Managing partner (Cardiff and Bristol) and head of property, Gordon Dadds
It was my father who first put the thought of pursuing a legal career in my head when I was still at school. His business had been involved in some expensive litigation. I suspect he had just written a large cheque to his lawyers when he suggested the law as a possible career path for me.
I trained with Shoosmiths, which was a fantastic start to my legal career. It was a forward-thinking, ambitious and professional environment, but also a sociable culture. I must have enjoyed my time there because I stayed for 12 years.
When I moved from private practice to head of legal at Norbert Dentressangle, the switch to working in a large multinational corporate was a challenging but invaluable experience. All lawyers in B2B roles would benefit from spending time in-house, even a short secondment. It is the most effective way to understand clients’ needs and it also makes you rethink how you can add value to their businesses.
Lawyers have far more to offer than simply resolving problems that clients have insufficient time or expertise to resolve themselves. My experience of working in-house has enhanced the strategic input I can offer.
Perhaps the biggest challenge is the one facing the profession as a whole. The traditional law firm business model looks outmoded from the perspective of most clients. As a profession we have to rethink how we deliver solutions and meet clients’ needs. While it is a cliche to say that where there are threats, there are also opportunities, I believe that’s the case.
No business is immune from the sort of disruption that is taking place, but firms that are willing and able to adapt to (or embrace) the changing landscape will prosper.
I’ve always found that lawyers generally treat each other with respect and that’s something we should be proud of.
The changes in the profession have been for the better. The profession has modernised and continues to do so – technology is, of course, the main driver of that change. The usual criticism is that lawyers are slow to modernise but that’s an oversimplistic and slightly lazy view, as well as being a huge generalisation. I don’t think anyone is suggesting that the legal profession is at the cutting edge of technological transformation, but the characterisation of lawyers as modern-day Luddites is wildly inaccurate.
I’m optimistic about the future. I don’t believe those who argue that the profession is under threat; it’s just being subjected to change. While change can feel uncomfortable, there is no reason why a sole practitioner should feel any less comfortable than the managing partner of a top-10 firm; quite the opposite. A disrupted market, particularly where change is driven by technology, is often a more uncomfortable environment for the leaders in that market.