John Flathers – head of real estate at Irwin Mitchell, Leeds

What is your role at Irwin Mitchell?

I head up the Real Estate Department in the firm’s Leeds office and sit on the firm’s Real Estate Executive.  My role as one of the senior partners in the Leeds office is to develop our business in this city and the locality.  I am also responsible for our pro bono activities in the business side on a national basis, and I head up our Campus Ambassador programme in the Leeds office to cultivate relationships with the universities within this region.

How has 2011 been to Irwin Mitchell?

In terms of the economy, we have had a reasonably good year as a business and have continued to see growth.  We have been keeping a keen eye on some of the important changes in the law which impact upon our business, for example, the Jackson reforms and alternative business structures.

Why did you choose a career in law?

To be very honest, my father was a solicitor and senior partner at his practice.  I suppose I grew up with the law and always wanted to go into a “profession”.

What is the best thing about your job?

Being able to run a small business (my department) within a much larger business and the constant drive at Irwin Mitchell for success.

What keeps you working at Irwin Mitchell?

We are a progressive firm and have made significant progress since I joined the practice in 1992.  For example, the recent acquisition of 22 people, including five partners, from S J Berwin has really shown our ambition in the business services side.  However, we still have plenty to do.

Where do you see your firm in five to 10 years?

It has been well publicised that we are looking at the opportunities presented by the Legal Services Act.  I see my firm as having become a true brand name in the legal market place.  We will be a corporately run operation with external investment and the demands that go with that.  We will also have a much more significant international presence.

What would you have been if you were not a lawyer?

I played the cello to a high standard and always wanted to be a concert cellist with one of the leading London orchestras.

What would you advise lawyers beginning their legal career today?

To concentrate on being a quality lawyer.  Business development skills are very important but a quality lawyer will always win work through a good reputation.  If the law is your goal be persistent and deal with the challenges at the moment.

What do you think are the biggest challenges/opportunities for 2012?

Whatever legal challenges the profession faces, the biggest challenge will be achieving growth in turnover and profit.  Apart from the implications of the Legal Services Act, I still see a great opportunity to continue to build a strong and loyal client base.