Learning Latin and enjoying an argument provided me with good grounding for a legal career. I liked the idea of legal work once I realised law permeates every facet of life.
As a lawyer it’s difficult to keep up-to-date and to avoid feeling the need to show off to clients or other lawyers how much you (think you) know. It takes great skill and confidence to focus on what really matters – to be a trusted adviser.
There are logical positions and public policy drivers that lie behind a lot of English law – you get a feel for what an answer could be to a problem. Against that, you have to remember your limits and avoid straying into areas that are outside your experience.
A lesson for any lawyer is that you are not the oracle. Clients who challenge your advice can make you a better lawyer – they force you to think again and ask yourself why you haven’t put the point across persuasively. Most lawyers are a pleasure to deal with. Barristers have moved on in leaps and bounds in relation to client service.
The greatest loss in my professional life has been not having time to think and progress your client’s issues with solutions that you’ve thought through. Email and the internet have resulted in everything being available instantly. And there is a growing expectation for some law as a commodity. What we have gained is the ability to think much more quickly, and to find solutions and answers with terrific speed.
You can learn a lot from experienced support staff. They’ve seen it all before. Early in my career I met a colleague who became a terrific source of support and helped me in all sorts of ways. A wonderful experience and we got married in the end.
I’ve always admired people who have the courage and ability to start law firms and make a great success of them.
For the future, I hope that lawyers can master the need for speed and can manage all the information that comes their way, and that they are not obliged to ‘dumb down’ everything. I hope that party political pressures don’t result in changes to our laws or our lawyers that later we come to regret.
Christopher Arnull is solicitor and director at KPMG
- The Law Society is holding a series of free networking events in support of its new In-House Division. The first is at Chancery Lane on 20 March, featuring the topic: How can the in-house function add value to the business? For more information see tinyurl.com/d989fhk.