Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s Simon Johnson reveals what partners really talk about when they’re huddled in room
Name: Simon Johnson
Degree subject: Law
Hobbies: Entertaining my three pink ladies (9, 5 and 2). They’re already very good at saying, “Daaaaaaaad, don’t” when I start dancing at weddings. I also enjoy most sports, particularly golf and cricket.
How long have you been a partner for? Six years
Who/what inspired you to be lawyer? I’ve always loved writing and looking at what words and phrases really mean. I enjoy meeting people.
What things did you wish you knew before embarking on a legal career? That certain points matter much more to clients than others. Also, the client’s idea of what constitutes good client service might be very different to yours.
What does your typical day involve? I’m a morning person, so I usually get up early to do an hour’s work from home before having breakfast and joining the pink urchins’ school run. In the office I spend roughly half my day on conference calls or in meetings, and the other half managing the email tide and discussing the transactions I’m working on with colleagues within and outside the banking team. We partners also like to ask each other the silly questions that we ought to know the answers to; that’s what’s really going on when you see two or more partners huddled in a room, deep in conversation! As the partner who leads our UK trainee recruitment, I also spend approximately two hours a day on trainee recruitment and development.
What are the most challenging aspects of your job? Having to review emails and documents relatively quickly and make consistently good decisions in short order. Prioritising the conflicting and competing demands on my time is also difficult.
What has been the highlight of your legal career so far? Working on the Wembley transaction and seeing the new stadium finally open. Contrary to popular belief, the last game played at the old Wembley stadium before it was demolished wasn’t England vs Germany – it was the FA and advisors vs the Banks and advisors. I think it finished 6-6, with many tired lawyers littering the hallowed turf.
What are the best aspects of your job? No two days are the same. It’s very entrepreneurial. I have made some incredibly strong and enduring friendships during my 16 years here. The camaraderie and banter is very good. Getting to dress in drag in the firm’s Panto is the icing on the cake.
What are the worst aspects of your job? We are always available. That said, mobile communications are a boon rather than a hindrance. There is no time wasted waiting in the office for things to happen.
What top tips would you give to students who want to break into the legal profession?Make sure your written work is concise, accurate and clear. Work on your attention to detail.
What are the most common mistakes you’ve seen candidates making? Not listening and hence not answering the question asked.
How has the legal market changed since the days you were a trainee? It’s undeniably a faster pace these days. The transactions were complex back then too, it’s just that the process was quite different. There are fewer meetings and more conference calls.
What impact has the recession had on your firm? We’ve had to be flexible and creative. We’ve had a good downturn, which has given us added confidence; we now know we can prosper in the good times and the bad.
What three words best describe your firm? That’s difficult. It’s by no means the best description, but how about “nimble, meritocratic and successful”.
Where did you go for your last holiday? Devon
What gadget/gizmo would you be lost without? The token that allows me to access our system remotely from any computer.