Ros Prince, Hot 100Name: Ros Prince

Firm: Stephenson Harwood

Position: Partner

Trained at: Herbert Smith

In Hot 100 for: Playing a critical role in growing Stephenson Harwood’s fraud practice. Read her full Hot 100 profile.

What’s your most vivid memory from being a trainee?

Spending months reviewing and summarising disclosure on a database – it was a lonely and thankless task. The review felt never-ending and every time I thought I had almost finished the job, new batches of documents would arrive. I ended up being kept on in my litigation seat for a few extra weeks to finish the task. Thankfully nowadays technology has improved and is used to target disclosure reviews more accurately, so I hope today’s trainees suffer less from mammoth disclosure tasks than my generation did.

I think some trainees make the mistake of choosing where to qualify based on the work they did as a trainee in each seat, rather than thinking about what the job will entail as an associate or later as a partner. I was fascinated from the outset by the tactical and strategic thinking that the more senior lawyers were doing in litigation.

Who has been the most influential person in your career? Why, and how have they helped you?

It would be impossible to single out one person. 

The faith that clients have put in me has been a huge factor in my career progression.  I owe a great deal of gratitude to them all: from the clients who trusted me to run their cases when I was an associate, to my current clients, many of whom have been incredibly loyal to me over the years. Working with such a diverse and interesting group of people has taught me a great deal, and more importantly it has been a key factor in making my career so enjoyable.

Of my colleagues, my partners Sue Millar and Alan Bercow stand out – Sue for mentoring me when I was an associate and through my promotion to partnership, and Alan for being the most collegiate joint head of a team that anyone could wish for. 

And on a personal level, my partner Jason has always offered unwavering support and understanding, despite my sometimes unpredictable hours and business trips to far flung places (often with little or no advance warning before I fly off somewhere). It is important that law firms work to support their partners and employees to achieve a good work life balance.  However, in any sphere of the law there will be times where deadlines are driven by external factors, and I imagine that without an understanding partner balancing work and home life would be difficult.

What was the best career decision you ever made, and why?

Choosing to practice an area of the law that I felt passionate about, despite the advice of others. When I qualified, it was a bull market and non-contentious teams were busy, whereas litigation was quiet. Lots of people advised against trying to qualify into litigation as there were not many NQ positions available, and there was a perception that the path to partnership in litigation was harder than in non-contentious teams. I ignored the advice and shortly after I qualified the 2008 financial crisis happened.

Most lawyers will have times in their careers where they are working long hours, dealing with difficult circumstances, and are under a lot of pressure. You need to love what you do to get through the difficult times and do the best possible job for your clients. 

I enjoy coming into work every day – I don’t think I would have enjoyed being anything other than a litigator, and doubt that I would have stayed in the law if I hadn’t chosen this path.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to get to where you are/do the job you do?

Be persistent, and expect things to take time. Building a practice ultimately comes down to trust and respect:  if you have both these things, then clients will keep instructing you, and your team will work hard to help get the right results for clients.  These things cannot be achieved overnight – it takes years to build a network of clients and contacts, to gain a reputation in a market, and to build the right internal team. 

What work or career-related project or activity would you really like to do, but don’t have time for?

I try to make time for all the things I really want to do and (most of the time) I manage. A lot of this comes down to delegation – if you try to do everything yourself, you will always have a list of things that you’ll never get around to. You have to trust people, explain things to them clearly, and get them to take ownership of projects.

When I look at the number of projects our fraud and asset tracing team has on at any one time, it sometimes surprises me – but we have a great team of associates who are empowered to run with things, from marketing campaigns through to know how projects.