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Kevin, thanks for agreeing to be interviewed for The Brief. Firstly, can you give us a quick rundown of your career to date?
I did my undergraduate degree at the University of Cape Town before coming to London and completing my legal training in the eighties. I qualified in 1987 after having worked at Lovell White Durrant and Bayer Rosin. I was a partner when I moved to Mishcon in 1994, and have been managing partner of the firm since 1997. Last year, I was re-elected by the partnership for a three year term so you’ll have to check in with me in 2016 to find out what happens next…
It’s been reported that Mishcon de Reya is to recruit its future trainees purely from its vacation scheme. Can you tell us a bit about that?
We don’t believe that one sixty minute interview gives applicants enough time to shine. Plus, we want to know more about a person than their interview technique. The vacation scheme allows us to get to know them and them to get to know us over a two week period; a period in which they’ll actually get to do the job, sitting in two different practice areas and teaming up with partners and current trainees alike. It’s very important to us that we are recruiting people who want to share in our values-based way of working, one which over two weeks, they’ll be well versed in.
You’ve also prompted much discussion following the news about the firm’s three-day weeks and unlimited holidays. Why do you think that kind of flexible working is the way forward?
I think that achieving a balance between your work life and your personal life is key to happiness. It’s as simple as that. I believe that we employ clever, responsible and talented lawyers and non-lawyers who should be given the opportunity to shape their own ways of working in ways which benefit the firm and its clients. The traditional five days a week, 9 to 5 model is outdated in an age where we have remote access to emails, video conferencing and sophisticated telephone systems.
Why has the firm decided to relocate next year into a single site at the Aldwych?
At the moment – and due to our enormous growth over the past few years – we’re spread across four different buildings. All very handsome buildings, of course, but there’s a definite advantage to being all together. For morale, for working cohesion – there’s a real buzz around the place knowing that we’re all going to be in the same brand new building. We held our summer party at Africa House and I definitely got a kick out of seeing everyone there for the first time.
Which parts of the business are you looking to invest in over the coming years?
In the coming years, a lot of investment will be made into our Dispute Resolution and Private departments. By revenue, these are the largest departments in the firm and both have experienced extraordinary growth in the past few years. We’re also expanding the breadth of these departments – later this year we’re launching our Business Crime group, led by Alison Levitt QC and Sir Keir Starmer.
Where do you think the firm will be in 10 years time?
One of our core values, the tenets we live by that were introduced in the 2000s, is that we build a sustainable, well-managed and profitable business, which the partners hold as trustees for every single member of the firm. That is what I want for Mishcon de Reya. I have no interest in short term success – it’s about the long term. We’re not going to rest on our laurels. We have challenges ahead: how to maintain our culture as we grow is crucial, as is adjusting to our new LLP structure. There’s plenty to do and no doubt there still will be in 2024.
In five words, why do clients choose Mishcon de Reya?
It’s business. But it’s personal.
In your opinion, what makes a good lawyer?
I have always believed that a great business is driven by its values. And it’s the people in the building that have to bring those values to life. So, principled is something I’d throw out there. Also tenacious – we rightly have a reputation in the market for fiercely guarding our clients’ interests and I think that is key to our success. I think it also helps if you’ve got a personality, if you’re fun to be around and people enjoy working with you. I don’t conform to the stuffy white shoe stereotype and neither do the lawyers I work with.
Finally, what are your own career goals that you still want to achieve?
I’d like to still have a pulse for a long while yet…! Other than that, I want to keep finding ways to innovate and to improve – to best serve our clients, our firm and the people that work within it and the wider society in which we are a part of.