Corporate partner, Aaron & Partners, Chester
I looked at studying law as an undergraduate, but it didn’t appeal to me at that time. However, after a career in international banking and management consultancy (and many years arguing with lawyers), it seemed a great thing to do. I like doing deals, sorting problems and working with people in an intellectual environment, so it’s ideal for me.
I was a mature trainee with a small specialist firm who gave me proper deals to work on with good but light-touch supervision. So I learned a lot quickly.
Twenty years’ business experience and some common sense also go a long way.
Having a commercial background and an MBA help me to understand clients’ businesses as a whole and advise them in the round. Sometimes the best solution to a problem a client faces does not require legal skills.
The law is purely a tool we use to satisfy clients’ needs and the clients are not interested in it per se. A good lawyer doesn’t lose sight of the client’s goals. In my field of partnership law, for example, focusing on commercial solutions is essential. Commercial law is just a good management tool.
Unless they run businesses, people tend to assume I wear a wig and stand up in court. They also assume I know everything about every aspect of law and often want advice on rather esoteric areas of law about which I know little or nothing.
I’m obviously rather fond of the Partnership Act 1890 as I know it well. Over-complex and rushed laws trying to solve particular problems often fail. I think people should be free to do and think what they want so long as there is no potential injury or nuisance to third parties.
Access to justice for those without means has been lost and people will not be able to get redress for wrongs they have suffered. For example, rather than tackling fraud in the personal injury sector, new rules have made it more difficult for genuine claimants to get damages.
The internet has made specialisation possible in all walks of life, including law. The upside is that lawyers can more easily occupy a niche and offer a deep level of expertise to a targeted group of clients. The downside is that lawyers risk becoming so narrow that they are incapable of spotting wider issues, because they are outside their specialisation.
Businesses need agreements and society needs the rule of law. There will always be a need for legal advice. It may be delivered in different ways, certainly with more IT. Commoditisation will deal with simpler matters and specialist lawyers will deliver bespoke advice.
Lawyers need to learn that running successful businesses involves more than providing excellent advice.