What is your role and day-to-day function at Irwin Mitchell?
I am a partner in our commercial dispute resolution team. I work with a variety of businesses and individuals on strategies for reducing risks caused by disputes and potential disputes in their commercial relationships. Our emphasis is on working with in-house lawyers on strategies to avoid or resolve disputes at an early stage to achieve the commercial objectives of the business. If the dispute cannot be resolved at an early stage, then we advise on formal dispute resolution processes, including court action if necessary. In my experience, an area that in-house teams have found particularly effective for resolving disputes is mediation.
How have you utilised any in-house experience to shape how you support in-house teams?
Through working closely with in-house teams, I have come to understand better what is expected of external advisers. Advising my own firm on legal issues and engaging with our firm’s external advisers has also given me an insight into what the business expects from its in-house lawyers. We recognise the importance of giving commercial advice and finding solutions, and being an extension of the client team rather than a remote resource. That works best when we get to know our client’s business and build a relationship with the individuals in the in-house team. We also understand that we can support in-house lawyers as they progress in their careers. Our IM Connect programme is designed to reflect what we understand in-house lawyers are looking for from their external advisers.
What are the big issues coming across your desk?
Over recent years we have seen a shift towards more advisory and risk-management work, with a view to anticipating issues which may arise and smoothing over commercial relationship issues before they become litigious. The emphasis is on avoiding litigation. That often requires early involvement from the legal advisers, and in-house lawyers are getting us involved much earlier in the breakdown of a commercial relationship than previously. One area in which we are seeing increasing client activity (and therefore disputes) is in relation to IT, and so, for example, our role is to help keep a project on track rather than having a fight about it after it has gone wrong.
If you could work in-house anywhere, where would it be and why?
I am interested in the way the music industry is being disrupted by technology and data, and how the commercial and legal relationships between the various industry players are going through dramatic change. I would find it interesting to be closely involved in that, perhaps at a company such as Spotify.
Published: 22 January 2018
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