up in the 1970s with shows like Petrocelli. I graduated from Leicester University, then attended law school in Chester and undertook my articles at Wells and Hind in Nottingham. I remember my first day of articles when I was given a Dictaphone, desk, a bundle of matrimonial files and told to get on with it.
One of my big challenges as president of Lawyers in Local Government is to raise the profile of in-house local government lawyers. I am dismayed that, as a profession within local government, very few of us sit on the senior management board, and in some cases the most senior lawyer is at third or fourth tier. If you compare the situation with large private-sector companies, there are very few boards that would not have a lawyer at the senior management table. Nowadays I see myself more as a public servant working in local government rather than a lawyer. However, I worked in the private sector for four years with Eversheds doing company commercial work, which was helpful in understanding what drives those businesses that, as an authority, we are often looking to collaborate with.
A good lawyer can empathise with the client’s position and come up with solutions rather than barriers. We need to focus on facilitating and delivering on the client’s outcomes in a pragmatic and practical way. The biggest change in my working life is the radical impact of IT on the profession. Today we work in a very different way as lawyers, utilising various software and technological gadgetry, whether that be scanning, case management, time recording, precedent banks or artificial intelligence – and we will need to continually adapt to both the threats and opportunities this presents in the 21st century.
Growing specialisation has resulted in areas of niche expertise, but the downside is that for complex issues the client may need a number of lawyers to be involved, all with very narrow fields of expertise. I hope that in the future lawyers will still be relevant and valued. I think the second-oldest profession will last as long as the oldest.
Mark Hynes is director of governance and democracy, London Borough of Lambeth