Work Life Quiz: Catherine Hallam, Burges Salmon

Catherine Hallam

What was your first-ever job? 

Waitress in a wine bar.

What was your worst ­experience as a trainee?

Being summoned to the office of the partner responsible for articled clerks to be told that it was acceptable to ‘get involved’ with another articled clerk and that the firm did not mind.

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

My room.

What time do you usually leave the office?

Variable – I aim for 6.30pm-7pm.

What do you do at weekends?

Seeing family, ferrying teenagers around, ­gardening.

What’s your favourite ­restaurant?

River Station in Bristol.

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

I planned before training to be a lawyer to be a ­landscape architect.

What’s your favourite film?

Local Hero.

What was the first record you ever bought?

Nicely out of Tune by ­Lindisfarne.

Who’s your hero and why?

Baroness Shirley Williams for her integrity and ­intelligence.

What’s the best thing about your job?

The wide range of very decent and interesting clients that I get to know as a family lawyer.

What’s the toughest thing about your job?

The increasingly small minority of family lawyers who conduct their cases in a destructive and ­aggressive way.

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

I don’t think I have any career regrets.

What car do you drive?

BMW Tourer.

What book are you currently reading?

The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald.

What’s your favourite ­children’s book?

The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge.

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

I can’t talk about clients so I’m not going to say.

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

A radio tuned to Radio 4 and a quantity of ­champagne.

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

We had a partners’ ­conference in the last recession at a miserable hotel in Gloucestershire – all peeling wallpaper and swirly carpets.

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

You can’t do all-night deals in family law cases – too much stress for the clients to do that. I had one case where we were still signing off the 100-plus completion documents at 1am but that’s about it.

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

Please can I have ­Catherine Tate so that it would be funnier than I am?

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

Jeremy Clarkson. I hope I don’t need to explain.

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

I have in the past had a particular interest in ­dendrochronology, ­restoring horse-drawn vehicles and breeding alpacas.

: Catherine Hallam
Firm: Burges Salmon
Title: Partner and head of private client and wealth structuring department and of the family law unit
Lives: Bristol
1977-80: Jesus College, Oxford
1980-82: College Of Law, Guildford
Work history:
1982-85: Articles and solicitor in private client/family, Frere Cholmeley
1985-86: Assistant, Kenwright and Cox
1986-87: Assistant, Collyer Bristow
1988: Assistant, Burges Salmon
1990-present: Partner, head of family law, Burges Salmon May 2009: Head of private client and wealth structuring, Burges Salmon