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After making my wife a cup of tea (she now demands two cups before my departure!) I try to start the day with a bowl of porridge resisting the lure of the office canteen and its excellent cooked breakfasts. I was once caught by a fellow partner eating a sausage butty in my room. The “nil by mouth” poster subsequently placed on my door has had a salutatory effect.
I no longer have to endure the school run (my three children are now grown up) so I usually make it to my desk by 7.45am. If I have to go to London – this happens on average at least once a week – then it is earlier.
After a covert look at the West Brom website (I am a fanatical Baggies fan) it is all steam ahead preparing for client meetings, telephone conference and business development events. What I love about my job is the incredible variety of problems. Although my team has particular expertise handling major corporate fraud and investigation work, we have to deal with a wide range of disputes. Examples include procurement or competition challenges, contractual disputes, corporate defamation work, judicial review, warranty claims and professional negligence work. In all of these areas we have specialist litigators but there is often a need for broader commercial litigation expertise. Increasingly, our focus is on disputes within specific sectors as clients expect their advisers to have a really good understanding of the markets they are operating in. For my team, there is particular focus on the public and manufacturing sectors as well as professional services clients.
Lunch: I try to avoid too many client lunches. Coffee meetings often seem to work better so lunch is normally a light snack in our canteen with colleagues or a quick sandwich in my room. Once a week we have a partners/ legal directors lunch which I try to go to if I can. It is always an excellent way of keeping up with firm news. Sometimes we use these lunches to invite senior business leaders in to give an informal presentation on what is going on in the Midlands. It is a great way to keep up to speed with issues affecting the area and our clients both locally and nationally.
Afternoon: I always try to ring fence part of the day for serious work concentrating on matters I am handling. This may involve me going off to a separate room to escape the constant distraction of incoming emails. Making space for “thinking time” is an increasing challenge but very necessary. If concentration waivers then I use this time to walk the office floor to see how everyone is getting on or to make calls to contacts to try and set up a meeting. I used to work for a magic circle firm in the City and one big difference being based in the regions is that there is more opportunity to go out and see clients & contacts at their business locations rather than to be limited to communicating with them remotely. That is – in my book – a big plus in making the job more enjoyable and interesting.
Evenings: I always find either very early in the morning or early evening the best times to progress matters. The period between 5.30pm and 7.30pm is often the most productive. If I am not travelling back from London or going out to a business event then I will work normally until 7.30pm. This enables me to cover a lot of ground and to avoid the rush hour traffic so I can be back at home for dinner with my family before 8.00pm. Normally, I am out with a client or client contact at least one evening a week. If I am down in London (a great deal of my work is London based) then I try and cram as many meetings in as I can in so it is not uncommon for me not to be back until after 10.30pm on these occasions.
Sometimes the hours are much more extreme. If we are dealing with a client crisis management issue or a fraud investigation then often there is a need for emergency procedures in which case it is all hands to the pump to get the job done in the time required. There is nothing like getting the adrenalin levels high if freezing injunctive relief is required, and there is nothing more satisfying than when a fraudster’s assets are effectively captured and the foundations for negotiating a favourable settlement are established early on.