Consultant, Vannin Capital, Isle of Man
I was happily planning to study the heavyweight combination of computer science and business. Then my grandmother, who was a strong, Glaswegian, matriarchal character who commanded respect from everyone whose path she crossed, intervened. My decision to go down one route quickly became a ‘decision’ to study law. Before I knew it, I was applying for a place to do a law and politics degree. I completed my studies at the College of Law in Chester.
My legal training, while good academically, in no way prepared me for what was to come. It gave me some basics, but common sense has provided the beginnings of most advice I have ever had to give. It certainly didn’t assist when a client, asked by a magistrate in a planning dispute what he kept in his portable building, replied ‘…drugs, madam’. He meant medicine for his livestock – but that was not immediately apparent to me or to the court…
A hard challenge all lawyers face is clients – finding them, keeping them and convincing them to listen to advice. But the hardest challenge for me, ironically, is lawyers, or rather educating them on the role third-party funding plays in the market. Although the concept is simple – a funder pays legal bills for a share of the eventual damages – there is still some suspicion, perhaps even fear, which is quite irrational.
The use of the word ‘education’ is not patronising, but the main obstacle I face is a lack of understanding of the choices TPF gives a client/claimant. Funding allows a client to offset cost and allows claimants to take on mightier opponents. It also gives lawyers running cases another set of eyes – contrary to criticism, funders only want to back winnable cases, not hopeless causes.
In certain social situations, being a lawyer can be the proverbial elephant in the room. It depends on where you are, obviously, but in most cases, people have had experiences of lawyers and they don’t always rank these experiences in their top 10 of life’s great moments. However, being a lawyer does provide good party conversation sometimes, and I like to bore people with the time I was involved in a case with Bruce Springsteen at the High Court at the beginning of my career. However, if I really want to upset the apple cart, I tell people I am a litigation funder.
The Human Rights Act is used as a justification for pretty much everything – that and the Data Protection Act, which must be the most inaccurately quoted piece of legislation, ever.
I’d like to see greater use of technology to make justice faster and for the legal profession in England and Wales to be seen as forward-thinking and leading the way across the world.