Work Life Quiz: Gillian Fairfield, Herbert Smith

What was your first-ever job? Kitchen assistant in a seafood restaurant. Now that was stressful.

Gillian Fairfield
Gillian Fairfield

What was your worst experience as a trainee?

When a Russian client thought I should have been able to win over the British visa service for him.

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

The professional support lawyers. Those guys know everything.

What time do you usually leave the office?

Any time. I can’t tell in advance.

What do you do at weekends?

Watch obscure foreign-language films and wobble around the quieter London streets on a Boris bike.

What’s your favourite restaurant?

Racine on London’s Brompton Road, or Delfina on Bermondsey Street.

If you weren’t a lawyer what would you have been?

A pastry chef, but a really bad one.

What’s your favourite film?

Burnt by the Sun or, er, Gladiator.

What was the first record you ever bought?

Rasputin by Boney M. That may be why I chose to read Russian.

Who’s your hero and why?

Nadia Comaneci. I admire that drive and perfectionism.

What’s the best thing about your job?

The clever and ­entertaining people I get to work with.

What’s the toughest thing about your job?

What it makes you give up.

What’s your biggest work/ career mistake and what did you learn from it?

Thinking that clients really want to hear my honest opinion. Sometimes they really don’t.

What car do you drive?

I can’t drive.

What book are you currently reading?

Independent People by Halldór Laxness.

What’s your favourite children’s book?

Probably Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.

What’s the most exciting deal/case you’ve worked on and why?

The IPO/privatisation of QinetiQ. I remember rolling home at 5am and setting my alarm to hear the deal discussed at 7am on the Today programme.

If you were stranded on a desert island what two luxury items would you take?

Assuming Factor 50 is a necessity I’d take my husband and a supply of books. Or maybe a substantial amount of champagne.

What’s the worst partner conference location you’ve attended and why?

A team-building exercise in a field outside Birmingham.

What’s the longest you’ve worked without sleep?

Forty-seven hours.

If a movie was being made about your life, which actor would play you and why?

Who’s dark-haired and Scottish? Maybe Kelly Macdonald.

Who would you least like to be stuck in a lift with and why?

Anyone. I don’t like confined spaces.

Tell us two truths and one lie about yourself (in any order)

Aged six and a half, I was entrusted with the school hamster for the Christmas holidays and it died; aged six and three-quarters, I took the new school hamster home for Easter and it died; the other children in my class got over it quickly.


Name: Gillian Fairfield

Firm: Herbert Smith

Title: Corporate partner

Lives: Central London

1989-93: MA in Russian,
University of Edinburgh
1991-92: MA, Russian,
Voronezh State ­University, Russia
1994-96: LPC, College of Law, York

Work history:
1997-99: Trainee,
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
1999-2004: Corporate associate, Freshfields
2004-08: Corporate associate, Herbert Smith
2008-present: Corporate partner, Herbert Smith