Find out more about the people behind the advice in this new series of interviews with our solicitors. Say hello to Michael Key, who’s our dispute resolution partner.
How long have you worked at Harper James?
I joined Harper James just over five years ago. When I started, we were a team of five. The growth of the firm has been exceptional.
What inspired you to practise law in the first place? Tell us about your legal career so far.
When I was completing my university application, it was easier to spell law than philosophy! I also liked the character Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird, but his character was a world away from that of a commercial litigator. Previously I was a partner and head of the commercial litigation department at Glaisyers in Manchester. I trained there and stayed for 20 years. I made the move to Harper James because I wanted more flexibility.
How does working with Harper James compare with other firms you have worked at?
The firm has a can-do attitude. If I were a client, I would be very impressed by the speed at which the team works and the flexibility that they demonstrate. We turn things around quickly and provide a cost-effective service. Working with Harper James makes a refreshing change, because I don’t find myself sitting in meetings all day, I concentrate on the clients and the work. Our clients find that we become a part of their team.
Define dispute resolution in a sentence
Guiding clients to resolve a problem – hopefully through settlement – but if not, by going to a third party (ie court, expert determination or adjudication).
What’s the best piece of dispute resolution advice you could give a business?
Consider all the options. I have seen people thrust into litigation that they didn’t want. Some clients take an aggressive approach, but this doesn’t always serve the interests of both parties.
What has been the proudest moment at Harper James or your career so far?
My proudest moments are the times when recoveries or the defence of litigation make a critical difference to the client. I acted on behalf for a client in recovering several hundred thousand pounds, who later admitted that if the monies had not been recovered, they had already instructed insolvency practitioners to put the company into liquidation.
I recall acting for a particular client facing a claim for over £1 million against his company and himself personally. The claim was discontinued against my client, which saved so much stress for him. Everything was on the line for him personally and professionally, and I helped him to avoid an almost certain bankruptcy.
What do you do to unwind?
I get out on my bike as much as I can. At weekends, I go for long bike rides into the hills.
Tell us a prediction for your practice area in 2020 or beyond
There will be more disputes, particularly over non-payments, and there will undoubtedly be more solvency issues.
What advice would you give regarding the challenges businesses will be facing from the COVID-19 outbreak?
Don’t ignore the problem, take early action and advice. In the current climate it can be difficult to chase payments, but it is essential otherwise you are effectively funding someone else’s business. I would advise that businesses to have a strategy and know what their options are.