Travers Smith’s David Patient gives his advice for those moving into a management role.
Was moving into a management position always a career objective for you?
It has certainly not always been a career objective for me, but something that evolved over time. I had the good fortune to have the opportunity to open our Paris office in 1999, which I ran until last year, and my early experiences doing that led me to work very closely with our former managing and senior partner, Chris Carroll, in developing our international strategy. When he stepped down as managing partner I became the chair of our International Strategy Board and at the same time joined our Management Committee.
From then it was a natural step to move up to a more senior management position, and I was very fortunate to be appointed managing partner last year.
What are the key differences between your old and new job, in terms of working life?
Now that I’m based 100 per cent in London I’ve swapped my Paris to London commute, which I used to do weekly when I was living in France, for a rather shorter one from Guildford.
Apart from that the main difference, of course, is that now I have less time for client work and spend more time on management matters. I enjoy both, but most of all I enjoy variety in whatever I’m doing. I think that’s the key, for anyone, to a long and hopefully successful career.
Have you found being managing partner a lonely job?
Although I miss sharing a room – at Travers Smith all of our partners, bar the senior and managing partner, share a room with two or three other lawyers – I haven’t found the job lonely. I spend more time with my partners, and our lawyers and members of our business services team than I ever did before, and I’ve always loved being around people.
Do you have advice on how to approach being in charge?
- Don’t take it personally.
- Be yourself, and do it your own way.
- Delegate wherever possible and appropriate.
- Never take any decision which you don’t think is in the best interests of the business as a whole.
- Fight only the battles that are worth winning, and remember that it’s much easier to dissipate your political capital than it is to accumulate it.
- Deal with problems quickly as they tend not to get better with age!
- Listen to those who have been there before – most of these pieces of advice came from them!
Do you find it even harder to switch off than before?
No not really. I have plenty of interests outside of work and the time I spend with my family and friends helps keep me sane. Sport helps keep stress at bay and I’m hoping to run one last London Marathon next year in aid of the firm’s nominated charity – MIND.
What’s your philosophy when it comes to freeing your brain from work?
Although this can be a 24/7 job you need to take time for yourself and your family. Pretty much anything can wait, but your children only grow up once.