Senior partner, Anthony Collins, Birmingham
I was drawn to law probably because of the intellectual challenge of solving complex problems but doing that in the context of real life and not from an ivory tower somewhere in academia.
I was taught to think logically and then to be able to explain my thinking to the non-legal professional, whether an individual in a private capacity or a board member of a client company or organisation.
The challenges of leadership in the context of a modern, values-based legal practice are much greater than the challenges which I have faced as a lawyer at the coal face.
A good lawyer is someone who really knows their stuff and knows it so well that they can explain it to anyone at all in terms which enable them to decide what it’s best to do. In my experience it also really helps if you understand the client’s context – what they are trying to achieve, whether personally or in their business – and you are genuinely interested in the outcome.
Like any other profession, we lawyers are a mixed bunch. I have, though, enjoyed (and learnt from) most of my encounters with other lawyers.
The hardest client is one who won’t listen. The only thing worse is a lawyer who won’t listen. At the end of the day it’s a team game: we need to listen to each other.
I’ve never really been interested in sheltering behind counsel’s opinion. My approach has always been to outline my view and to ask whether I’ve missed anything or whether there is anything further which could be added. I see working with the bar as another outworking of the value-adding team approach to the work which I do.
I have been saddened to see over the years the growing obsession with time and money which, in my view, has led to some pressured decision-making which has not always been in the best interests of clients.
Specialisation has been a good thing to some extent, but I still believe passionately in a relationship of mutual confidence with a client so that they can ask you anything and you don’t dodge the issue: you take the advice of the technical expert and then help the client to interpret that advice in their context, which you know so well.
I hope the legal profession will maintain its integrity and independence in spite of market pressures but, at the same time, take the opportunity of responding positively to what its clients really want – genuine help and advice rather than merely procedural guidance or textbook answers which deliver no added value.