I went to Sheffield University to do an economics degree and fell in love with the law course which was an optional subject in my first year. So I switched to a law degree. It was pure luck that I was given this chance and I have never regretted it.
I did my Legal Practice Course at Chester Law School and I cannot say that I found it of any practical help when I started work. My real training was with a small general practice in the West End of London which was real seat-of-your-pants stuff. I did everything: my first week was spent at the Old Bailey for a criminal trial, the second week defending a Soho baron.
As a litigator you have to work with the evidence and your gut instinct. It is not always easy to find the evidence you need and often you have to follow your instincts and be proactive. The hardest challenge comes when you are powerless to help.
The world of pensions has evolved quickly and sometimes you need the Pensions Regulator to help. On many occasions they have been terrific, but they could not help in one case – and I was gutted. Members lost their jobs and their pensions and I found this heartbreaking. Thankfully, the legislation has changed since then.
I am lucky that I have been able to practise litigation in a number of fields and have gained experience and confidence. I started doing intellectual property, moving to construction and property litigation before specialising in pensions. I moved from Nabarro to Sackers in 1999 to focus on pensions litigation full-time. Only last week, when preparing for a freezing order, my property litigation experience was useful, even though it was a bit rusty. My experience in the construction of lifts and escalators has been less useful.
At Sackers, my most memorable highlight is when we rescued the pensions of the employees of the SeaLand container company after it was taken over by Maersk. This was one occasion when the Pensions Regulator came up trumps. It was my proudest moment – and it was all done pro bono.
In previous firms, I have been lucky enough to have two cases go to the House of Lords which was a real privilege. A memorable period was my two years working in Hong Kong on construction cases.
In pensions litigation, some clients have unrealistic expectations of how long cases take to come to court. Some pensions cases can take years to reach their destination.
I am pleased to see more women staying in the legal profession. Like Sackers, a lot of firms have introduced flexible working to encourage women to come back to work after they have had a family. Of 24 partners at Sackers, 14 are female and I believe this balance makes a difference to the culture of the firm.
Working in the City, I worry that coming from a privileged background is the only route to getting a job. It is hugely important to have a good cultural mix and I really hope that this is addressed.