Name: Ian Johnson
Firm: Slaughter and May
Role: Partner and head of restructuring
Trained at: Slaughter and May
Year qualified: 2004
What’s your most vivid memory from being a trainee?
I enjoyed a fantastic winter secondment at Gernandt & Danielsson in Stockholm. I made some great friends but the most vivid memory has to be the extended Swedish Apres ski party which ended with Bruce Springsteen’s “Waitin’ on a Sunny Day” being played on loop. I don’t even particularly like Bruce Springsteen but it triggers some great memories.
This secondment also involved a wonderful sliding doors moment for my brother when he visited me and his life has gone in a completely different direction as a result. He met a Swedish lady during a chance encounter and is now married to her, lives by a lake in Stockholm and has two beautiful children.
What is the wisest thing anyone ever said to you (and who said it)?
My CFO client in a restructuring context who is adamant that a company must “go to the well once and go wisely” when asking for new money or other support from banks.
There have been a few high profile situations in the market where a large corporate group has lost credibility with banks and other parties because a new money ask has kept getting larger over time. This can lead to a lack of confidence in the numbers and the business.
Who (for better or worse) has been the most influential person in your career? Why?
It has to be Sarah Paterson and George Seligman (who were my partner mentors at Slaughter and May).
Sarah for her outstanding technical knowledge and fantastic support during all phases of my career. George for his pragmatism and smoothness, particularly when solving complex issues.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get to where you are/do the job you do?
It is a very rewarding area and I have been privileged to be an adviser in the boardroom during some of the most difficult restructurings in recent years. To be a good restructuring lawyer, you need excellent judgement and an ability to stay calm and reassuring when under intense pressure.
You also need to be willing to be a generalist which keeps things varied, as you may become involved in a range of sectors. The legal issues will also often straddle corporate, insolvency, pensions and regulatory law.
What’s your best friend from law school doing now?
He is sunning himself in the Cayman Islands as a partner and co-head of the asset finance practice at Maples and Calder.