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  • Writer's pictureTony Herbert

MEMORIES OF A&O


Alex Pease asked me some time ago whether I would agree to be interviewed for the Alumni Year Book. Of course I would. The interviewer was to be Humphrey Keenlyside, the author of the splendid 1999 history of the firm – the “Silver Book”. Before the interview Humphrey sent me a list of questions, hoping to revive my doubtless ailing memory. Which prompted me to start writing down some answers. And these answers, much expanded by the interview itself, have now taken shape in the form of what you’re now (I hope) reading.



Beginnings



Humphrey’s first question was: Why did I choose A&O? The answer is that there were two mildly ridiculous reasons: first, that it had modern offices, which to my discerning eye meant that it was a modern, up-to-date firm; and the second was that my father knew one of the partners.


It all happened like this. There were no “milk rounds”. I was at Cambridge and undergraduates hadn’t even heard of the major firms, although Anthony Sampson’s famous book “Anatomy of Britain” had recently come out and it did have a section about solicitors. I remember it named four top firms, with Allen & Overy at the top, benefitting from the hazards of alphabetical order and from the wisdom of Tom Overy not insisting that his name should come first. So I went to the university appointments bureau, or some such. They set up various interviews: with Simmons & Simmons, Herbert Smith and A&O.


The interview with A&O was the least attractive of the three. I forget who the interviewers were but I’m pretty sure that one was John Charles (not yet Sir John), a rather gruff, curmudgeonly figure, whose bark was always (correctly) said to be worse than his bite, but whose bark, even in modified form, was all that was on show at the interview. He was not the type of character designed to appeal to a product from the slightly pretentiously intellectual atmosphere of King’s College Cambridge. He was also a bit of a snob, which worked in my favour as I was also a product of Eton.


Of the other firms my memories are sparse. Herbert Smith I do remember. The interviewer was, in my youthful eyes, ancient. And their offices completed the picture. They were in one of the decaying buildings on London Wall that were soon afterwards destroyed to make way for the monstrous 1960s boxes that have themselves long since mercifully disappeared. To reach the offices you had to go up in one of those ancient lifts operated by a rope.


So why A&O? I consulted my father, who worked in the City (in insurance). He advised firmly in favour of A&O, partly doubtless on the basis of his feel for the relative status of the firms, but also, I’m sure, because he knew one of the partners. He had served in the War with Richmond Smith, the senior property lawyer in the firm. Richmond Smith was always called Gunboat (his name being Lawrence). I never found it possible to call him Gunboat, even after I became a partner, although all the others did. (My father had another wartime nickname for him, which I certainly never uttered.) I’ve since discovered that this bizarre nickname derives from the fact that an American boxer called Smith was called Gunboat because he had big feet. Following which a jokey habit grew up to call people called Smith, Gunboat.



What was the state of the world then?


My interview was in 1962 (that was when I was offered articles, or a training contract, as we certainly didn’t call it then). But I then went to law school at Lancaster Gate, not having done any academic law (I read History at Cambridge). Articles lasted three years, consisting of part law school, part working in the office.


In 1962, Macmillan was prime minister, Kennedy was president of the United States, de Gaulle was president of France. Later in the year, the Cuba missile crisis made us wonder if we’d see the year out.


Humphrey asked about the price of milk – to check which planet I lived on. No idea! But I do remember some key figures: my salary was £350 a year, I think. Rent of a room in a flat in London was around £5 a week. The price of a meal for two at a good restaurant was £5. Most of my friends from Cambridge who got jobs in industry were getting about £1,000 a year, so I didn’t choose the law for financial reasons – and didn’t frankly expect to be earning high salaries after I qualified. However, when I qualified, my salary went up to £1,250 a year (and when I became a salaried partner in 1970 to the princely sum of £4,500 a year). Incidentally, when I joined, there were 17 partners, the senior being Godfrey Morley, the junior John Kennedy.


1963 was the year of the Profumo scandal; and the trial, and then suicide, of Stephen Ward. Time magazine, our client, asked us to attend every day of the trial, so one of my fellow articled clerks had the exciting task of seeing the whole drama unfold. And hear Mandy Rice-Davies’s immortal comment on Lord Astor’s denial of having slept with her, “Well, he would, wouldn’t he?”


A&O at that time


What was it like in the office? Obviously much more hierarchical than we would believe possible today. Bowler hats? Absolutely, though I have to say that I never put one on my head. Other articled clerks still did. Partners were called Sir and had carpets in their rooms. Partners had two secretaries, other lawyers one, articled clerks none. All incoming letters went to partners first. In theory all outgoing letters had to be signed or vetted by a partner, although that was already breaking down.


There was, to me, a mildly military atmosphere. The receptionist was Major Sandell. The general office was run by an ex-policeman. I remember that, when a Mr Carter was recruited as office manager, he soon seemed to acquire military rank and became Captain Carter.


The firm was effectively run by Jim Thomson, by far the most dominant personality among the partners, although never actually senior partner. He was a rainmaker to end all rainmakers. He seemed to me to have been the ultimate source of all the major clients. I worked for him both towards the end of my articles and after I qualified.


Jim’s most obvious characteristic was his immensely forceful personality. But he was an impressive lawyer. It was difficult to judge this quality from my lowly position. He gave you work to do and you didn’t go back to him till you’d got the answer. If your answer didn’t convince him, he sent you back to do better. Did he actually know any law? I sometimes asked myself this, from my exalted vantage position of having passed the Law Society’s final exam. I was once with him at a meeting with some new clients, who sat at his table and explained the intricacies of a troubled private company that was experiencing endless and acrimonious disputes at board and shareholder level. What was their legal position as individual shareholders and then as directors? How could they resolve the situation? How to get rid of the troublemakers? After their explanations, I was getting increasingly alarmed that Jim would turn to me and say, effectively, you’ve studied company law more recently than me, what’s the answer? But no, he gave them, straight off, a very robust analysis of the situation and told them very clearly what they should do. It was one of my earliest lessons in how to deal with clients, and it certainly demonstrated Jim’s expertise.


The problem with working for Jim was the one I’ve alluded to. You couldn’t talk around a problem; a process I suppose I’d got used to in tutorials at Cambridge. Happily this resolved itself for me, in that I also worked, after qualifying, for John Kennedy, then the junior partner, who – although he had to be called Sir and had a carpet in his office – was only a few years older than me, and liked nothing better than to have a good chat. He was also a very good teacher, able and willing to impart his knowledge and experience in an approachable way, as well as being full of gossip about clients and indeed other partners.


