Catherine Thomas, senior director at Vardags

Catherine Thomas VardagsA personal trainer comes to my home twice a week to train with my husband and me. I have realised that the only way I will exercise regularly is if someone turns up at my front door and makes me do it! However, I recently put the training to good use by completing a ‘Tough Mudder’ assault course last weekend. On the mornings I see my trainer, I get up just after 6am and spend an hour working out; otherwise I generally get up around 7am.

I live in Shoreditch and work near St Pauls so I can get to work in under 30 minutes by bus. I have recently become the proud owner of a Vespa which is my new method of transport (on sunny days at least). I tend to get to the office around 8.30am but will already have been through my emails, as many of them come in overnight from other jurisdictions. When I am particularly busy, for example when I have a large case coming up for trial, I will start work by 7am to get a head start on the day in the relative peace of the early morning. If a lot of my lunches and evenings have been booked up, I will sometimes have breakfast meetings before I go in to the office.

Once a week the whole firm has a meeting at 8.45am for the management team to announce important developments within the company such as new hires, promotions and interesting new cases we have taken on. We have quadrupled growth within the last two years and we continue to expand in order to meet the increasing demand for our services. Each meeting ends with someone in the firm giving a talk on a recent development in the law which are then discussed by the team. One of the key factors in our success is that all fee earners engage with and consider how the law is developing and how that can be used to our clients’ benefit.

A lot of my time is taken up with meetings and telephone calls with current and potential new clients. Large parts of a day can often be taken up in conference with counsel or in court. I recently spent an unusual afternoon on a photo shoot for the coverage of Management Today’s list of the top 35 women under 35 in business. It turns out standing in one place for 45 minutes is harder than I thought. I am increasingly called on to provide comments or interviews to the press on recent developments and significant cases. If a story has broken that morning the journalist will often want a comment turned around very quickly in order to meet their deadline.

When I am not meeting contacts for lunch I tend to eat at my desk and work through, tackling the never-ending email mountain. I talk to my team constantly throughout the day to discuss the progress on our cases, make strategic decisions and approve documents and correspondence. I always have half an ear on what everyone else is doing. It can be difficult for me to plan my time between meetings in any meaningful way because often there are developments which require immediate action. If, for example, the other spouse starts competing divorce proceedings in another country we may have to react immediately with an injunction application. Obviously, there is always significant time pressure with such matters.

We have spent a lot of time and energy in recruiting the best and brightest to work at Vardags. Whenever the firm is hiring, the other directors and I can spend much of an afternoon conducting final round interviews. It has been time consuming, but it is worth the investment and I am very proud of the team we have built. They are without exception fantastic people with razor sharp intellects who maintain the very high standards set by the firm.

The time I finish work varies fairly significantly according to my workload. I try to leave by 7pm if I can, but I often have to work much later. My work tends to leak into the weekends when there is a lot going on, but I try to keep Saturday entirely free and just work on Sunday if possible. I often find this to be the best time to work specifically on the management side of things.

When I joined the firm nearly three years ago and we were working hard to grow the practice further, I would be doing some form of networking two or three times a day whilst still managing my case load. Now that we have such an established presence in the market, the level of this activity has reduced. Generally, around two or three of my evenings a week are taken up with work commitments, but when the Christmas and summer party seasons come around I will be at an event every night, sometimes squeezing in two in an evening. It can make for a very long day but I never tire of getting to know new people and sharing Vardags’ story.