Name: David Hunter

Organisation: Bates Wells

Role: Senior counsel

Based: London

Trained at: Freshfields

Year qualified: 1994

What’s your most vivid memory from being a trainee?

Taking my mum into Freshfields’ offices (on Fleet St) one weekend to show her where I worked and that her years standing on Preston market selling greetings cards in the cold had paid off. I had forgotten about it but a few weeks ago (30 years on) she mentioned it, so clearly it meant something to her, which was nice to know.

Tell us about a sliding doors moment when your career could have gone in an entirely different direction?

I had been a partner for a couple of years when I decided I would rather be well paid working four days a week, than lavishly paid working five – particularly, as what this meant in practice was working five days’ worth over seven, rather than six over seven.

That was 20 years ago and I think it was one of the best decisions I made. It is arguably harder doing this job part-time as the demands do not recede proportionately, and it is not a good idea to calculate the lost income. But these pale in comparison to the benefits this has brought in terms of the relationships that matter most to me; for my physical and mental health; and for the space it has given me to engage with initiatives and ideas outside of the world of timesheets, billable hours and client demands. If my colleagues had not supported me to try to make a four-day week work (at a time when very few male partners sought that option), I am not sure I would have lasted nearly as long in the profession.

What’s the hardest question you’ve ever been asked at interview, and how did you answer?

I have always struggled with the ‘why should we give you this role?’ type questions, being far more aware of my shortcomings. This only becomes more acute as I sit squarely in the pale, male and stale demographic and the new blood coming into the profession demonstrate levels of competence unknown to me when I started out, as well as valuable different perspectives. How did I answer? I blathered unconvincingly – but at least some maybe interpreted my response as indicating I didn’t have an inflated view of my talents.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to get to where you are/do the job you do?

I would say do not assume someone who has been a lawyer for the last thirty years is necessarily the best person to look to for advice about how to approach the next thirty. Change is happening now at an exponential rate: something none of us are fully prepared for.  I would advise familiarising yourself with the Three Horizons change model. This is a really useful way of making sense of where we are, where we need to get to and how we might get there, in a way which does not have to involve alienating colleagues. There is a seven minute video on You Tube voiced by the wonderful Kate Raworth explaining this and it is time very well spent.

I would also advocate being kind: you are more likely to be given the benefit of the doubt (for example if you want to be given latitude to try different approaches) if others are well-disposed to you, rather than if they think you’re a bit of a s**t.

Tell us about ONE former colleague who you miss, and why? (It doesn’t have to be a lawyer)

It has to be Stephen Lloyd. Stephen was the managing partner of Bates Wells & Braithwaite when I wrote to him on spec in 2011, asking if I could work for them. He invited me in for a chat, was too generous to point out that all the social enterprise contacts I mentioned I could bring to the firm were already well known to him, and not only suggested we ‘give it a try’, but went out of his way to give me the space, time and means to transition to a completely new sector and area of law mid-career.

Stephen set the tone for a unique law firm; approached law with rare creativity; and managed to be brilliant and modest at the same time. Stephen sadly died in a boating accident in 2014, but his legacy lives on as he somehow simultaneously managed to leave a huge hole to fill and provide the means to fill it. This is in the form both of inspirational lawyers like Luke Fletcher, continuing to practice law in Stephen’s image, and leading individuals across civil society who from contact with Stephen down the years have an awareness of what can be possible retaining the right lawyer and raised expectations in seeing that come to pass.