What were the offices like in those far off times? As I’ve indicated (it was a reason for my joining the firm), the offices were modern. I wouldn’t say plush; I don’t think anyone did plush then. We had indeed only recently moved from the very old-style offices closer to the Stock Exchange, but this wasn’t really apparent to me. The offices I saw were all I knew. I think it’s true to say that the move away from the centre was as brave then (going to the “wrong end” of Cheapside) as was the much later move by Freshfields to Fleet Street, and I suppose our more recent move to the “wrong side” of Liverpool Street.


The aspect of the office and the firm that is very different from now is the role of so-called managing clerks. I remember about six of them, including Eddie Edwards and Arthur French. They were the work horses; they did the detailed legal work; they were immensely experienced and knowledgeable. But they weren’t qualified lawyers. They started life normally in the general office, distributing the post, taking letters by hand to other offices, filing things at Companies House. But if they were bright, they started to do the kind of work now done by trainees. If they were good at it and learnt fast on the job, they got more responsibility, until they became so-called “managing clerks”, running their own transactions. In the corporate area, they became the real experts. Even someone like Jim would readily defer to the wisdom and expertise of, say, Eddie Edwards.


Other personalities? Many have already been described by others. My memory is that there was never anything remotely resembling an A&O type (as I always, presumably wrongly, thought there was with Slaughter and May). It was a diverse collection of people, making one wonder how they all came together to build a successful firm. Godfrey Morley: old-style, verging on the pompous; John Charles: prone to temper, snobbish; Dougie Morton: reclusive – I don’t think I ever exchanged words with him; Willie Martin: cheeky and full of energy. The ones I knew best were John New, a highly intelligent, rather dapper, small man, who sadly died very young, shortly after I became a partner; Johnnie Read, whose practice covered all the ground between commercial and private client; and Peter Rodier. Peter was certainly one of the nicest, warmest men in the partnership and I was lucky to be put in the corner of his room for my first seat as an articled clerk. He was no intellectual and seemed to be heavily reliant on a devoted cadre of managing clerks, but his warmth and common sense got him a long way with clients and everyone he dealt with.


What type of work did I get involved in?


To start with, my work was company/commercial. I forget how this happened. There was, I think, an embryonic consultation process, but essentially, after my articles finished and I qualified, I was directed to the so-called company department, to work for Jim Thomson and John Kennedy. Quite a contrast. As indicated, working for Jim had its challenges; and frankly, its disadvantages. He only gave you things to do that you could do on your own. One of my early tasks was to draft the service agreement for the then newly appointed editor of the Spectator, one Nigel Lawson, who I already knew of and admired. Not a demanding task, actually.


But with John, you got to help on substantial deals. And you were very much part of a joint team. So you learnt things. Before I worked for him, while I was still an articled clerk, he had done the work on the flotation of the Grade Organisation, working (needless to say) under Jim Thomson. The Grade Organisation was the creation of the three Grade brothers, all Jewish immigrants from eastern Europe, having come to England with nothing but their amazing talents: Leslie, the theatrical agent (and father of Michael Grade); Lou, by this time in television; and Bernard Delfont, the theatrical impresario. Leslie had had medical problems and by the time I showed up the group was effectively run by “Bernie”, operating from an office just over the main entrance to the Prince of Wales Theatre.


When Bernie had a deal, John was summoned to the Prince of Wales Theatre and I would go along too, carrying his bag. Bernie would describe the deal and I would make notes. Bernie had a side-kick called Ron Ricardo. I would have the task of drafting the documents, in conjunction with Ron Ricardo. And then we negotiated the deal with whoever it was. The memory I have is that Delfont was the most straightforward honourable client to deal with. There are clients who negotiate a deal, hand it over to the lawyers to document and negotiate, and then try to improve the deal by tweaking the detail. Delfont was much too confident and canny ever to need to do this. An impressive man: he started from nothing, as a tap-dancer (or was it the Charleston?), became an impresario, and graduated to the exalted heights, as Lord Delfont, of running the annual royal command performance at the London Palladium. As a result of John’s close relationships with the Grade brothers, he was always able to get an A-list performer for the legendary annual dinner dance.


The Grades were, however, a small part of it, even if a colourful part. The work was a good range of mergers and acquisitions, also some flotations, as well as IT licence agreements, something on which neither John nor certainly I had much expertise.


After I became a partner (in 1970), my M&A practice developed around a company called Hestair, named after the Heston Aerodrome that it owned. Control of the company was acquired by a group of people who came largely from a management consultancy background. The person I got to know best was the finance director Richard Raworth, who became a good friend and whose wife became godmother to my daughter, and whose daughter Sophie was taught piano by my wife, a skill she may not need in her better-known role as the BBC’s star presenter and news-caster. Their strategy was to buy companies with valuable but under-used assets, sell the assets and turn around the probably under-performing businesses: “asset-stripping” as it was termed by others but definitely not by them. Barry Bloom worked with me on most of the deals and got to know them all too. They were good clients, in that they did many acquisitions and had a straightforward, but innovative, approach to it all. The problem was that they had a straightforward attitude to fees: no “mark-ups” allowed; and prompt settlement was not part of their business planning. One bill was delivered in, I suppose, November; and eventually paid after their year-end (end January). The secretary who sent the cheque screwed up a bit and sent it with a photocopy of the latest reminder bearing the incriminating instruction (in the handwriting of the finance director) “Not till Feb”.



Eurobond issues etc


How did we first get involved in eurobond issues, at that time (1963) novel, even exotic, products? The story has often been told, including by me. It predates me, of course, although I’m constantly surprised that people seem to think that I was actually involved in the first transaction, the historic Autostrade issue. Some years ago now, we went to Zurich to see UBS for a “relationship” meeting, Philip Wood leading the team. Philip introduced us and, when he got to me, said that this is Tony Herbert, who invented the Eurobond, having been involved in the first one. Faced with the choice of silence and saying that Philip was talking rubbish, I’m ashamed to say that I took the first option. There are therefore people walking the streets of Zurich who are deluded – although conceivably they don’t think about it much.


The Autostrade issue took place in 1963, when I was sitting in Lancaster Gate, learning about Carbolic Smoke Balls (for those who don’t know what I’m talking about, ask a friendly lawyer). The deal was handled by Geoffrey Sammons, assisted by Robin Broadley (father of current partner David). They were instructed because Warburgs (the lead manager) had been greatly impressed by Geoffrey’s advice to Tube Investments on its participation in the hostile takeover bid (the first of its kind) for British Aluminium – another historic transaction. I’ve just been re-reading a note that Robin sent me some years ago, in which he says that Geoffrey also subsequently devised a novel way of structuring a Swiss Franc issue for British Aluminium. So, despite the fact that Slaughters were Warburgs’ normal lawyers, and the fact that we weren’t close to Warburgs, we were the natural choice.


