Name: Karen Seward
Firm: Allen & Overy
Role: Partner, Global Head of Litigation (employment lawyer)
Trained at: Simmons & Simmons
Year qualified: 1990
What’s your most vivid memory from being a trainee?
Watching the extraordinary accommodations made by a US Bank (it was the 80s) for the wife of its London CEO, in issuing a writ against one of the big landowning estates in London for collecting up and burning autumn leaves in, er, autumn.
What is the wisest thing anyone ever said to you (and who said it)?
‘In a leadership role 70 per cent of what you want is good enough’ Boyan Wells, ex head of our ICM department. He knew me too well! I know I am better, and we are better, when I am not wringing out the very last drop from myself and everyone around me. I can default to this if left to my own devices. I still have his advice taped to my lap top. Some days I forget to look at it.
Who (for better or worse) has been the most influential person in your career? Why?
Stephen Schofield who once headed up Simmons’ Hong Kong practice. An absolute master of going about the business of client engagement while chomping on a Churchill.
He taught me that, despite all the lawyers back then generally simply telling clients what the legal answer was, there was another way. That way unfailingly started with what the client wanted to achieve and then worked backwards, together. That was revolution.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get to where you are/do the job you do?
1: Disguise at work is dead. Be yourself. If you can’t, get out of there, your firm isn’t right for you.
2: If you can’t put a client’s reasonable needs ahead of your own, you will never be the greatest of partners. Like most things in life, you have to give something material of yourself to get something of value back.
What’s your best friend from law school doing now?
Dame Philippa Whipple DBE, is sitting in QBD. Every inch the woman I aspire to be.