Alex Gerbi, Quinn Emanuel to illustrate Alex Gerbi, Quinn Emanuel career quiz for The Lawyer Hot 100 seriesName: Alex Gerbi

Firm: Quinn Emanuel

Position: Partner

In Hot 100 for: Acting for Ukraine as it works through its political and economic troubles. Read his full Hot 100 profile.

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

Being sent alone to Halifax, Nova Scotia in the depths of winter to interview witnesses relating to a shipping dispute. It’s a beautiful part of the world and probably not one I’d have seen, certainly at that time of year, if my work hadn’t taken me there. It was the first time I saw how a career as a litigator exposes you to people, places and experiences you’d be unlikely to encounter in everyday life, both good and bad!

Who has been the most influential person in your career? Why, and how have they helped you?

Martin Davies, who was a young partner when he recruited me into Olswang as a newly qualified lawyer in 2000. We worked closely together for more than 15 years, building the commercial disputes team there, and then helping to develop the London office at Quinn, until he moved to Latham last year. Martin taught me lots of things, including that it’s important to have fun, and not to take oneself too seriously!

What was the best career decision you ever made, and why?

The decision to make the move to Quinn. I had 10 great years at Olswang, but had heard a lot about this “litigation only” firm that was making waves in the US. It struck a chord with me. When the opportunity arose to move across, Quinn in London was very small – just three partners and a handful of associates.

I remember worrying about the risks – whether the Quinn model would translate to the London market, dominated as it then was by the litigation departments of the biggest firms, and whether I was crazy trusting my career to the first overseas office of a US firm with its HQ in Los Angeles. But John Quinn was absolutely clear in his vision for London and I decided to jump. It has turned out to be a great decision.

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

Of course technical excellence and hard work matter a great deal, so make sure you always put in your best effort. Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions – understanding is key. It is a team game, and we are all learning every day. In fact that’s one of the great aspects of the job that keeps it interesting. But in my view this isn’t a job that can be done at a high level, year after year, unless you really love doing it. So that’s the personal question – does working as a litigator give you sufficient fulfilment to justify the demands? If it does, then just go for it.

What work or career-related project or activity would you really like to do, but don’t have time for?

I’d like to go back to university and do a second degree in something other than law. I was very torn between reading law and English when I came out of school and ultimately chose law. I should have chosen English – some of the finest lawyers I know don’t have a law degree. But I didn’t know then what I know now.