During the rest of the 1960s, Warburgs and then, of course, others used us to do the stream of further issues of these new and exotic instruments that only we knew how to do – although the ranks of the knowledgeable soon included Slaughters and Linklaters. All this work was done by Robin, Geoffrey largely leaving it to him. My involvement didn’t happen till after Robin left us. This happened in 1971 (not long after I become a partner). When Robin left, we had to roll up our sleeves. I remember John being somewhat reluctant to get involved, but I persuaded him that we needed someone of more status and authority than me. I think we were reasonably successful. Warburgs remained pretty loyal, continuing to use us on international deals.


The market greatly expanded in the mid-1970s, when oil prices went through the roof. The Saudis became the biggest investors in the market and, happily, we, in the shape of John, had a relationship with them. This led to a multitude of transactions for them, as well as, indirectly, to contacts with others, such as, very importantly for us, UBS.


UBS became one of my most important clients. They decided to set up a new subsidiary in London, essentially to avoid the middleman. UBS had been big investors, their demand being fuelled by their management of massive funds in Zurich. They satisfied this demand by buying from the likes of Warburgs, who were initiating the deals. UBS’s strategy was to initiate deals themselves and so get into the “primary market”, knowing that they could undercut Warburgs and the other intermediaries. They appointed a Swiss bond trader called Armin Mattle to run their subsidiary. He became something of a legend in the market, by exercising his financial clout in a fairly aggressive way. He was heavily reliant on us. When he started, he knew nothing about the business of managing a new issue – the primary market – and in particular the documentation involved. We – or, more precisely, I – taught him all he knew on this subject. And he rewarded us by unfailing loyalty. He wouldn’t talk to any other lawyers. Actually, he wouldn’t willingly talk to anyone at A&O other than me or John - causing logistical problems of a high order.


The learning experience was, of course, two-way. He learnt a lot about the documents – and was a quick learner. He managed the business/financial side in a very hands-on fashion, running it all with the bare minimum of staff; with the result that I learnt a great deal about the business side. As I say, he was regarded as being aggressive. I remember the magazine Euromoney coming out one month with a caricature on the front cover of Armin cracking a whip like a circus ringmaster – to keep the recalcitrant and cowering co-managers in line.


On one deal that had been aggressively priced, the co-mangers tried to cut their anticipated losses by “shorting” the bonds, that is selling them before issue. Surreptitiously Armin bought them all back, thus cornering the market. When the sellers needed bonds to cover their short positions, he was able to quote whatever price he liked, to make sure they lost a lot of money. Not a procedure that would be approved of in today’s regulated environment – or that was calculated to make friends.


To my mind, there are two differences between the way things were during my time at the coalface and now; both caused by the same thing, technology. The two things are travel and contact with clients.


When a client rang up to talk about a new deal, in say Mexico or Japan, the key question was, have I got the time to get on a plane and go there? If not, who can? You then spent some days, possibly a week, with the clients as well as the counterparties, normally abroad. You got to know the people. I’d like to be able to say that the documents and negotiations were complex and challenging. Often they were not. Today they could, and would, be dealt with by email. I was often a glorified courier. We’d draft the documents, climb on the plane, sit down in scruffy offices, explain why, yes, they had to sign endless tedious documents – and, as I say, get to know the people.


On one occasion, I was working late and got a call from Adolf Brandle of UBS in Zurich to say that they’d got a deal for PepsiCo. Could I join him at a meeting north of New York City at 10.30 the next day? Where would we have been without Concorde? I was able to get enough papers together that evening and meet him on the 9.00am flight to New York next day, getting us both there in reasonably good time for the meeting – with the documents drafted on the plane! I guess Concorde has been replaced by email.


I mentioned Japan. I feel privileged at having had the opportunity of meeting and working with the Japanese, in a working environment. In that way, you see Japan as it really is. I’ve never been there as a tourist, but if you do that, I guess you see temples and wonderful scenery, but you don’t really see the Japanese.


Memories of these trips are fun; although probably less fun to read about – a bit like seeing other people’s holiday snaps. Going to Caracas to explain to the governor of the central bank that the documents had to be under English law; also going into the bowels of the central bank to see the Venezuelan gold reserves; going to Brasilia to explain, if I remember right, exactly the same tricky point (many South American countries have written into their constitutions varying degrees of hostility to foreign laws); in Australia, explaining the intricacies of a negative pledge to a jet-lagged client, who fell asleep as I was talking to him; signing a deal in northern Quebec when the temperature was minus 40 – Celsius and Fahrenheit are much the same at those levels; visiting copper mines in Zaire to work out how to organize a financing on a barter basis (it luckily never happened); visiting the oldest copper mine in the world – in Sweden; talking of Sweden, meeting the great Marcus Wallenberg, shortly before he died, to negotiate the establishment of Enskilda Securities; and many more.


I worked a lot with German banks, particularly Deutsche Bank, having met the upper echelons in the process of doing listing particulars for the London listing of their shares. Some years later, I worked on what was for me by far the largest transactions I had ever contemplated, when Deutsche bought all the shares in their client Fiat from, indirectly, the Libyans. I still have copies of the documents I drafted: the shortest share sale agreement ever – no question of any warranties – with a price in the billions that would probably look rather trifling these days, but which frightened the life out of me. It was all done over a weekend in Zurich. When I subsequently discussed our fee with the Italian lawyer also involved, and when I named the proposed amount, having looked at the time spent and at least doubled or trebled it, my Italian friend said, “Oh Tony, if I charged anything as low as that, I would have endless questions to answer from the Italian tax people”.


Is it such fun for my successors? I hope so; although the internet and email have a lot to answer for. And of course the fact that we now have offices in a lot of the places that I went to in my capacity as a highly-paid courier.


My first exposure to international finance was not bonds but banking, not then thought of as separate disciplines. Philip Wood had got instructions to do a syndicated loan for Colombia, but couldn’t go. Would I go to Bogota? Off I went. (I remember Hestair being somewhat bemused to hear that their lawyer was going to Bogota.) Again, differences between then and now. I had a short teach-in from Philip about the intricacies of syndicated loans (I not having seen one in my life): “all perfectly simple”; “just contract law”; “although you ought to know a bit about choice of law – must be English”. My half-hour teach-in was the 1970s equivalent of our university of banking. It all seemed to work; the Colombians got their money and, probably, in those far-off days, repaid it too.


