The many hats interview: Beverley Flynn

In this blog post we interview Beverley Flynn from Stevens & Bolton LLP. If you are squeamish, avoid the middle section involving dog food and the (intentional) human consumption of it. Not by Beverley though, I hasten to add. Don't say that I didn't warn you...

Who are you?

I studied law at King’s College London University and German Law at the University of Passau. I qualified at an international City law firm, Lovells, and I am currently a Commercial Partner at law firm Stevens & Bolton LLP where I advise a wide range of international and UK clients across a number of sectors.

You and the day job

How did you end up being a commercial lawyer?

I was fortunate having qualified at the height of an earlier recession in a city firm to be offered a number of  roles there, including shipping and working within the commercial team. I chose commercial as I thought it would give me a wider range of options and experience and would not be geographically limiting. So far it's proved a good choice—over the years I have  enjoyed a number of in-house secondments to major household name clients and travelled to businesses in places including Australia and Europe—so have enjoyed the best of both worlds.

What type of projects are you working on at the moment?

Many and varied! They currently include a large educational software agreement for a software company, landfill gas agreement on behalf of a renewable energy business and pharmaceutical agreements for a major pharmaceutical company.

Describe a memorable moment of your career. (You can interpret ‘memorable’ in whichever way you wish!)

Three come to mind:

I was at an arbitration in the Baltic Exchange on the day before the IRA bombing took place. It’s something I will never forget, both for all those affected and my own near escape.

On a more positive note, negotiating a commercial agreement next to a sunny pool in a hotel with the client and other side in Romania.

Perhaps the most bizarre (barking?) experience in my career took place after a tour of a dog food factory in the UK where the guide ate the dog food it produced in order to demonstrate it was edible to humans.

What makes a lawyer a commercial lawyer?

  • Taking an interest in the business and business model.
  • Understanding the business aims of the parties and being interested and willing to help shape the deal.
  • Foreseeing the possible outcomes of different scenarios and compromises.
  • Having a wide area of legal and  business concepts, as diverse as TUPE, franchising and data protection.

Is there a common problem you come across time and time again as a commercial lawyer?

Just as there isn’t a one-size-fits-all, commercial law advice must be bespoke to achieve the most timely and successful solution for the client. 

Sometimes clients need help working out the actual commercial deal—not just documenting it. Heads of terms are a useful tool.

What tips do you have for making legal advice more digestible/commercial for business?

Plenty of face to face contact and using the phone—nuances of approach can get lost in email exchanges.

Take an active interest in the business.

Don’t use legalistic terms and jargon.

What advice would you give to someone entering the commercial law arena?

Programme your blackberry to turnoff at 11pm!

Learn to read and type quickly and accurately!

It’s like a baptism of fire-once you have done a few deals you start to recognise the commercial solutions but it’s always evolving so be prepared to embrace new approaches particularly for start-ups.

Listen, get both in-house experience as well as private practice (I’ve worked in-house on a number of occasions and find interacting with the businesses hugely rewarding).

Is the profession doing enough to make lawyers truly commercial?

This depends on the firm. I think that too many firms focus purely on the technical capability of partners and associates and don’t do enough to develop their talent as well-rounded, experienced commercial advisers. Stevens & Bolton as a firm was recently highly commended at the Legal Education and Training Group (LETG) Awards earlier this year for our leadership and 'let’s get down to business' business development programme.

What could we be doing better to train lawyers working at the sharp end of business and commerce?

Give them in-house experience and breadth of experience. Encouraging  junior lawyers in business development and remember that a law firm is a business in its own right!

Being serious

Is there a recent development in commercial law that concerns you?

The proposed [Common] European Sales Law.

What are your views on data protection regulation and its future?

The EU Data Protection Regulations—are trying to make sense of a fast-moving area of law such as data and big data—it’s a good example of where the law has not being able to keep up with the business world

Who in commercial law and/or the law generally do you most admire?

That’s difficult—there are too many to name—we have some strong former city colleagues here at Stevens & Bolton.

On a lighter note

Which hat is your favourite?

Probably the sorting hat from Harry Potter—simply  in order to be able to read the minds both of clients and even the other side so we can work out the deal.

What do you do to switch off from the day job?

Play candy crush.

Ed: Thanks for your time today!

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