Partner, Michael Conn Goldsobel, London
Following a postgraduate degree in political science, I started work as a political researcher before moving into public affairs. I always had an interest in constitutional law and that, together with my experiences of dealing with legal issues at work, convinced me to enter the legal profession. It is also a career that runs in the family, as my twin brother is a lawyer.
I trained at a small high street firm which gave me invaluable experience of early client contact and handling a very wide variety of common but complex legal issues. Having a close rapport and working relationship with your client is an important part of the job. I have always impressed upon my trainees that they need to develop client relationship-building techniques as it is a fundamental skill that cannot be learned at law school.
I will be running the Virgin Money London Marathon in April for the charity Spinal Research. One of my toughest challenges is trying to fit my training in around the demands of the office. It has been 11 years since my last marathon and the training is much tougher than I remember! Early morning runs and ice packs are not the ideal way to start a day at the office; although I find running home a nice way to unwind. It can also help focus the mind on issues that have arisen during the course of the day – quality thinking time at no cost to the client.
Memorable career highlights include acting for a client on the £45m refinancing of a 100-property portfolio within a tight timeframe. The existing lending arrangements had ended and the bank was exerting huge pressure on my client to repay immediately.
For me it’s rarely the largest transactions but those involving complex legal issues that are the most rewarding. I recently acted for someone regarding an option to a developer over a long-lease plot of land to build student accommodation, which entailed complex overage provisions. It was challenging but enjoyable.
My legal career is a talking point. Everyone has had some experience of either a lawyer or a legal issue that they love to share, particularly at social gatherings.
My least favourite law? Changes in Stamp Duty Land Tax. The law places an unfair burden on people who have to complete their purchase before selling their own home – although you can reclaim the additional charge if you sell within three years. It also imposes additional costs on clients seeking to develop properties at a time when there is a chronic shortage of homes in London.
Our industry has become more process-driven. While having a documented process is important, there is a danger that lawyers are becoming reluctant to advise on the uniqueness of each transaction. I believe that clients are best served when they receive bespoke professional advice.
In an increasingly competitive environment it’s become very important that all lawyers understand our clients’ commercial needs. That has forced us to become more entrepreneurial. It is not something we are trained to do but our profession has had to adapt – and fast. This is particularly relevant to the property industry but I think it applies across the board. A life in the law is now less about the legal issues that interest us as lawyers and more about delivering good, commercial advice quickly and succinctly. Often that is easier said than done.