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Continuing our series of many hats interviews designed to show that there is no typical 'day in the life' of a commercial lawyer, today we speak with Andrew Bywater, Principal Adviser-European Regulatory at Cordery a specialist compliance practice. Cordery provides innovative ways of helping General Counsel, Compliance Professionals and Heads of Legal across industries manage compliance.
How did you end up being a commercial lawyer?
By going to work for law firms in Brussels. I originally qualified (in the UK) as a barrister and also spent time at the European Court of Justice and the European Commission and although all of these were excellent experiences each in their own different way, they were not really what you’d call commercial arenas. Through “learning by doing “ I simply had to quickly get to grips with the commercial aspects of clients’ concerns.
What type of projects are you working on at the moment?
We cover a range of challenging and stimulating compliance issues. We’re dealing with internal investigations including supporting another firm on an investigation that they are leading on. Data protection matters of all different sorts come in regularly, including the topical hot potato issue of the right to be forgotten. I’m also frequently involved in due diligence, notably recently particularly in connection with the Russian sanctions regime. I am also dealing with a chemicals regulatory issue which has an EU and wider international dimension to it.
Do you have a memorable moment in your career?
Early on in my career, being sent by a film company to France to support a French lawyer with his “civil party” client at a mass-murder trial. The film made of the events in question is called “Deadly Voyage” and if you read the account of the story you’ll get an idea of what a terrible dramatic event it was - the trial itself was also quite an event (a film could have been made just of that too !) which I covered in its entirety.
It just shows you have to be prepared for anything and everything! But, what makes a lawyer a commercial lawyer?
Understanding what the client’s commercial objectives are and tailoring your advice as best you can to that, particularly in assessing and advising clearly on any risks.
Is there a common problem you come across time and time again as a commercial lawyer?
Not receiving as much information as you’d ideally like.
What tips do you have for making legal advice more digestible/commercial for business?
Keep it simple and avoid legal-type language - easier said than done but practice makes perfect.
What advice would you give to someone entering the commercial law arena?
Research the client’s business, take an interest in it and watch out for issues that affect the business. Be prepared to advise on the back of little information.
What could we be doing better to train lawyers working at the sharp end of business and commerce?
Simply train them as much as possible and constantly throughout their careers to think business, and, encourage them to gain as much business experience as they can before they enter they profession - all such experience, no matter how small, counts.
Is there a recent development in commercial law that concerns you?
The proposed EU Data Protection Regulation - I am not in any way against the proposal as such, quite the opposite, I welcome it as an opportunity to update the existing EU rules that are some 20 years old now, but I am not sure that the update is really addressing contemporary issues as well as it could do. Although it doesn’t necessarily directly concern commercial law, I am very concerned at proposals to curb, or, worse, do away with, the European Convention on Human Rights in the UK - this would be supreme folly.
Who in commercial law and/or the law generally do you most admire?
In-house counsel - they have an enormous amount on their plate and the really good ones should be on the board if they are not there already
And, which hat is your favourite?
A Russian fur hat (fake fur of course) - you’ll never be warmer.
How do you switch off from the day job?
Explore language and words, and, swim.
Have a memorable moment to beat that of Andre's? Want to share your experience of being a commercial lawyer with us and our readers? Please get in touch or comment below.
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