Lessons from 20 Years of a Life in the Law

December 11, 2017

Dispute Resolution and Employment Law Partner, Shilpen Savani, is celebrating 20 years as a solicitor.

To recognise this milestone, and indeed achievement, Shilpen has put pen to paper to share the lessons he’s learned from a life in the law …

So what have I learned in this time, I wonder? Of course, there’s key life lessons. Like it isn’t a good idea to be partying until 5 am when you have a trial starting that morning (and the fact you can’t use the line “I’ll just hide behind counsel and hope nobody notices” to make it through). Or that flying in from a backpacking holiday in Thailand the night before starting as a new partner (at a new firm) isn’t advisable. You get the idea.

And there’s the lifelong friendships and alliances that one makes over years spent in the daily trenches of any professional’s existence. Not to mention the anecdotes, camaraderie and moments of pure comedy that collect around you thick and fast in such a high stakes occupation.

But what else? It has actually taken me a little while to work this out.

So here it is: I’ve learned management. Management in various guises in fact. Here are the main ones:

Clients. This can be as simple or complex as you choose. I prefer the former approach having learned over the years that the needs of a client are uncomplicated. Most just want to know that you are equipped for the task at hand, will fight their corner hard and will guide them to the best possible outcome.

Colleagues. A vital ingredient in delivering a successful professional service is your team. Set high standards by example and cultivate loyal, well-rewarded colleagues who live and breathe the quest for excellence.

Your barrister. Utilise counsel as an extension of your team (rather than just an intermittent resource or a “panic buy” at the last minute). Provide clear, practical instructions and consult counsel regularly so they can influence the development of a case. Above all, make sure you have a good relationship with the clerk. Because he or she is the difference between a winning and losing interaction with counsel.

Manage the management. If you understand what those in senior positions expect of you then you stand a good chance of delivering. But organisation, regular communication and valuing your manager’s time are the basic essentials. If all else fails, just work exceptionally hard. Sooner or later, this will earn respect from even the most hard-hearted manager.

Stress. Last but far from least, solving other people’s problems is a very stressful way to earn a living! So, one must find a release and a way to deal with stress in order to stay sharp in this game.

Having distilled this knowledge and shared it with you all, what shall I do with it now? What practical application do I have for this wisdom? The honest answer is I don’t know.

But what I do know, with some certainty, is that I have never enjoyed my work or appreciated my ability to serve others as much as I do right now. I also know without any doubt that no matter what lies ahead, it’s going to be an adventure.

So, here’s to the next twenty!


You can watch ‘A Day in the Life of Shilpen’ from gunnercooke llp on Vimeo.