At school, I loved the debating society, and law seemed the natural progression. I considered the criminal bar for a while, but I really wanted to work in trade and industry. I grabbed every bit of work experience I could – it ranged from Easter vacation schemes with Slaughter and May to joining the Army Legal Corps on Salisbury Plain for a summer. I spent one summer working for free for a French media law practice in Paris, funding it by working in the restaurants of the Latin Quarter by night.
I was lucky and won a training contract at Clifford Chance. It was brilliant – I ended up working in different jurisdictions and got to know lawyers and institutions all around the world. I always tell people that in transactions and cases, you should expect to face complex issues and analysis that can change radically and even become contradictory in time. But our job is to handle that and not panic – make the process as smooth as possible for your client or business, while giving them the best financial result.
The ideal lawyer is brainy but sensible. That’s not always possible – but I’ve come across lawyers who combine these skills very well. They’re brainy enough to correct you on most areas of law but keep things wonderfully simple, using a manner that everyone understands and few can disagree with. Generally, it’s a pleasure dealing with other lawyers. You learn from working with them, whatever stage you are at in your career.
I’m not sure there’s such a thing as a ‘difficult’ client. Some clients perhaps don’t really know what they want, but it’s our job to work out why they have come to us in the first place and give them the best and most valuable solution. If a client or business has a particular way of working that you are not used to or don’t like, it’s tough luck – they pay our wages. You need to be adaptable enough to work effectively with anyone.
To someone starting a legal career, I’d say rather than trying to choose the area of law you think will pay the most, choose the one you are most interested in. Success will follow and you’ll enjoy it more.
Ed Gretton is head of legal, Hanson. He blogs for the Gazette.