Herbert Smith litigation partner Alan Watts made his television debut last night interviewing the candidates vying to become Sir Alan Sugar’s next apprentice.
Sir Alan has been a client of Watts for 16 years, so when Britain’s most belligerent boss was stuck for an interviewer for hit television show The Apprentice he called on the lawyer for his help.
Watts told The Lawyer: “He called me two or three days before filming. I was in two minds but I’ve always watched the show. The first episode went out the night my youngest son was born.”
Until 1999 Sir Alan’s sidekick on the show Margaret Mountford was a corporate partner at Herbert Smith, joining Sugar’s business Amstrad as a non-executive director when she retired from the firm.
Watts said he had had a run in with Mountford while she was a partner at the firm and he was a junior lawyer, adding that she was as formidable a presence off-screen as she is on-screen.
He recalled: “I was [senior partner] David Gold’s articled clerk and I remember a meeting I was in with Margaret and David. I was a bit cheeky to him and she told me off.”
Watts, who said that the interview stage of The Apprentice was filmed last November, pointed out that he had not had an opportunity to watch the candidates’ performing any of the shows tasks before giving them a grilling.
“You don’t see any of it, all you have is their CVs and application forms,” Watts said.
With only two candidates due to appear in Sunday night’s final, Sir Alan fired three contestants at the end of the interview episode, with James McQuillan, Lorraine Tighe and Debra Barr all getting their marching orders.
In reviewing the fired candidates’ interview performance, Watts said he felt Lorraine was the least proficient interviewee while he described James as a “nice person”.
He added that he found restaurant owner Yasmina Siadatan to be the best candidate at interview. Yasmina will now face licensing development manager Kate Walsh in the final, which will be screened on Sunday (7 June).