On my trip to Bogota, via Miami, I learnt a few things about foreign travel. When I got to Miami, I learnt that the Colombians had just imposed a requirement that anyone from disease-ridden Europe must have a cholera jab (there had been a case somewhere in deepest Italy). I spent three useless hours in hot and humid Miami trying unsuccessfully to get my jab. When I got to Bogota, it turned out to be no problem. It was in the days of exchange control. Whenever we went abroad, we needed a certificate in the back of the passport approving the foreign currency we were taking out of the country; my passport had a certificate with a lot of rubber stamps on it. The health officials in Bogota airport were entirely satisfied with this certificate, presumably indicating, to them, protection against every disease known to man.


The other thing I learnt, from the American banker who was travelling with me, was that the purpose of my visit (on the immigration form) was leisure, certainly not business, which latter would have apparently given rise to all sorts of Colombian tax questions.



A&O in the 70s and 80s


What was the firm like in the 1970s and 1980s? And how was it different from what it is now?


The first thing to say is that, in contrast to when I joined, the firm in the 1980s was certainly un-hierarchical. Around that time I had recruited a young lawyer from a medium-sized, even small, firm in the West End. After he’d been with us for a few months, he came to see me, in his rather diffident way, and said that he wanted me to know how pleased he was to have made the change – and mentioned a particular contrast. In his previous firm, if he wanted to talk to a partner, he had to make an appointment. With us, if he had a question, he could walk into my room and ask it. Frankly, I said to myself at the time, how else could you run a business?


In a similar vein, Ian Dinwiddie found that doors were open. He, who came to us from the banking sector – and had had his hesitations about being surrounded by lawyers, used to say that we were very “un-political”. He told his group that, if they had an idea, however way-out, they could put it forward and it would be considered properly – so long as there were no spelling mistakes.


Why and how had the firm changed in this way? In my view it was partly as a result of the aftermath of Jim Thomson’s tragic death in 1971 – an event that, as Bill Tudor John has described, caused the eminent banker Ronnie Grierson to predict the speedy decline of the firm. There were also other events. John New, one of the most highly regarded litigants in London, had died the year before. And Robin Broadley, the only partner with any involvement in the newly-growing banking and capital markets area, decided, also in 1971, to leave us to become a merchant banker. There were gaps to be filled in highly important parts of our business - gaps which had to be filled by the young.


In the banking sector, Bill Tudor John, Philip Wood and Jonathan Horsfall Turner were all associates – or, as we then more demeaningly called them, assistants. That trio became the leading banking lawyers in the City: Philip writing the first definitive book on the subject in 1980, Law and Practice of International Finance - as a prelude to his multi-volume work on the same subject. Jonathan’s great triumph was to be asked by the UK clearing banks to do the syndicated loan to the United Kingdom, when Denis Healey as Chancellor of the Exchequer was struggling to finance the UK’s deficit of the mid-1970s. Jonathan developed his reputation among the banks when still an assistant: he became a partner at much the same time as Healey became Chancellor. Jonathan was certainly a less prolific writer than Philip. He restricted himself to articles in the financial/legal magazines, such as Euromoney. His pieces would be short and to the point, but then he, fearing that he was giving away too any trade secrets, would add that there were many hidden traps for the unwary – an ill-disguised warning that it would be mad to embark on anything without consulting J Horsfall Turner.


Philip’s reputation fast became worldwide. I was working in Beijing in the 1980s on what was to be the first bond issue by a Chinese entity. One of the lawyers at the Bank of China (they were the chosen issuer) drew me aside and asked if I knew of the author Philip Wood. My credibility went up dramatically when I said he was a close friend and colleague.


It was Bill to whom originally I owed my relationship with Deutsche Bank. They were getting into trouble with a syndicated loan they were managing. The banks in the syndicate were criticizing the draft documents that had been produced by a firm outside the magic circle (before that term had been coined by journalists). Bill (probably one of the critics) said he could make some suggestions and next day circulated a new draft that dealt with the various points. (Bill confessed to me that he’d recently had a similar deal: “All I did was change the names!”) Deutsche Bank didn’t forget this: the Germans are famously impressed by performance (Vorsprung durch Technik). When it came to appointing lawyers for their London listing, they insisted on using us, even though we weren’t probably the first choice of the brokers involved.


Reverting briefly to the question of differences between then and now, I think of the culture that existed among the City firms. You could describe it as clubby: perhaps too much so – not competitive enough. There were only three firms that were really involved in international finance work on any scale: Slaughter and May, Linklaters and ourselves. Not even Freshfields; the Clifford Chance merger hadn’t yet happened; and there were virtually no US firms involved. An anti-trust lawyer might have had concerns, but of course it influenced the way we worked. The other firms were competitors, but also to some extent colleagues. I remember ringing up a partner in another firm and confessing that we were struggling with some particular issue – how did they deal with it? “Oh yes, we deal with it like this – I’ll send you a copy of the opinion we rely on.” It all sounds very cosy to modern ears, although there were benefits. Clients have always been pained to listen to lawyers arguing about technical points - at their expense: “Why don’t you lawyers get together, agree what we should do and stick to it.” But today, competition rules.





Enskilda


I’ve already mentioned the establishment of Enskilda Securities. It was the start of an enjoyable relationship with a group of clients who later got to know many others in the firm.


It happened as a result of the relationship we had with the international group at Hambros and, in particular, Hamish Leslie Melville, an enthusiastic rainmaker for deals in Scandinavia, where Hambros were strong. Hamish came to see me, in one of his conspiratorial moods, and asked me to advise on establishing a subsidiary of the leading Swedish bank (also clients of ours), Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken (SEB for short), a subsidiary in which he and a group of others would have a 30% interest. Would I go, with him and two of the group, to Stockholm that bank holiday weekend to do the deed? That was when I met the legendary Marcus Wallenberg, who was very ill at the time (and sadly died shortly afterwards) but was entirely able to deal with the negotiations, at the same time as receiving medical treatment in the next room.


Hamish was a member of the Hambro family. The others included a higher proportion of members of the aristocracy than is, or was, normal in investment banking circles. Jamie (otherwise Lord) Ramsay is now the Earl of Dalhousie, using his undoubted financial skills in managing his estates in Scotland. Jim, the Earl of Euston, a merchant banker by training, who sadly died very young, before inheriting his father’s title as Duke of Grafton. The key Swedish member of the team was Gerard De Geer, who was as near as the egalitarian Swedes get to an aristocrat. But that’s enough name dropping!


