Senior partner, Goodman Derrick, London
The academic aspect of legal training has improved dramatically over the last 40 years because access to textbooks during exams means students no longer have to spend interminable hours trying to memorise case names.
My mid-1970s training at the College of Law at Lancaster Gate was directed exclusively towards the law and ignored entirely what was required to be a competent solicitor.
My articles at Goodman Derrick was a very interesting time. The trainees were not allocated to a particular partner, or even to a department, but were called upon randomly to assist whichever partner needed help at any one time. It meant that we were working in all practice areas simultaneously. A good way to learn but probably not best practice.
Lord Goodman was a towering presence in those days. I benefited enormously from both his wisdom and his willingness to permit me to meet his extraordinary clients.
The hardest set of challenges is probably surviving my articles without losing my sense of humour. And not missing a Chelsea home match in the 41 years I’ve been at Goodman Derrick because of work commitments. I recently flew over Stamford Bridge on a delayed flight to Heathrow and, because the floodlights were on, realised I was going to miss the kick-off for an evening match. Public transport enabled me to get to the ground quickly enough to miss only the first 10 minutes.
I’ve been very fortunate to work with many clients who have subsequently become friends. It was very rewarding to work on the Who Wants to be a Millionaire ‘coughing major’ case, particularly as it saved my client £1m. I even secured a passing mention in the Daily Mirror.
I would like to think that my experience of people’s travails has helped me to offer guidance to my children on the rare occasions when they have approached me for advice. Certainly the family work I’ve done has given an insight into the reasons why relationships fail. That has taught me lessons I’ve tried to use for my own personal benefit as well as for other clients and friends.
My least favourite law is Withdrawal from the European Union (Article 50) Bill. Its not law yet, but I fear it will be very soon.
The reputation of the profession has taken a fearful battering in the last 10 years but we only have ourselves to blame. I do not anticipate that the loss of public trust will ever be restored.
The public would have been much better served had the government and judiciary dedicated the same level of energy and resources to improving the court service as they have to attacking solicitors’ costs.
Electronic communications with clients, counsel and other solicitors have had a huge impact on the speed with which decisions are made. Sadly, the courts have not kept up.