This year, we’ve put some career questions to all The Lawyer Hot 100 and will be running their responses over the coming months. First up, Burness Paull’s Callum Sinclair.
Name: Callum Sinclair
Firm: Burness Paull
Position: Partner, head of technology and commercial
In Hot 100 for: Championing innovation at Burness Paull. Read his full Hot 100 entry.
What’s your most vivid memory from being a trainee/pupil?
Hmm, it’s tricky to narrow them down to a subset of publishable responses! I do remember recognising how far behind the profession was in realising the enormous potential benefits from the adoption of technology, even as a trainee in what was at the time a large and progressive law firm. I had spent some great summers with the firm setting up Dell desktops and coding templates in early iterations of document assembly packages (like the “loveable” command-line driven CapsAuthor) but the firm and the profession had a long way to go.
Almost 20 years later, it still does! Although great strides have been made in the last three years and the pace of change is picking up.
Who has been the most influential person in your career? Why, and how have they helped you?
It’s really difficult to pick only one! Under the heading historical figures, I would pick Alan Turing. His exceptional visionary brilliance in the face of prejudice and challenge is truly inspiring.
From the people in my life, I had a uni tutor who had different teaching methods – a real innovator who taught me a lot in unexpected ways. I also hugely admire a former senior female colleague of mine who seemed to achieve the superhuman: leading a practice and juggling three young kids, yet always warm and approachable, making as much time for clients and colleagues as they need. And maybe not surprisingly, I’m a dedicated disciple of Richard Susskind!
I’m also lucky enough to have a fantastic mentor at the moment who I believe will be a great influence on the next stage of my career.
What was the best career decision you ever made, and why?
Taking another step out of my comfort zone to become head of tech and commercial at Burness Paull. I had some passionately held beliefs about how best to drive a tech and innovation agenda inside a law firm. The firm, from senior management team down, has been extremely supportive around crowd-sourcing of ideas, agile delivery, and encouraging adoption of tech across all practice groups and sectors. Every business is now a tech business.
Oh, and persuading the chairman to give me his office when I arrived. I’m particularly pleased with that career decision!
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get to where you are/do the job you do?
First and foremost, choose something you are passionate about – it will be a real uphill struggle otherwise and you won’t enjoy the journey.
The others are clichés but all true! Never give up. Be resilient and don’t fear failure – learn lessons from it. Don’t be afraid or too proud to reach out for help when you need it. Find an excellent mentor that you like and respect and really listen to what they have to say. Consult your teams and colleagues regularly – they are smart people with a perspective you won’t see. Aim to emulate the attributes and behaviours of the “rank” above you.
What work or career-related project or activity would you really like to do, but don’t have time for?
Outside of the law, I’d love to write a book. But only if I could write like Robert Harris, Michael Crichton or Robert Ludlum – so no danger there. I keep telling myself it’s just the time, but one of these days I’ll be honest with myself…
I’ve always been really interested in history too, particularly 20th century history (Berlin is my favourite city). I would also like to look into my family ancestry more some day, and figure out how the heck we ended up with our kids!
And don’t get me started on cars or I’ll blow the word limit.