Chairman, Pemberton Greenish, London
After leaving Warwick University in the early 1970s with a degree that said more about my social life than my academic prowess, I needed a job. Much of my time at university had been spent in the theatre, but that was not going to develop into a career. Everyone said I needed to get a professional qualification. The law sounded so much more fun than accountancy.
I took the land law exam six times before passing it (you could in those days). This meant I became well acquainted with the basics of English property law. I only had two seats for my articles: six weeks in the litigation department and the rest of my time in the property department. I sat with a managing clerk whose experience and knowledge was unrivalled. There was not much doubt that I would become a property lawyer.
Partnership is an interesting way to run a business. You are an owner, an investor, a manager and a worker in the business, all at the same time. Achieving the right balance between these sometimes competing roles is always challenging.
A multitude of things make a good lawyer and this can vary depending on the sort of lawyer you want to be. Generally you need to have a good intellect, an enquiring mind, embrace challenges, enjoy semantics, have a good work ethic, be a good communicator, be literate and have at least a basic level of charm. And of course, you need to have integrity. If you can manage all that, you will go far.
I genuinely like the other lawyers I have to deal with and a number have become good friends. We can have great battles over legal issues with no quarter given, but that rarely spills over into personal relationships. I work in a fairly rarefied field so I tend to deal with a relatively small number of other professionals who are similar specialists.
The hardest sort of clients are those who will not listen to advice. Very often they will come to you having taken advice from umpteen other lawyers who have all told them the same thing. They want you to give them the answer they want to hear.
You have to be careful not to be seen as some sort of Luddite. There have been many good changes over the years and of course the advance of technology has radically changed the ways that lawyers work, generally for the better. The increase in the use of standard documentation and the ability for all to have access to it do however have some dangers. There can be a belief that, if there is a document available for a particular set of circumstances, then the lawyer simply has to download it and that is it.
The rise of women in the law has been spectacular and hugely beneficial. When I started the firm would not, I suspect, have ever contemplated the prospect of a woman partner. The present partnership is over 40% female and the proportion is likely to continue to grow.
I hope the profession will continue to play its part in ensuring that the law will be accessible to everyone. Freedom in any society is demonstrated by the ability of the weakest to challenge the most powerful. Any society will be judged by the extent to which proper access to a legal redress is available to everyone.