Work Life Quiz: John Machell, Serle Court

What was your first ever job?

Saturday job in a sports shop. My best friend and I were nearly sacked when we dressed up in ski gear, stood in the ­window pretending to be ­mannequins and made small children jump.

John Machell
John Machell

What was your worst experience as a trainee?

My first appearance in court. Despite my instructing solicitor and me advising that our application was hopeless, we won. The client – who had insisted we would win and who was the firm’s biggest corporate client – stormed out of court ­disgusted with our advice and sacked the solicitors at full volume in front of everyone.

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

The clerks’ room.

What time do you usually leave the office?

It varies considerably, but usually 6.30pm.

What do you do at weekends?

Sleep and eat; help my children with their homework; the occasional game of golf or tennis.

What’s your favourite restaurant?

L’Atelier de Joël ­Robuchon, great for ­post-trial long lunches.

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

An architect, until a careers teacher politely told me that my inability to draw and lack of artistic imagination could be an impediment.

What is your favourite film?

Flash Gordon. You can’t beat Brian Blessed as Prince Vultan, but the less said about Sam J Jones as Flash Gordon, the better.

What was the first record you ever bought?

It’s hard to admit it was Pelican West by Haircut 100, although I quickly progressed on to The Jam, The Specials and Motown.

Who’s your hero and why?

Seve Ballesteros. I fell in love with golf, watching him win the Masters in 1983 and the Open in 1984.

What’s the best thing about your job?

The flexibility, freedom and personal responsibility of being self-employed.

What’s the toughest thing about your job?

The flexibility, freedom and personal responsibility of being self-employed.

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

When I was quite junior I accused an opponent of lying. He responded that, in his 30 years at the bar, nobody had ever made such an accusation. It probably wasn’t wise of me to respond: “I find that very hard to believe.”

What car do you drive?

Volvo XC90.

What book are you currently reading?

I am reading my favourite book again – English ­Passengers by Matthew Kneale.

What’s your favourite children’s book?

Richard Scarry’s The Great Pie Robbery and Other Mysteries.

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

The TXU Energy CVA challenges in 2005. The time limits in the CVAs meant that the case had to be brought on for hearing in a matter of weeks rather than months, and the trial was shoehorned into a two-week period.

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

An espresso machine and a lifetime’s supply of pork pies.

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

About 36 hours. A 24-hour mediation followed by a long day’s work.

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

Martin Freeman – he was great as Watson in Sherlock and is also a Motown fan.

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

It would be worse to be stuck on my own.

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

I can drive a golf ball 300 yards; I can juggle; I love pork pies.


Name: John Machell

Firm: Serle Court

Title: Barrister

Lives: Redbourn, Hertfordshire


1989-92: University of Southampton 

1992-93:  Inns of Court School of Law

Work history:

1993-94: Pupillage, Thirteen Old Square (now Serle Court) 

1994-present: Tenant at Serle Court