Founder and senior partner, Rosenblatt Solicitors, London
I had no particular ambition to be a lawyer but I was quite argumentative when I was growing up so it suited my temperament.
I had excellent training at Collyer Bristow, but in the early 1980s it was very formal and more like an extension of school – disciplined and strict. They took training seriously but were not good at self-expression. I got into big trouble for wearing a yellow sweater under my jacket, even though it was snowing.
Running a legal business is a perpetual, daily challenge, but no different to any other business except for the regulatory overlay. Remembering never to take client relationships for granted, motivating and managing people, trying to make fee arrangements that are commercially viable both for the firm and the client, getting bills out on time, getting paid, and remembering that the customer is always right except when they are not.
A memorable career highlight was in 1986 and I was 27. I was in the office on a Saturday. The phone rang. A barrister’s clerk was looking for a solicitor to go to Bow Street Magistrates’ Court with counsel to attend a client who had been arrested and was being remanded. The client was the chairman of one of Malaysia’s biggest banks, charged with fraud in Hong Kong, and he was to be extradited. It was known as the Carrian Case. I saw him, sat in court, and went home – and was then asked to see him in Pentonville on Monday.
He hired me and my life changed for two years. He became, I think, the longest remand prisoner ever. I handled the extradition and appeals, worldwide injunctions, civil cases against him, and his business affairs. I travelled to Malaysia and Hong Kong, got admitted in Hong Kong, and learned more than I had ever learned before. It gave me enormous confidence and was the catalyst for setting up my own firm because life after that was really boring.
My least favourite law is clients’ right to challenge bills within a 12-month period and the time it takes to get resolved. Business people do not need this protection. There should be one rule for businesses and another for private clients. Business people are more sophisticated than the law allows them to be in this respect.
Too much is process-driven, giving less room for creativity. I sat in a negotiation across from a magic circle partner acting on the purchase of a large media business. My opposite number had a ring binder of alternative precedent clauses. I said ‘why don’t we stop negotiating and I will look through your file and see if there are any clauses in there I can live with’. The process was fun for me, but not my opponent who could not agree anything other than what was in the file.
Technology and the speed at which things can be done is a great thing. I have tried to have interests outside law – particularly in music which is the second love of my life. I started Rosenblatt Recitals in 2000, putting on a few concerts. I could only dream that it would become internationally acclaimed and land me an OBE 16 years later.