Lucie Alhadeff has a knack of starting the new year in style. Last January she was named by The Lawyer as one of its Hot 100. This January the 33-year-old solicitor with Withers appeared in The Times as its Lawyer of the Week.
“I’m really enjoying things at the moment,” Alhadeff, a family lawyer who has acted as part of the Withers team in some of the biggest divorce cases of the turn of the century, says.
She made the trek to the House of Lords in the case in which Melissa Miller was awarded £5 million after a marriage that lasted three years, and more recently acted in another landmark case, Stuart Crossley’s multimillion-pound divorce.
She makes no bones about being truly, madly, deeply in love with the law. “Although I studied history and Spanish at university, I always wanted to be a lawyer. I was always thinking about it and looking for a way to work with people rather than be involved in dry, academic law. Family law has given me this — it’s so much about people that it’s incredibly rewarding.”
All too often tales of woe abound among assistant solicitors, with long hours, the pressure to hit billing targets and irascible partners the principal targets of their ire, but Alhadeff is far from alone in being quite happy, thank you, with her lot.
Similarly enamoured of life in Legal London is Tristan Grimmer, 27, an associate with Baker & McKenzie. At first glance Grimmer’s work — in competition and trade law — might suggest that he is less keen to engage with people than Alhadeff, but the truth is otherwise. “The great thing about my area of work is that I’m involved in more than just the law,” Grimmer says. “In competition law I’ll work in a team environment to represent clients over, for example, alleged cartel practices, while in trade law we will be advising on what can and can’t be done in countries subject to political sanctions. I get to see how business works and also acquire an understanding of the underlying political context. I’m seeing law in a real environment — not one that is artificially sealed off.”
Grimmer wanted to be a lawyer from as early as 14, when he won a mock trial competition at Cambridge Magistrates’ Court.
His enjoyment of law’s political side is shared by Tanveer Qureshi, 31, a barrister at 25 Bedford Row. Qureshi recently defended Samina Malik, the self-styled “Lyrical Terrorist”, who became the first woman to be convicted under the Terrorism Act 2000. Qureshi’s CV also includes involvement in the Danish cartoon controversy, when he acted for the men alleged to have incited terrorism in London. However, while his star is rising rapidly, persistence was a key factor in Qureshi getting where is now.
“I was called to the Bar in 2000,” he recalls, “but it took me some time to get a pupillage. It took another 18 months to get a tenancy, and, at times, I was tempted to take up a job offer with a City law firm. But it has worked out very well.
“I decided at the outset to develop a mixed practice, split down the middle between criminal and civil work. I don’t believe the two things should be separate — in fact, they complement each other.”
As with Grimmer, politics is crucial to Qureshi’s enjoyment of his work. “I come from a Muslim background and can empathise with some of the problems currently faced by the Muslim community,” he says, “but any aspiring barrister should recognise that the law is becoming more and more political. Policy issues are as much a part and parcel of contemporary legal work as substantive law.”
Qureshi knew he wanted to work in the law in his teens, but others take a more circuitous route. Take Joseph Walsh, a trainee solicitor with Brabners Chaffe Street, in Liverpool. Despite studying law at the University of Liverpool and completing his Legal Practice Course at Chester College of Law, Walsh, 31, took time out — a few years, in fact — before returning to the law. His extra-legal years were colourfully spent. “I was a DJ with Juice in Liverpool,” he says, adding that “I had a great time, travelling a lot and gigging in Ibiza”. Walsh also worked for the global drinks company Diageo, and even found time to appear on Blind Date. “I picked a girl called Shelley and we got on very well on a holiday in Jamaica. That’s all I’m saying.”
Walsh is more forthcoming when admitting that his decision to forsake the glamour of the media world in favour of the law raises a few eyebrows. “People do a double-take — being a radio DJ and working in a law firm do seem so different. But I always had a niggling feeling that I had a legal qualification and ought to be doing something with it. Now that I am, I’m really happy. I work for a really sociable firm with a great bunch of people.”
Philippa Robbins is one woman who knew she wanted to be a solicitor from an early age. Now a member of the employment team at Rooks Rider, based in Clerkenwell, East London, Robbins, 28, was 11 when she saw her sister slip on an icy road and break her leg badly. Her parents instructed solicitors to sue the local council, arguing that the roads had not been gritted properly, but their experience was not what clients would wish for: “The solicitors didn’t seem interested at all. My parents found a witness they told us had disappeared, and they had to get heavily involved in the case.”
But despite — or, perhaps, because — of this experience, Robbins was determined to become a solicitor, surviving the vicissitudes of today’s crowded legal market place to realise her dream: “I wanted to help people. It took me a long time to get a training contract but I never gave up. Now that I’m here, I love my job. I got there in the end and I’m very happy with where I’ve landed.”