A few years later, the group (who latterly referred to me as the “Godfather”) sold out to SEB and were planning another venture. The negotiations were expected to take three months. The arrangement was that if, by the end of that period, there was no deal, the group would be paid £1 million as compensation. This was recorded in one of the shortest and simplest documents I ever drafted. The deal did not happen. But the other party (there had been a change of control) then ratted on the obligation to pay the £1 million. John Rink took on the battle to get payment through the courts. Happily the case came before Mr Justice (later Lord) Hoffmann, who awarded them their money. It was the only occasion when one of my documents had to be tested in the courts. Hoffmann was not only impressive for his (correct) decision (am I biased?), but also for being able in 1989 to deliver to all parties, at opening of business on the day after the end of the hearing, a lucidly written judgment typed out by him himself on his own personal computer.



Internationalism and overseas offices



Humphrey asked me about our opening of overseas offices and my role (or lack of it) in the whole process. The facts were that we were in some respects late: we had no offices in Hong Kong and Paris, for example, when others did. We did open offices in Dubai and Brussels in the mid to late 1970s. There are two questions. Did these openings in any sense mark the start of our “internationalization”? And is it right that I was, in general, opposed to opening overseas offices? The answers are a definite no to the first one and a qualified yes to the second. How come?


As to the first, the truth is that neither Dubai nor Brussels were in any way central to our international practice, which certainly at that stage was very much financial: ie banking and capital markets. Neither city was a financial centre.


Dubai was set up partly, I think (I didn’t have much to do with it), in connection with our work for the Saudis, which was largely financial, and which was, and continued to be, done almost exclusively by John Kennedy and Richard Sykes from London. The office was set up by Richard Horsfall Turner, who ran his own show, although with the active support of John. It didn’t do capital market work or, I think, much banking. It got involved in major local projects and became a key adviser to the Dubai administration.


Brussels, on the other hand, was an appendage (which sounds rather rude, but certainly isn’t meant to be) to the M&A and company practice in London, set up after our accession to the EEC (now the EU) in view of the fact that EEC laws and regulations would have an increasingly important role in UK domestic transactions, particularly in mergers. It did no capital markets or banking work – and also, of course, didn’t do Belgian law.


Now the second point: overseas offices. It does sound curious that I, and others on the international side, were at best sceptical about the wisdom of setting up overseas offices. We were certainly keen to expand our international work in any way we could. But the facts at that time were that the work originated in, and was largely done in and from, London. London was already becoming the main international financial centre in the world. Every major bank in the world was establishing a substantial presence in London and originating work of the kind that we had a leading position in. The work came to us without much need to market.


Our problem was getting people to do it. We did our best to get the best articled clerks, but not enough. As the years went by, actually it got more difficult - certainly for bond issues. They were perceived to be boring and, to the extent that they became more routine, they probably were. We became a bit of a factory, trying to deliver an efficient service to the clients: specifically, developing standard form documents, with the result that bright young lawyers would find themselves marking up precedents. We had to recruit from outside the firm, including from overseas: both Ed Murray and David Krischer joined from the US, although as English lawyers; and there was a steady stream of often transitory recruits from Australia.


As I say, the challenge was getting enough people. How might overseas offices contribute to this? In a word, badly. Overseas offices needed to be staffed, normally with senior people. I remember “losing” Paul Monk to the Dubai office – and others. So, although it sounds negative to oppose overseas offices, the reason (rightly or wrongly) was a wish to expand and strengthen the international practice in what seemed the best way open to us, namely in London.


Singapore and Hong Kong


All this changed, of course. There were moves to think about Singapore and possibly Hong Kong. Again, these moves were not generated by me, even though there was no doubt that both centres were relevant to an international finance practice. We’d already arguably missed the bus in Hong Kong, but Singapore represented a new opportunity where the competition was not well installed and where we received friendly overtures from the authorities there. Paul Monk and I went on a fact-finding trip, first to Singapore where we were well received, and then to Hong Kong. Our conclusion was that Singapore would be difficult, but – entirely contrary to what we were expecting - that Hong Kong might be possible.


We were royally entertained there by an old friend, John Payne, who had worked for Stuart Menzies as an associate, and then gone to Hong Kong and become a highly successful partner of one of the key local firms, Johnson Stokes. John (although a potential competitor) was encouraging, as were others. Our report was probably what eventually led to our opening there – although I don’t think I played an active role in the planning (see above!).


John and his wife (a Filipino lady called Girlie, in defiance of feminist tendencies even in those days) took us to an amazing Chinese feast, where I was impressed by the fact that he ordered gin and whisky for us by the bottle, rather than the glass, and also summoned the waiter by calling him “captain” in a way I failed to copy on my return to London.



Paris and Italy


I should mention our relationship with Gide Loyrette Nouel in Paris (probably the leading firm in that city) and, quite unconnected, our merger with Brosio Casati in Italy - mainly because I was involved in different ways with both.


Starting with Gide, I was not involved in the original establishment of the relationship. I always gathered from Michael Reynolds, who certainly was involved at all stages, that it started in Buenos Aires at one of the meetings of the International Bar Association. Gide, in the shape of Philippe Nouel, were keen participants in the IBA, as was, and indeed is, Michael. The idea of some form of association was discussed, doubtless helped along by the conviviality that the IBA specializes in.


When I got involved, possibly after becoming managing partner in the late 1980s, the association was in place and the Dutch firm Nauta was also a member. I took part in regular liaison meetings, normally held in Paris (as a gesture of goodwill to the French that none of the rest of us had much difficulty in falling in with). I remember one that ended up at one of those extravagant restaurants on the Champs Elysees where a fellow diner, on the next table, was Adnan Khashoggi, before he was caught up with by the authorities.


At around this time, Nauta left the association and was replaced by Loeff Claus Verbeke, a Dutch/Belgian firm of high standing and great energy, represented at our meetings by Sietze Hepkema from Amsterdam and Louis Verbeke from Brussels – both of whom became partners of A&O some ten years later.


One of my objectives at these meetings was to try to organize events, such as seminars and training sessions that would deepen the relationship.


On the capital market side, it all took a slightly different course. We organized a joint venture, which became known as the Cellule, consisting of lawyers drawn from Gide and ourselves, located in Paris, focusing on capital market work. The guiding light from the French side was Jacques Terray, one of the leading banking and capital market lawyers in Paris, whom I had known for many years. The experience was interesting and certainly influenced my attitudes to alliances and mergers, with particular reference to Italy, which I’ll come on to.


We tried, obviously, to market our capabilities in the French banking market, and in particular making use of Gide’s undoubtedly strong and high-level contacts with major banks and others. But there was a problem. It soon became apparent that Jacques was very hesitant about letting us have free access to “his” clients. He was concerned that we would exclude him and the French, because of our undoubted clout in these areas. I think I understood his concern, even though he was wrong to be suspicious of us (honestly, Jacques, I mean it!). In the absence of a real merged operation, there has to be a concern of this kind. But it got a bit ridiculous in that it hindered our working together in the most efficient way, by endlessly having to be sure that the “French” parts of a deal were done by the French and only the “English” parts by the Brits.


