Name: Alex Bishop
Role: National head of litigation
Trained at: DLA Piper
Year qualifed: 1997
What’s your most vivid memory from being a trainee?
Most of my memories from being a trainee are far from vivid and would be considered wholly inappropriate in 2021!
My first seat was in real estate but my supervisor dealt with real estate litigation, so I attended my first trial (and got the litigation bug) very early on. It was a neighbour dispute over a plot of land the size of your desk but the costs involved were eye watering. I remember the QC saying to me; ‘Best advice to give to a client with a neighbour dispute is ‘move house!’’.
What is the wisest thing anyone ever said to you (and who said it)?
‘You are no better than anyone else, but nobody is better than you.’
Said to me by my Grandma when I was being particularly precocious one day – it is such incredible advice for all of us and it has shaped me as a lawyer and as a person for sure. It is grounding and empowering in equal measure. As lawyers (particularly starting out), we need to heed that advice sometimes. We can get a bit above ourselves or at times intimidated by strong personalities.
Treating everyone the same, from the cleaners who clean your desk in the evening to the Chairman of the firm, has to be right. One of the wake up calls from the pandemic was that the perceived importance of various roles in society was turned on its head. It is also a truism that it is often the PAs, print and post room staff and the receptionists in a law firm that can make or break a career, not always the senior partners!
That slight irreverence has also served me well in terms of being able to tell it straight to clients – especially to the occasional CEO who may be overly emotionally invested in a piece of litigation.
Who (for better or worse) has been the most influential person in your career? Why?
A former DLA partner, Fran Davie. He shaped me as a litigator. Taught me ‘less is more’ when drafting, not to sit on the fence and to have real attention to detail. He also taught me to speak up for myself, believe in myself and to swear like a trooper (albeit perhaps not purposely)! He came to work with me at Shoosmiths for a while, helping me steer a strategic project and Fran is still a mentor now.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get to where you are/do the job you do?
Invest in relationships from the minute you start out; relationships with colleagues, with clients, with intermediaries, with mentors and even with your competition.
You need allies, advocates, advisors, and loyal clients to become a partner and every year thereafter! To continue to move up through the ranks you need to make sure everyone you bring in to the team is better than you and you then need finely tuned emotional intelligence to manage a team of high performers!
What’s your best friend from law school doing now?
My best friend from law school, Nicola Turner, left the law after a stint at the CPS and joined the education sector where she earned herself an MBE for her services no less! She is now Director of Legacy for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games which is so exciting! I am incredibly proud of her and what’s even better is that by a happy accident, we now live about five doors down from each other!