Wednesday, July 8th, 2020
I know my move to a MD role with an international litigation finance house attracted a lot of media attention! It certainly proved incredibly useful, and the last two years have certainly helped me increase my skillset, and made me realise just how useful the skills I learned during my clerking career are in terms of application ‘on the outside’. The investment banking world enabled me to really look at the pressures that law firms and in-house teams face, and especially when it comes to managing risk, budgets and client expectations – whether that be institutional, ultra-high-net-worths, or indeed key stakeholders within the business. It’s given me an amazing insight into the pressures faced by law firms as I spent a lot time working on budgets from start to finish. It also helped me harness my negotiation skills whilst giving me an invaluable outlook of the whole litigation and arbitration market.
The other obvious useful aspect was my complete focus on originating investment opportunities, both domestically and internationally, which meant my book of clients has increased. Also, I got to work closely and alongside three ex-magic circle lawyers (A&O, Freshfields and Linklaters) for the past two years which has proved invaluable after learning about their approach to everything in the law – I always like to listen. It’s also worth saying that seeing someone like David Morley, the former Senior Partner at A&O, in action and discussing the market with him was invaluable. At the same time, my nomination as Chair of the African advisory board in early 2019, where I led for some high profile individuals, including the head of arbitration of Latham & Watkins, really helped build my leadership skills.
Meeting the members and hearing more about their ambition was the biggest attraction. I also dealt with Mike (first junior clerk) on an investment opportunity during my time at Vannin and I was very impressed with his approach – to get the opportunity to work with such a strong team is a big plus point for me. Given the ‘new normal’ has left us grappling with an unprecedented level of change in the industry, it’s unquestionably going to be a challenge but I am used to working alongside the very best, and that isn’t going to change with my move to Stone and I know I can provide immediate value. I have had some tempting options to return to the Bar in the past but the fact 36 Stone embraced my arrival via my new CCO role at Overture was a key driver for me. I am excited about the journey we are going to embark on, especially with this new vehicle.
I think that the breadth of support in this model is the key difference, and having an amazing support network like Overture London behind me is also a game changer. Law firms have embraced this type of model for many years now, as have other industries who instruct management consultants, and now the Bar may have to catch up. During my time at Fountain Court, Alex and I first met the two founders of Overture London in 2009, and they have proved to be invaluable partners ever since. Their skillset and expertise always provides value, and the successful projects we have worked over the years have proved that. When Nick Hill was Chair of the IBC he asked me to run a project rebranding the IBC which was a honour to do – my first call was to get Overture London in, and that proved yet again to be an invaluable partnership.
I think technology, and the way the people have been forced to embrace, it is a good thing. Could you imagine if we were in lockdown without the ability to communicate with people digitally, whether that be colleagues, clients, friends or family? I think we are very fortunate that we have the infrastructure, and the ability to utilise technology, in the way we do. Of course, flexible working arrangements are now going to be the norm, which can only be a positive thing for law, which has been slow to lean-in to the talent that exists in the market being full-time workers. I can also see there being so much turmoil in the real estate market post lockdown as we all embrace a lighter footprint.
I can also see there being widespread litigation arising from COVID-19, and especially with cases such as the business interruption which are getting a lot of press coverage. Litigation funders could have a big role to play during these challenging economic times, and I can see larger portfolio and corporate deals becoming more widespread as businesses and firms try to hedge risk. Taking the costs of litigation off balance sheets right now is crucial for many businesses and this where funders can help.
In 2020, I just cannot see how that is possible. Adding value and driving the business forward has to be at the forefront of everything a modern clerk should do. I noticed very early on in my career how important it would be to look at revenue generation, and ultimately the importance of relationships. That also plays into leadership, because you need to be able to successfully lead a team to really drive that revenue. Being a revenue generator is not just about business development, either; there is a whole range of skills required to achieve success and leadership is certainly one of them. You need to motivate and manage the team around you – take them on that journey, and spend time supporting them. I was lucky that my previous team sponsored me to complete my Chartered Institute of Marketing exams back in 2007. I was the first clerk to do that, and I remember speaking at an IBC seminar about it and, since then, many other clerks followed me in becoming chartered practitioners. In hindsight, that deeper insight into marketing techniques and theory has paid dividends for me and my career.
36 Stone does a huge amount of international work, and is best known for Shipping, wet and dry, International Trade and International Arbitration. It is also important to point out the other key areas that are developing at pace, too: Commercial Fraud, Energy and Natural Resources, Insurance and Re-Insurance, Private International Law and Transport. My main plan of action is to consolidate the thinking and approach for first few months, then focus on driving a robust business and marketing strategy. I’m also going to implement a new practice management system, a subject I am passionate about, and well-documented in the leading textbook ‘The Independent Bar’. I think it’s also important for us to build talent, both organically and by reaching out to the best people in the market. That focus on excellence is crucial for the brand, supported by the outstanding rankings members achieve.
Busy! It was my first day on the 1st July but I have already prepared a route map for the members, breaking down my objectives and plans in to each quarter, covering every aspect of the business. Despite the frantic nature of things, I love the pace of this industry. I have never ducked a challenge in my career and don’t intend to start now; at 36 or in my role as Chief Commercial Officer at Overture London.
It’s simple: work hard, keep listening and never stop learning. I never like to be complacent and will never pretend to know it all. I always want to develop my knowledge and strive to be better. I’ve spent 5 years of my career studying part time to achieve qualifications in Marketing, Leadership and Management. I remember completing a final dissertation, an innovation report, of my ILM course at 3am on a Sunday morning, with my son just being born that week, chambers was 24/7 at the time, and my two year old daughter wanted to spend time with me, too. It’s hard but you have to go above and beyond. If you really want it, then you have to have the determination to go and grab it for yourself.
One other thing makes all the difference: surround yourself with amazing people to learn from. The experience, qualifications and real-world lessons I have learned will never compare to having the day-to-day interaction with the greatest of all, Alex Taylor. There is no doubt in mind that, during our ten year career together, Alex and I spent more time with each other than anyone else in our lives. We attended thousands of meetings together and it was a pleasure to watch him in action. I learned so much from him. The transformation we managed to achieve together seemed impossible at the time, and it’s made me who I am today. You won’t be surprised to hear he still plays a big part in my life, and especially when I lost my father in difficult circumstances last year. Having a mentor like that was a game changer for me, and I have done the same for many others during my career – those that have worked with me or in some cases those that haven’t. My door is always open to any junior clerks, without fail, because I know success is about the company you keep.