As I say, all this was relevant to Italy. In Italy, we had had a strong position in capital market and banking work since the days of Autostrade. We worked with and knew well the key lawyers, in particular, so far as I was concerned, Fillippo Vassalli of Chiomenti, who was a delight to work with and immensely knowledgeable and well-connected in Italy. (He it was who, as referred to above, had to encourage me to be more robust in my billing practices.) There were two problems. First, Clifford Chance had an association with a leading lawyer originally from Graziadei (actually the firm we worked with on the Autostrade issue and on many others subsequently). This undoubtedly gave them an edge over us. Secondly, the deals were getting more heavily Italian. Let me explain. We were doing equity transactions, now that the international markets were becoming receptive to such deals, rather than just bonds. Equity transactions involve a lot of purely Italian lawyering. We were also much involved in project finance. These require lawyers who can deal with complicated anglo-saxon style documents, but in the Italian context – again, more Italian lawyering. Our needs were therefore changing.


Here we had the good fortune to work with a firm called Brosio Casati, in particular Roberto Casati. Roberto had worked for many years as an associate at Sullivan & Cromwell in New York. He was very aware of the exigencies of working on anglo-saxon documents. He also happens to be one of the best lawyers in Italy.


There was another piece of happenstance, in that Jeff Golden and Roberto knew each other from US college days. The upshot was that Jeff and I went to see Roberto to see if he was interested in joining us.


This was all some years after our experiences with Gide and the Cellule. (It was after I had stopped being managing partner. Bill Tudor John was senior partner and John Rink managing partner.)

The conversations that Jeff and I had with Roberto were influenced, certainly so far as I was concerned, by the Gide experiences.


Roberto made it clear from the start that he was not going to leave the firm that he and Guido Brosio had set up and grown into one of the top practices in Italy. If we wanted a deal, it was to be with the firm, not just him. We talked about an alliance, but all agreed that that wouldn’t work. If we wanted to do anything, it would have to be a merger. And that, of course, is what happened.


I was not much involved in the negotiations, which were handled largely by John Rink and Ian Dinwiddie, our finance director. I came to be involved again, when the deal had been struck and we were working out how to take it forward. There was a meeting to discuss all this, at which Guy Beringer was present; and he turned to me and said, “Why don’t you go to Italy? You know where it is; even if you don’t speak the language.” (I may not be quoting completely accurately.)


What we arranged was that I should spend roughly half my time in Italy, for perhaps 12 months. In fact, it lasted for closer to two years, almost up to the time of my retirement as a partner. My task was to act, certainly not as manager of the Italian practice, but as a bridge between our Italian partners and the rest of the firm; to encourage exchanges of lawyers between the Italian offices and London and, in theory, elsewhere; to get to know all the Italian partners (not difficult); and to try to spread the A&O expertise among the Italian lawyers generally. We had successes and, definitely, failures. I’m not sure that I’m the best person to go into the management issues and the failures. There were departures of key people and, eventually, after my time, of Roberto himself. But we certainly had a group of high-quality people, capable of working well on the types of work we do. I’ll give one example. We were appointed, in the early days of our merger, on a privatization offering that neither A&O alone nor Brosio Casati could have done. After the deal had been successfully completed, one of the bankers said to me that our teamwork, meaning the way that Italians and others worked together, was much better than competitors who had been at it longer.


On a purely personal note, it was an unalloyed joy to get to know our Italian colleagues so well. I visited each of the three offices on many occasions. I took a miniscule flat in Milan, spending necessarily more time there than in the other offices; but going to the offices in Rome and Turin as much as I could, mainly on transactions or giving seminars. I got to know the restaurants in Milan pretty well. Ian Dinwiddie was slightly alarmed to witness the warmth of the welcome I got from these establishments, but I think he was impressed that they tended to call me “professore”.



United States


Over the years, I had a lot to do with the United States and with US law. But the nature of my, and the firm’s, relationship with the US changed considerably in the 1990s.


Back in the 1970s I worked on bond issues for US companies. In fact the first bond issue I worked on was in New York. It was a challenge to appear reasonably knowledgeable about documents that I was looking at almost for the first time. But happily the Americans were new to it all too – even though, in true American style, they proceeded on the assumption that international markets worked the same as in the US.


I should mention Canada. I, and the firm, did even more transactions in Canada, partly because we slotted in to a nice routine with public entities in Quebec. In a way that certainly wouldn’t happen now, Warburgs and Credit Suisse First Boston alternated, in a cosy fashion, as lead manager of bond issues by Hydro Quebec, the hydro-electric state-owned body that was building a massive power plant in northern Quebec. We had the regular business of acting for whichever bank was leading, with Linklaters acting for the issuer.


Back to the US. I worked with Drexel Burnham, before they went bust, in the offices in Los Angeles of Mike Milken, before he went to prison, on high-yield bonds (or “junk” bonds to some) when they were being developed in the States but were new in London. One of the deals that luckily didn’t happen.


But in a sense the US in those days wasn’t part of the market. Why not? Because it was illegal to sell securities, even to sophisticated investors without going through the complicated routines of a public offer, with SEC registration and the full works. So, in every deal we worked on, including those for US companies, we had provisions that said “no sales in the US”.


Then, in 1990, the SEC was persuaded to change the rules, effectively to bring the US in line with the rest of the world, so that bonds and other securities could be sold to sophisticated investors, without too many complications. This changed everything. It meant that every deal potentially had a US aspect. If you sell anything in the US, particularly investments, you need to take good legal advice. We were exposed. We had to fear that, if clients needed to have US lawyers on a deal, they might ask themselves why they needed UK lawyers as well. We needed our own US lawyers.


While we were coming to grips with this new situation, it so happened that the new field of “derivatives” was starting to be explored. One of the key players in the market, to his great credit, was our very own Ed Murray. And one of the real leaders in this area was one Jeff Golden, then in the London office of the (very) New York firm of Cravath Swaine & Moore, but keen to be part of a firm that had more of an international focus than Cravath had ever needed to have. Ed and Jeff got talking and the result was that Jeff joined us. I was very much part of the process, not so much because of derivatives, but because I saw it as starting to solve our more general US needs.


Jeff was the highly enthusiastic, even evangelical, founder of our US group, first in London, then in New York. I saw a lot of him in action. One of his great skills was that of inspiring young US law graduates with the idea of working in a properly international environment. I often joined the team of interviewers at Harvard; in my capacity as the token Brit, talking in my quaint accent, to demonstrate that, yes, we really were international in our approach.


