Spotlight on a solicitor is a series where we showcase the talent of our legal professionals. In these interviews, we get to know more about the people behind the expert advice. Recently, we caught up with Elizabeth Black, a member of our dispute resolution team. Elizabeth joined Harper James in September 2022 as a senior dispute resolution solicitor. The Legal 500 ranked Elizabeth as a ‘next generation partner’ and describes her as someone who brings a calm air and reassurance to litigation.
How did you start your career in commercial litigation?
Elizabeth secured a training contract and qualified at DLA Piper, where she worked for seven years until 2008.
‘Whilst on my training contract, I very quickly realised that I preferred dealing with contentious matters and I particularly enjoyed the six months which I spent training in the commercial disputes team.’ explained Elizabeth. ‘I was not alone, there was fierce competition for a qualified position as a dispute resolution solicitor but, after a series of internal interviews at the end of my training contract, I was fortunate to be offered a position as a dispute resolution solicitor.’
What are some of the key moments of your career?
‘The most rewarding moments for me have been achieving outcomes for clients at the end of their case, whether that be by negotiation, mediation, or following a trial, which have exceeded their expectations. Litigation, by its nature, can be a turbulent process but achieving a good outcome for clients at the end of their case makes all the ups and downs worthwhile. Deciding on a case strategy at the beginning of a case is crucial to achieving a successful outcome.’
What’s the best piece of dispute resolution advice you’d give a business?
‘Prevention is better than cure. When entering a business relationship, always consider carefully what could go wrong in the future and ensure that you have adequate protections in place.’ said Elizabeth. ’A shareholder agreement in a limited company is key and can include additional rights for minority shareholders and provisions for dispute resolution. However, the importance of such agreements is often overlooked in the early stages of setting up a business when relationships are strong, and outlooks are positive. It’s common for directors and shareholders to not consider what could go wrong down the line or they take the view that a shareholder agreement is an unnecessary expense.’
What do you think your clients value most about how you work with them?
‘My calm, pragmatic approach and the fact that I give realistic advice based on an assessment of the facts.’
How are you finding Harper James so far?
‘Harper James is a good cultural fit for me. I’m really enjoying working here and feeling as though I’m part of a great team. I particularly like the flexibility the firm offers in terms of remote working and the collaborative environment. Harper James is such a forward-thinking in terms of the pricing it offers to its clients, it means they can access legal support tailored to their business needs.’
Tell us about a prediction for your practice area in the future
‘The fixed cost regime will undoubtedly be extended further meaning that there will be limits imposed by the courts on the legal costs which a successful party to proceedings can recover. The impact of those changes will likely be less severe upon clients of Harper James given the competitive price plans which we are able to offer.’