My first day at Jacksons was 1 October 2019. Before that I was an in-house solicitor for a large transport firm, working in the litigation department. Now I am in private practice in the corporate and commercial department.
There are two big changes there: in-house to private practice, and litigation to corporate and commercial. When I was given the opportunity to write a piece for this blog, I thought those were two things I should explore.
The most obvious aspect of moving from in-house to private practice is the dreaded time recording. It is actually not bad, just something to get used to (there is a great article on this blog from the 29 July 2019 which explains how lawyers charge, which may help fill in any gaps. What I have found is that it works as a great tool to focus on what is important to the client; you have to ask what the client would be willing to pay for the service and that means that you have to evaluate the benefit they will receive. Jacksons has a very open policy on cost (hence the blog post), which is a great help.
The other obvious difference is that we cannot make people talk to you just by telephoning and saying ‘hi, I’m from legal’. And again, this is a great tool to think about what your client wants. Everyone has a choice and the people with whom I speak, or correspond, have chosen to work with Jacksons. This is something I have really missed.
Moving to non-contentious work from litigation has been more subtly interesting. Litigation is quite often about hard deadlines set by the court timetable. Corporate, transactional work is more about softer target dates, set by the client. It appears that the deadlines in litigation would be the more important, but in practice it is not so clear. Litigation deadlines can be extended by reference to the rules, and have to be extended if the rules say so. The client’s deadline for completion ‘by the end of the month’ may appear vague, but it may turn out to be hard and fast and there is no making an application to extend if agreement cannot be reached.
One thing that does not change, from the lawyer’s point of view, is that people do not spend enough time thinking about what could go wrong when everything is going right. My pet peeve used to be people working on other people’s sites without the contract clearly stating how liability for any claims such as injuries would be allocated. Or any written contract at all. Now it is companies where the shareholders do not have a shareholders’ agreement or a partnership without a comprehensive partnership agreement. It was always difficult explaining that, even though the business had done nothing wrong, the claim would have to be paid and there was no mechanism to pass that cost on to the true cause. Now it is trying to get people to take sensible, pragmatic decisions when relationships between life-long friends or even family have soured.
It is very satisfying to now be putting in place the equivalent of these foresight protections for transactions. Tying every potential dispute to a method of resolution, looking ahead and making sure everyone knows where this is going and what may arise will, if anything goes wrong, save time, money and stress.
Beyond the two big differences, the absolute, stand-out, best part of moving has been seeing the range of businesses across the region, how they operate and how much time, effort and skill people are putting into helping them grow. There is a lot of energy in local business, and plenty of variety. It is very interesting and exciting to see how things will develop. Again, Bob Cuffe’s post on this blog from 28 May 2019 is excellent at giving credit where it is due.