On one of my trips to Harvard, I had a conversation with the person who organized the interviews from our side, and of course did the follow-ups. I was telling her (in my best “I-remember-the-old-days” style) that when I joined A&O the whole firm was smaller than the New York office; 17 partners, with probably no more than 50 other lawyers. She was amazed by this; and said that I must tell the story to the assembled troops in the New York office – where I happened to be going. Next morning, she filled the big meeting room at lunchtime and I – well – told the story. I mention this, even though it’s only incidentally relevant to the US, because it prompted the thought in my mind that we should assume that there is a considerable interest among our younger lawyers, and indeed non-lawyers, in where the firm has come from – our corporate memory. And I’ve continued to give versions of my talk in other places – as I’ll be mentioning below.



Managing partner


I took on the role of managing partner in 1989 and did it for 2½ years. It happened like this.


John Kennedy was senior partner and it was reasonably clear that we needed some changes to the management structure. John as senior partner was the only partner with a proper management role. However there were a mass of committees that had grown up over time, without much logic. We discussed it all in a very informal way and I put together, over a weekend, a possible new “constitution”. Those involved were John, Bill Tudor John, Christopher Stunt and me.


Essentially, my proposal was to have a managing partner, to share the management role with John; and to have one single committee in place of all the existing committees. Basically, that was what we did. The committee was called the partnership committee and consisted of those involved in management, plus representatives of each department: appointed by the senior partner and not, in those undemocratic days, voted for.


The next question was who should be managing partner; not frankly a job that I was keen on applying for. But I was persuaded to do it, on the basis that Bill would also be involved and do all the personnel related things – arguably the main part of the job – and also on the basis that I would continue to do some client work. I remember that the one old committee that survived the purge of committees was the salaries committee that Bill had run efficiently for as long as anyone could remember. And Bill took over from me as managing partner in due course.


When I look back on it, I think my role was mainly creating the new structure; and it lasted pretty well. It was replaced eventually by the new constitution that David Morley devised following much consultation around the time I retired – the major change being that the key roles and membership of the board are now voted for.



Finance


There were also other aspects of the management of the firm that I got involved with, none of which had much or anything to do with my brief role as managing partner. The first was finance. This was never something in which I was active in any direct sense. I always took the view that finance was best dealt with by people with expertise in the area – even accountants! This is a view often thought to be a bit heretical, even defeatist, by lawyers – “mustn’t let ourselves be run by bean-counters”. However, by the late 1980s it had become plain to most of us that we needed a serious financial person. To say this is by no means to denigrate the skills of Christopher Stunt, who managed to employ his numeracy not only as senior tax partner but also, in effect, finance director. He was a key player in the process of recruiting our new finance man, in the shape of Ian Dinwiddie. I was a big supporter of the process and, indeed, of Ian after he joined us.


Ian is a calm and robust individual normally, but there are two things that bring out his darker side. One certainly is to be called a bean-counter – not a thing I was ever guilty of. The other was to refer to “one of your slush funds”. I think I may have been guilty of this, in a light-hearted spirit, I should add. But you don’t joke about such things with Ian. Any concept of a slush fund was more of an insult to his standards even than talk of bean-counters.


My concern was always whether he would find the job with us a sufficient challenge. But I’m glad to say he did. The timing was good, in that we were embarking on things that needed much financial expertise. One of the first was how to sort out our office space requirements. We were running seriously out of space in 9 Cheapside. Should we move to the then new development at Broadgate? Would the Bank of England, our landlords, let us stay and refurbish on sensible terms? Endless proposals; endless calculations; worrying analyses of risk. All of which Ian guided us through immaculately. Then, at the point when we were seriously contemplating leaving, the Bank essentially caved in and said, “Look, we’re happy to have you as tenants; we understand that our terms don’t work for you; what do you want”? Ian took a blank piece of paper and wrote down some terms that seemed to him the most generous they could possibly agree to. To our surprise and joy, they simply said yes. Ian probably still kicks himself that he didn’t push it a bit further.


Ian joined us at a time when our needs for financial management were basic: cost control was rudimentary; billing haphazard (some partners were months, if not years, behind in sending out bills); billing targets unknown – and viewed with some horror. Ian reminds me that he came to see me on one occasion, armed (daringly) with a list of each partner’s total billings. I apparently said rather sheepishly, “Should I be seeing this?” Ian thought, “Oh my God, we’ve got a long way to go.”



Computers


In the 1960s lawyers didn’t use computers. I’m not sure who did, although NASA used them to get Neil Armstrong onto the moon. We had manual typewriters; and a few electronic ones – just for the partners of course. In the 1970s electronic typewriters developed screens and got called word-processors. But it was in the 1980s that the word got about that we lawyers needed to get computers. To do what? Accounting and billing maybe. What else?


We were being told that the Americans were ahead of us in this – having been very slow starters with telex technology, interestingly – and particularly Davis Polk in New York, who we knew well. Christopher Stunt and I were deputed to go to the US and talk to all the top law firms. I remember turning up at Heathrow, armed with (naturally, in those extravagant days) our first class tickets, and being asked whether we would like to be upgraded to the Concorde flight that was leaving at much the same time. Christopher and I thought we could handle that.


When we got to Davis Polk, we found that they were enthusiastic about something called “email”. I remember being lukewarm. My interest was producing documents. That was then, just as it is now, a major part of what we sell. Even with word-processors, there was an endless amount of retyping. Wouldn’t it be great if we could have standard documents, and even a proper library, all in electronic form, of all the documents we produced? I could easily see the potential of that. I was right in that; but amazingly wrong about email. It makes me understand exactly what Steve Jobs used to say, that people don’t know what they want until you give it them.






People


I realize that I haven’t said much, if anything, about the people who over the years worked, first for me, then with and alongside me, and then, in some cases, “over” me, in the sense that they have reached exalted positions in the firm and I work for them in my retirement role as consultant.


Jonathan Brayne and Mark Welling both started life in the firm as articled clerks (or trainees), then assistants (or, as we now say, associates), in the relatively embryonic capital market department, working mainly for me. In both cases, they went on to become board members, and each undertook special and important roles in the management of the firm. Actually Paul Monk predated both. He was not articled to the firm. Richard Horsfall Turner and I recruited him from another firm to work for both of us. As already mentioned, he was tempted away to Dubai and then at various stages worked in Paris and elsewhere.


