The work-life quiz: John Keffer

What was your first-ever job?
Cashier at a student-run grocery shop at Georgetown University.

What was your worst experience starting out in the legal sector?
In my first two years of practice, my worst assignment would be to go to the financial printer and proofread a prospectus for a deal you knew nothing about. It’s a rite of passage for every young US corporate lawyer – at least it was in my day.

Where’s the best place to go if you want to find out what’s really going on in the office?
Any associate’s office.

What time do you usually leave the office?

What do you do at weekends?
Reacquaint myself with my wife, two boys and Bart, the golden retriever.

What’s your favourite restaurant?
London’s Mark’s Club or Locanda Ottoemezzo.

If you weren’t a lawyer, what would you have been?
An actor and then a director – not so far off from being a lawyer.

Who’s your hero and why?
Winston Churchill. In my mind he was one of the greatest people ever to have lived.

What’s the best thing about your job?
One never stops learning.

What’s your biggest work/career mistake and what did you learn from it?
As a young lawyer, not responding quickly enough to a client’s request. What are you currently reading?
The Gun Powder Plot by Antonia Fraser.

What’s on your CD player at the moment?
Snow Patrol – my sons have taken over the CD player.

What’s your favourite children’s book?
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg.

What car do you drive?
I don’t have a car. I just use public transport.

What’s the most exciting deal/case you’ve worked on and why?
As a young lawyer, representing a company that successfully acquired a competitor in a hostile tender offer. I learnt so much and it was one of the first deals to successfully defeat a poison pill.

If you were stranded on a desert island, what two luxury items would you take?
An iPod and a plasma TV.

What’s the worst partner conference location you’ve attended?
Del Lago, outside Houston, Texas. The ‘lake’ had all the charm of an artificial swamp, complete with tree stumps in the water as an added feature.

What’s the longest you’ve worked without sleep?
Seventy-six hours to get a deal signed.

If a movie was being made about your life, which actor would play you and why?
Who wouldn’t want Al Pacino to play them?

Who would you least like to be stuck in a lift with?
Gwyneth Paltrow.


Firm: King & Spalding
Position: London managing partner
Lives: South Kensington, London, and Barkham, Suffolk
Education: Georgetown University, Washington DC
Work history:
1982: Qualified as US attorney at Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas
1983: Joined Bracewell & Patterson (now Bracewell & Giuliani)
1991: Appointed partner
1993: Appointed head of Latin American practice
1998: Joined King & Spalding as a partner
2002: Appointed London head of corporate
2003: Appointed to policy committee
2005: Appointed London managing partner