The work-life quiz: Fiona Woolf

Name: Fiona Woolf
Firm: The Law Society
Title: President
Lives: Surrey
Education: St Denis School, Edinburgh; Keele University and Strasbourg University; College of Law, London.
Work History:
1971-73: Articled Clerk, Taylor & Humbert 1
973-78: Assistant, Clifford Chance
1978-81: Assistant, McKenna & Co
1981-2004: Partner, CMS Cameron McKenna
2004-present: Consultant, Camerons
2004-06: Deputy vice-president, the Law Society
2006-present: President, the Law Society

What was your first-ever job?
Delivering the post at Christmas for the Royal Mail.

What was your worst experience as a trainee?
Proofreading documents by reading them out loud at high speed to another articled clerk.

Where’s the best place to go if you want to find out what’s really going on in the office?
Where three or more PAs or secretaries are gathered together.

What time do you usually leave the office?
It depends on my evening engagements.

What do you do at weekends?
Saturdays are usually busy – returning from a speaking engagement on Friday and attending something on Saturday evening. Sundays are for catching up with emails and for reading.

What’s your favourite restaurant?
The Square in Bruton Street, London W1.

If you weren’t a lawyer what would you have been?
Maybe an opera singer, probably in a chorus.

Who’s your hero and why?
Nelson Mandela, for emerging from long years in prison with no sign of bitterness and establishing a new nation that’s sustaining economic development.

What’s the best thing about your job?
The opportunity to add value and make a difference and, of course, the people you meet.

What’s the toughest thing about your job?
You need to know your stuff well to be a convincing speaker and there’s a lot to master.

What’s your biggest work/career mistake?
Being far too task-orientated and learning people skills too late.

What car do you drive?
I don’t – if I can get away with it.

What’s on your iPod at the moment?
Rossini’s Tancredi, Alfano’s Cyrano de Bergerac, Handel’s Ariodante and Richard Strauss’s Die Aegyptische Helena. I like opera.

What’s your favourite children’s book?
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame.

What’s the most exciting deal/case you’ve worked on and why?
The restructuring and privatisation of the electricity industry in England and Wales. It was the first time a full competitive wholesale market had been put in place. I headed a team that wrote more than 700 agreements and codes, acting for the National Grid Company.

If you were stranded on a desert island, what two luxury items would you take?
Several cases of Chateau Petrus and the complete works of Richard Strauss.

What’s the longest you’ve worked without sleep?
I did two nights in a row on an acquisition, but the worst experience was 10 days in California on three to four hours a night.

If a movie was being made about your life, which actor would play you and why?
Helen Mirren, who would be able to capture the complexities and inconsistencies.

Who would you least like to be stuck in a lift with?
The Denver Broncos. It happened in Washington – they’re big guys and there wasn’t a lot of room.