Another was Andrew Wilson, who I remember spotting when he was an articled clerk. I gave him a draft resolution of some kind to check, something that I thought would keep him out of mischief till we could find something more useful for him to do. It had already been drafted and checked by me and, more to the point, the meticulous Paul Chedgy. He (Andrew) then came to see me, looking rather sheepish, and said, in his diffident way, that he thought he must be misreading it, as it didn’t quite work. And he was dead right. I thought, this is a man for the capital market department. And happily, I persuaded him to join us.


And finally, Lesley Jones, my secretary (or PA) for many years, certainly starting well before anyone would have had any idea what a “PA” was. Lesley was part of the history of the firm, in that, when I turned up as an articled clerk, she was working for Arthur French, as already mentioned, one of the managing clerks in the company department. He had started as a junior when the firm itself started. It’s part of the mythology of the firm that he had the job of piling the files of Mr Allen and Mr Overy from their previous firm into the back of a taxi to take them to A&O’s first offices. When Arthur retired, I had the good luck to acquire Lesley. After I retired (as a partner), she took over as Andrew Wilson’s PA; so I was able to continue to impose on her till she retired, to play more tennis.




Retirement and Consultancy


I retired as a partner in 2000, when I reached the retirement age as then set out in the partnership agreement. Nowadays, I don’t think there’s any such thing as a fixed retirement age - maybe rightly. People should retire when it suits them and the firm. But it happened to suit me fine: particularly as I stayed on as a consultant, doing only the things the firm (and I) wanted me to do, and leaving time for other things as well. What did I do? And what am I continuing to do?


It’s mainly seminars; that is, helping with various aspects of our training programmes. It all started long before I retired. I may be wrong, but I think I gave some of the first training seminars, at a time when we didn’t do any formal training, didn’t feel the need to, and certainly were not (as of course we now are) compelled to. It was in the ICM area – whether we thought of ourselves then as an ICM department, I forget. I found myself regularly sitting down, individually, with trainees and new joiners, explaining all they needed to know (I hoped) about how to do the transactions. On the whole they knew nothing – obviously, as the College of Law and indeed university law courses didn’t even try to cover such then exotic matters as international finance. It soon seemed to me to be a time-consuming and inefficient process.


The first thing I did was to organize what we would now call an away-day or off-site. So that it could cover everyone, it had to be over a weekend. It therefore had to be pleasant. So we took over Leeds Castle for the day; organized seminars; and enjoyed a decent dinner as some form of compensation at the end.


It grew from that. We soon realized that we needed to organize seminars and lectures on a regular basis. In, I suppose, the late 1980s I recruited our first training manager, John Dewer, who joined us from Warwick University. (He subsequently moved on to even greater things, now being Professor John Dewar, Vice-Chancellor of La Trobe University in Australia.) So far as I was concerned, the key to successful training was to keep it practical and strictly relevant to our particular needs. This meant getting the partners and senior lawyers as much involved as possible.


The reason I mention all this in the context of my retirement is that, before I retired, giving many of the training seminars was very much part of my life. So, when I came to retire, I simply carried on doing what I had been already doing in this area.


After a few years, there was another aspect – drafting. Again, this related back to something I had been involved with in the mid-1980s. At that time, many of us were concerned that standards of drafting, including standards of writing letters (in the days when people still wrote letters) were too variable across the firm – to put it politely. We set up some teach-ins. Paul Crook and Derek Sloan were both also involved. After I retired, and after we’d established overseas offices in places where English is a second language, we realized that the need was even greater. It was Paul who suggested that I might revive some of the training seminars that we’d developed all those years ago. Increasingly that is what I did, and continue to do.


To start with, the keenest students were those in our Amsterdam office, interestingly probably the office with the highest levels of language skills anywhere. The seminars I give are not language courses (except perhaps incidentally). They are aimed at encouraging lawyers (as I often say) to write like normal human beings and not like lawyers.


There is an aspect of this training that I still think needs to be taken forward and improved. My seminars typically include individual or small group sessions during which I look at and comment on things that the participant(s) has/have worked on. At one such session in Amsterdam, I was suggesting a minor rewrite and the lawyer concerned said that if she did it like I suggested, even though she personally agreed with me, the partner she worked for would change it back. I reported this (on a no-names basis, of course) to Sietze Hepkema; he was shocked and said that all the partners in Amsterdam must attend my seminars – which to their great credit they did. There are two lessons. First, partners and senior lawyers must be involved. And secondly, there must be a system of follow-up, led by partners, to ensure that any lessons that are learnt become part of the culture of the firm and are not forgotten.


Latterly, I have been giving these seminars more to “relationship” firms than to our own offices. This is within the ambit of Stephen Denyer’s work in cultivating good relationships with the leading firms in places where we don’t have offices ourselves, and so where we must rely on the highest quality of co-operation from local firms. I imagine that this has become more of a focus of what I do, largely because of Stephen’s tireless work in this area. I have been to firms in many countries including India, all the major Scandinavian countries, the Baltic States, Malta, Portugal and recently Serbia. I have to say that the feedback I get from these seminars is much more positive, and even flattering, than anything I ever got for my work as a mere lawyer.


I mentioned the talk I gave in New York about the history of the firm. This has also been an aspect of the seminars I give. In many of our own offices, but particularly the German offices, I’m asked to give this talk. And people there have said that it’s the only way that they have found out where the firm has come from – despite the Silver Book, the excellent history of the firm by Humphrey Keenlyside. The two aspects that they find fascinating are the firm’s involvement with the abdication crisis in 1936 and, perhaps even more, the circumstances in which our two founders left the firm – and yet the firm survived despite the dramatic, even traumatic, situation at that time.







Painting pictures


My final topic is completely unrelated to Allen & Overy. And that is actually the point of discussing it.


I have always – or at least since I was very small – painted pictures. My mother encouraged this, even during times when I could think of other things I would have preferred to be doing. I must stress, as those who have seen my works will confirm, that my painting is strictly amateur; what I think of as holiday painting. But it is important for people like us lawyers, who get engrossed in our legal work, the affairs of our clients and the management of the firm, to have other interests. I compare myself, very diffidently, to Christopher Stunt, our tax partner, who for medical reasons had to retire from legal and tax work at an early age. He was able to take up a second career as a musician, got a first class degree as a mature student at Bristol and became a composer, as well as running a choir. Similarly, Mark Welling has always been a keen musician and is now able to devote himself to this in his retirement from the firm.


There is a parallel here, in that both music and painting are very different from practicing law. Happily, I’m not alone in that Richard Rowland, Ian Elder and James Broomfield also indulge in this particular pastime. And some may remember the exhibition of our works that A&O kindly sponsored a few years ago, raising modest amounts for our designated charity – calling us the “Four Old Gits”, which may be an appropriate note to finish on.





Tony Herbert

14 June 2013













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