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Firstly, where do you work and what is your role?
I am an associate in the Company Commercial practice at Eversheds in Manchester. I specialise in commercial contracts and advise clients in both the public and private sector. I have a particular focus on education and am a member of our Education Sector Group. I am also one of the two Corporate Responsibility Managers in the Manchester office with responsibility for our local CR programme and implementing our national programme at local level.
Why did you choose a career in law?
I always had a particular interest in law, largely inspired by LA Law and Ally McBeal. It hasn’t all been shoulder pads and high heels though. Unfortunately!
What attracted you to your particular specialism?
I was particularly attracted to the diverse nature of being a commercial contracts lawyer. Our team advises on the full spectrum of commercial contracts matters and no day is ever the same. The mix of specialisms in the Manchester commercial team (outsourcing, regeneration, IT, financial services, education, public sector projects) offered the challenge I wanted and the quality of the clients we work for on a regular basis is second to none.
What is the most enjoyable part of your job?
My clients. I have a fantastic client base who appreciate the work I do and the commitment we make to achieving the right result for them.
What particular challenges are you or have you faced in these tougher times?
We work hard to deliver to budgets agreed with our clients. It goes without saying that our clients need to control their costs in a way that they have not previously had to do, therefore, they are much more market savvy and we work much more to fixed fees. Also, the competition for work is as fierce as ever. In the commercial team, we have a strong client base which is testament to the relationships we work hard to establish and maintain. We also continue to win work from new clients. There is plenty to keep me busy!
What do you think will be growth opportunities for the legal profession over the next couple of years?
In order to achieve sustainable growth, whilst remaining committed to our local clients, we need to look beyond our local and national market. At Eversheds, we have such a global client base and in that sense, I am lucky to work in a firm where it is possible to be working with a local primary school in Manchester one day and advising on establishing a University campus in China the next.
What’s been your most enjoyable or high profile recent piece of work?
In November, we advised Anglo American (the owner of Tarmac) on the sale of a portfolio of their UK assets for up to £285m, clearing the way for the establishment of a UK construction materials company jointly owned with Lafarge. Along with one of our partners, I was involved in drafting and negotiating eight commercial agreements in the space of two weeks. There was a huge amount of pressure to get this done to an incredibly tight deadline, coupled with the fact that we also had to obtain Competition Commission clearance on each of the agreements. It was probably the most intense period of my career so far but there was a great spirit of camaraderie between all of the lawyers which definitely kept us going. We had tremendous support from the team back here in Manchester and this deal demonstrated the high quality work we do in this office. I won’t say I wasn’t glad to see the back of it though! Two weeks living out of a suitcase, away from family, eating only takeaways loses its appeal quite quickly when you don’t get any sleep!
What inspires you when it comes to your work?
The opportunity to work for such prestigious clients, with colleagues who are experts in their field, combined with being able to live in such a great city keeps me motivated. I am also passionate about the non-legal work we do within the local community with organisations such as Victoria House and nationally through partnerships with charities such as Barnardo’s. We have a solid reputation for getting involved in a whole range of corporate responsibility activities, from simple gardening, cookery and decorating activities at local charities to our national projects with Barnardo’s and also running our “Eversheds Unlocked” programme, a unique mentoring programme aimed at students who are first time family members to go to university, are studying at state schools and have a genuine enthusiasm for the legal profession. It is for this and a whole host of other reasons that we recently won the Manchester Legal Award for our pro bono and corporate responsibility activities.
Do you work by a particular mantra or motto in your business life?
I don’t have a particular mantra or motto, however, whilst not particularly new, getting to know your clients and their business is key to establishing long-term relationships where you become trusted to help them make the right decisions. As with every lawyer, I try to balance my home and work life. I suppose my mantra relates to making that work although sometimes it is harder to do the balancing than it is to do the job itself.
Can you give one piece of professional advice to your peers?
Pick up the phone to your clients. Don’t hide behind an email. I think that we can easily lose sight of the power of engaging directly with a client – building a rapport that creates a relationship of trust between you is invaluable.