Director of Berkeley Rowe, London
Being able to learn from different industries and people is what drew me to the law. You meet some of the most successful people around and learn a lot from them. You gain valuable commercial knowledge which can help you later in life.
I qualified the traditional way via a training contract. I was fascinated by commercial litigation and dispute resolution and qualified in it. I loved working with external team members: experts, barristers and so on.
We do not actually have a managing partner role at Berkeley Rowe, but I have been a director for around a year. In terms of balancing fee-earning and my role, the simple answer is: I don’t. You can safely say I have quit law and fee-earning, focusing now purely on business development and the team’s wellbeing.
One thing I have learned as a team member is that you have to be ready to fight everyone’s corner – not just your own department’s. To do that effectively you have to step down from law, advisory and fee-earning and focus purely on the business. I realised that my strengths are in business. I do not ever see myself going back to a fee-earning or client-facing role. I get to do what I enjoy, learning about industries and clients, and studying the competition. When it comes down to it, I fight for the whole team. The firm therefore collaborates better and grows faster.
Practising lawyers should not be in the leadership team. This is no small statement considering how hard we work to become lawyers. But too many law firms have fee-earners as leaders. When that fee-earner is busy their department does well, but the firm suffers as a result. Being able to detach myself from the law, seeing the whole firm as my team, has led to rapid growth, during a time when many lawyers are losing their jobs.
Too may law firms have fee-earners as leaders. When that fee-earner is busy their department does well, but the firm suffers as a result
We focus on the mental health of the team and work with psychiatrists and cognitive behaviour therapists to monitor the firm’s mental wellbeing. Mental health is treated like physical health at Berkeley Rowe; every now and again you need a check-up. If you feel a bit sick, that is absolutely fine – take the time you need to get back on your feet.
I do not think ‘stress management at work’ is enough, nor does it send the right message. Stress is being under pressure and having to overcome it. Stress is part of law – you learn how to deal with it. Anxiety is crippling and can have catastrophic effects on work; and depression can be destructive. The industry has ignored this problem long enough and it needs to be addressed. We talk very openly about it and the leadership checks up on the team regularly. When a team member is going through a tough time, they have support. We back this up on physical health too, encouraging the team to take part in sporting activities – on us. Everyone can take an hour or two outside of lunch and come back feeling better. I have been through it myself and I hope talking openly about it encourages others to do the same.
I am a member of the Worshipful Company of the City of London Solicitors in my capacity as a freeman and liveryman. I love history and will likely take a sabbatical to do a PhD on history. Freedom of the City and the Worshipful Company are wonderful traditions and they allow you to meet lawyers who you would not normally get to meet, either because you are in competition or because they happen to practise a totally different area of law. In my case, I get to meet far more experienced lawyers – and learn as much as I can from them. Lawyers, at their best, are constant learners. The Company has a number of events which encourage networking and being collegiate, as well as hosting dinners and banquets which clients adore. These are dinners with traditions and rules that remind one of why London is a great city, founded upon centuries-old traditions and customs.
My membership of the British Iranian Chamber of Commerce is to keep up date with commerce in relation to people with an interest in Iranian heritage. The politics surrounding the region are fascinating and this is a good way to stay commercially aware. I would encourage all lawyers to be a member of some form of chamber of commerce. It is the best way to understand how business is conducted, what opportunities there are and what is really going on behind the headlines.