CEO, Spring Law Ltd
I would be lying if I said I always had a burning desire to be a lawyer. My first love was history, but law offered a more obvious career.
My first two training seats (corporate and banking) didn’t really require my legal training. In the world before ‘track changes’ we did an awful lot of proof-reading.
The hardest challenge was working in the corporate department of a large City firm. While I enjoyed the people, I found the repetitive nature of late-night working/lost weekends soul-destroying. You are either made for that type of working life or you’re not.
I have had a varied legal career, which suits my character. I qualified as a corporate lawyer, switched to a litigator and then ran the legal department of Sportsworld Media Group. I then set up Spring Law in 2002. I advise across the three main practice areas, which keeps me motivated.
While general counsel for Sportsworld, I was responsible for managing the company’s acquisitions and for the control and exploitation of the sports and media rights it acquired. The two greatest challenges were keeping on top of the volume of work, and then, less fortunately, managing the receivership of the group precipitated by the collapse of the advertising and sponsorship markets following 9/11. The latter was tough but, in retrospect, invaluable. It taught me there is no guarantee for business success and that banks can be capricious.
Setting up Spring Law and then working out how to try and build it from scratch was my most memorable career highlight. Our recent merger with Ferguson Solicitors, a City employment boutique, was also an exciting time for everyone at Spring Law.
I only enjoy working with clients where there is mutual respect. The hardest client is the one that demands everything but fails to value the service.
The Bribery Act 2010 is my least favourite law. It isn’t that the sentiment is wrong – corruption is a massive brake on economic and social development. But the ridiculous interpretation of the reach of the act frustrates me – lawyers have made large corporates afraid to entertain clients.
When I started my career there was no email, we used the phone, met clients and built a relationship with them. The loss of proximity to clients has reduced an enjoyable part of the law. It also makes it easier to lose clients because the ‘stickiness’ of personal relationships is what draws people back to you.
Lawyers have become less arrogant and self-satisfied. We know we have to provide excellent services at a competitive price. Competition for clients is now very real, and that is a good thing.
I hope we, as lawyers, don’t allow ourselves to be undervalued. The recession changed legal pricing models. Whether this is ultimately for the benefit of lawyers as business people remains to be seen.