Corporate counsel, Burford Capital, London
Of the careers that seemed to occur to me at a young age, I preferred words to numbers or, worse still, blood – which ruled out any thoughts of medicine – and always asked lots of questions. When I was 16, I did the mandatory work experience in a local law firm and kept going back there. There must have been something about it I enjoyed, even back then.
After doing the rounds of City internships (Slaughter and May, White & Case) I chose to train in a good regional firm, Lester Aldridge, with a head office in my home town on the south coast. I moved around offices and was the second trainee to work in the firm’s London office for a time. Working in a smaller firm gave me a solid hands-on experience. There were no hiding places and it was definitely useful. After I qualified I moved to the corporate team at Burges Salmon.
I only really started to enjoy legal life when I went in-house. This was unusually early in my career but it was the right step for me and later introduced me to the world of litigation funding at Burford Capital.
My area at Burford is really any legal issue affecting the company, which is listed on the London Stock Exchange (AIM). It is very broad, particularly when the business of the company is the law, and enables me to see it from a range of angles.
I am also Burford’s chief compliance officer, and am responsible for HR and company secretarial matters in the UK. The remit is broad and goes across all areas of the business. Core legal skills are necessary but understanding the business needs is the key attribute.
I think as an in-house counsel it is important to recognise that you can’t be an expert in every area of substantive law and to know when to draw on external expertise.
Recently, there has been a great deal of legislative change which affected litigation – some good, some bad. The Jackson reforms have had a significant impact on the litigation space, and debate continues to rage about them. It has created a huge opportunity for firms to innovate, and to find new way to answer their clients’ demands, in the form of damages-based agreements and alternative business structures. That’s been a huge plus point. But the downside comes as changes and opportunity have been hampered by lack of clarity. The Jackson concept of a robust and economically efficient litigation sector energised by DBAs, ABSs and litigation funding is still to fully materialise.
One thing we are constantly striving for is education and information among claimants and the legal profession over the workings and opportunity presented by litigation finance (in all its forms), and a move into the mainstream for funding. We also need clarity in the regulatory environment, notably in the areas of opportunity noted above, to fully embrace the opportunity that is presented.