Discover more about the people behind the legal advice at Harper James in this series of interviews with our solicitors. In this Spotlight on Our Solicitors, Mark Gudgeon shares his career journey in the legal sector, as well as his advice for the future of dispute resolution.
How long have you worked at Harper James?
I have worked with Harper James for over two years, since May 2019.
What inspired you to practise law in the first place? Tell us about your legal career so far?
I was inspired to practise law because I had a desire to gain a deeper understanding of how legal institutions and the law work. I had also reached the stage in my life where I wanted a career and the law seemed like the right profession to do just that. I do not think that I thought it through that deeply!
Initially, when I was at university, I wanted to get into personal injury law, however, I got a training contract at a small niche commercial practice and became interested in wider litigation. Then, I moved to a medium-size regional practice and furthered my career to a large international practice. I have been ambitious throughout my career and moved to the biggest firm I could. Finally, I decided to become self-employed, now I am in a place where I want to focus on helping my clients and enjoying the work I do, which led me to Harper James!
How does working with Harper James compare with other firms you have worked at?
Working at Harper James allows me to balance family, personal interests, and client interests, without unnecessary stress. You can’t do that in traditional private practice. Usually, you give 100% to work and everything else falls by the wayside.
I am happier as a person than I have been in years. I see my children so much more, yet I can continue working hard and providing the same quality of service that I was at larger firms. I have a genuine work-life balance while still delivering excellent client service, managing client expectations and meeting deadlines. Being self-employed means that I am also able to continue with my public procurement challenge work alongside Harper James.
Define dispute resolution in a sentence.
From a business perspective, it is a chance to get difficult distracting problems off their desks, it should not be ignored, and you should always take a pro-active attitude towards dispute resolution. It is something that a business can learn and grow from.
What’s the best piece of dispute resolution advice you’d give a business?
Make the type of decisions that you would be comfortable justifying to anyone. Treat people how you want to be treated and do the right thing.
What has been the proudest moment at Harper James/of your career so far?
Now being in a position to enjoy what I do and balance family, work and personal interests.
What do you do to unwind?
I enjoy keeping fit, strength training in particular, but also I play the drums and guitar. My office has a drum kit, three guitars and a desk! I also cook, listen to music and enjoy spending time with family.
Tell us a prediction for your practice area in the future and any advice you have to offer your clients.
In the immediate future people will be trying to get out of existing contracts that are no longer commercially viable going forward due to the many changes that have occurred because of the pandemic.
Be up-front with your commercial partners and their providers regarding the challenges you are facing. Assess the value of the relationships and contracts going forward, as well as whether things can be renegotiated rather than turned into a dispute. Be proactive and open the dialogue at the earliest possible opportunity. Identify areas of the business that you don’t really need anymore, what can be adjusted to be in line with immediate and medium-term needs.