Work Life Quiz: James Furber, Farrer & Co

What do you do at weekends? Errands, cooking and golf.

James Furber
James Furber

What was your first-ever job?

I was a porter at St John’s Hospital in Lewisham.

What was your worst experience as a trainee?

During the winter of ­discontent, I was lunching at a pub 50 yards from ­Farrers when all the lights went out. Candles were lit and I continued lunching in the cosy atmosphere until last orders, confident that the office would’ve closed because of the power cut. When I finally emerged, I discovered the pub was on a different grid. I got a ­terrifying carpeting from my first woman boss.

What time do you usually leave the office?


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

The pub – with the trainees.

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

In the tradition of ­Sullivan’s Travels, I would like to write anything that made people laugh.

What’s your favourite film?

I have three favourite films. The Best Years of Our Lives, A Matter of Life and Death and It’s a Wonderful Life.

What was the first record you ever bought?

Abbey Road by The Beatles.

Who’s your hero and why?

Leonard Cheshire, who was the most decorated pilot of the Second World War and awarded the Order of Merit. He is a curiously neglected figure  and one who needs greater exposure – I’d like to write a film script of his life.

What are the best things about your job?

Pride in watching people achieve their full potential and serving clients in ways that surprise them.

What’s the toughest thing about your job?

Having to compromise.

What’s your biggest work/career mistake to date?

Not standing up to a compromise described as a ‘nasty fudge’ with a partner now departed.

What car do you drive?

Volvo Estate.

What book are you currently reading?

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. Also Lucky Jim by ­Kingsley Amis and The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald.

What’s your favourite ­children’s book?

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson.

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

The acquisition of the Prudential’s agricultural portfolio for the Duchy of Cornwall – the largest farmland deal ever. It was brought in on time and on budget, which was ­particularly gratifying since, in a moment of over-exuberance at a ­cocktail party, I’d ­promised the Prince of Wales he could have my head on a plate if it wasn’t.

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

About 36 hours, when I was involved in The Times acquisition in 1980.

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

A grand piano and a sand wedge (and golf balls).

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

The Russell Hotel. Staff at the buffet lunch prior to the conference refused to hand out extra eating implements, saying the right number had been provided.

Worse still, the food caused a partner to be sick during his ­presentation and I had to take over.

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

Latterly Jack Nicholson as he was in The Shining, because of his interesting management style; previously David Hemmings as he was in Blowup, because of the white jeans and a passing resemblance to me as a young man.

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

At university, I weighed less than 10 stone. I have appeared in a film with Jim Broadbent, Colin Firth, Juliet Stevenson and Gina McKee. I love cats.


Name: James Furber

Firm: Farrer & Co

Title: Senior partner

Lives: Blackheath, London


1972-75: Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge

1975-76 and 1978: College of Law, Lancaster Gate

Work history:           

1976-79: Articled clerk, Farrer & Co

1979-81: Assistant solicitor, Farrer & Co

1981-85: Associate, Farrer & Co

1985-2008: Partner, Farrer & Co, and latterly head of estates and private and commercial property and management board member

2008- present: Senior partner, Farrer & Co