Name: Kristofer McGhee
Organisation: Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education
Role: General Counsel
Trained at: Herbert Smith Freehills
Year qualified: 2011
What’s your most vivid memory from being a trainee?
There are genuinely so many and some of the best memories were the personal connections with peers and colleagues. The most vivid was probably the baptism of fire in my first seat: litigation. We acted for the joint administrators of an English company which had a very large sum of money “attached” (or frozen) by a New York district court. Suddenly, we were before the English Companies Court, the US Bankruptcy Court and, eventually, the Court of Appeal. At last, the civil litigation module on the LPC had started to make some sense!
I was learning so many new terms, from comity to extraterritoriality, and learning so much (even if I was sleeping so little). It truly was an excellent start to my training contract and, I later realised, appearing in the Court of Appeal is a true rarity!
What is the wisest thing anyone ever said to you (and who said it)?
I remember being a first-seat trainee and working intensely on a multibillion-dollar litigation. My supervisor at the time, who is still a partner at the firm, said: “Kris, remember, pressure makes diamonds”. To this day, this still sticks in my mind and I think it bears a lot of truth.
Who (for better or worse) has been the most influential person in your career? Why?
This is a really difficult question; however, I had an extremely influential teacher in high school and I’m clear that without her I would not be as fortunate as I am now. She helped me carve a new journey and make high school much more positive that it had been going in the first two years.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get to where you are/do the job you do?
There are many different routes to working as a lawyer in government from training with the Government Legal Department to transitioning into government later in your career. When I was in private practice as a commercial litigator, I am not sure I could’ve ever imagined being in my current role.
However, I think a background as a litigator gives you great ability to lead a legal team irrespective of the breadth of that team’s work. My advice is to create your own path – there is no correct path to follow. Take chances on interesting opportunities even if you don’t see yourself as the “perfect fit”.