Managing partner, Clough & Willis, Bury, Greater Manchester
Like many people of my generation, my dad gave me the choice of studying medicine, accountancy or law. Faced with those subjects, law seemed like the best option and thankfully it was the right decision for me.
I trained under the old-style Law Society Finals and studied most areas of law during that period. I also think my training contract – and the broad knowledge I gained during that time – still stands me in good stead. My management skills have come since I started working ‘on the job’, as I don’t think they can really be taught.
Moving from being an employee to a partner changes your outlook and focus. You need to get your head around this, and then the shift into management brings a whole new set of challenges – most of which you don’t expect.
I’m the chair of governors at two local schools and I also sit on several fundraising committees, so my legal, managerial and people skills help in those situations and add value.
I always follow five golden rules: listen, learn, understand, communicate and have empathy.
Like any profession, there are good people and bad people working in the law. Most are excellent at their job but many only focus on the legality of the problem their client faces instead of looking at the whole problem. I do sometimes find that frustrating.
Nowadays when I say I’m a lawyer I often get the reaction: ‘Aren’t you lot extinct?!’ Many years ago, the profession was treated with respect, but the legal sector has been commoditised. There are downsides to this, but we are now more accessible and more approachable, so it’s swings and roundabouts.
The hardest sort of client is the one who doesn’t pay but wants the world.
Part 5 of the Housing Act 2004, which introduced home information packs, is probably my least favourite law. I was delighted when it was scrapped in 2010 as it was the biggest waste of money and did nothing to benefit the housing market.
The understanding of what being a professional means has been lost as we are constantly told to be business-minded and commercial. On the flip side, the use of technology has helped us deliver clients a faster and better service.
Specialisation ensures a better level of knowledge for complex cases but at the expense of the lawyer understanding what other legal issues can arise in different legal areas.