Why litigation is a game of chess
DWF senior associate Paul Maddock explains how his passion for board games helps in his day-to-day legal life
The reason Paul Maddock, senior associate, DWF, enjoys commercial litigation so much is that it’s all about strategy and solving problems.
“I like board games and strategy games from chess to Monopoly,” he says. “Litigation is a similar thing because you’re trying to do the best you can with the hand you — or your client — have been dealt. On the first day, the client gives you the documents and the facts, you piece them together and give them a range of options and possible solutions and help them work out the best way to proceed. I love the start of the process, when the client presents you with the problem. I also like the fact it’s quite unpredictable, with peaks and troughs in the work, for example, an urgent injunction can land on a Friday afternoon.”
Maddock has been at DWF for 12 years, did his training there, including a secondment at Lloyds bank, qualified into commercial litigation and, shortly after, returned to Lloyds on secondment for a further six months. He set out on his training contract with an open mind about what he eventually specialised in and found he really liked commercial litigation.
He’s currently a trainee supervisor and is involved in the recruitment process for trainees, sitting on interview panels and meeting candidates at DWF’s assessment centre.
On a day-to-day basis he deals with shareholder disputes, contract disputes, breach of fiduciary duties, professional negligence cases and trust and probate claims for high-net-worth individuals. These issues cover a wide variety of sectors from financial services to retail.
The types of claims tend to run in trends. Currently, due to the Covid pandemic, DWF is seeing a lot of claims related to supply chain issues, force majeure, fraud and insolvency. The pandemic also moved work into the virtual sphere. As DWF is an international firm, Maddock is used to holding meetings virtually and has, due to social distancing restrictions, mainly appeared at court and attended mediation on a virtual basis since the start of the pandemic, although one of his cases in the past year went to full trial in person. As far as virtual court and mediation are concerned, he says there are advantages for both lawyer and client as the efficiencies reduce travel time and saves the client money.
This month, however, he has both court and mediation scheduled in-person, so normal life is resuming. He will also be attending the Law Society of England and Wales LGBT+ Committee in person at the Law Society’s Chancery Lane headquarters for the first time since the pandemic began. Maddock has been a committee member for three years, working to promote and oversee LGBT+ matters in the legal profession, for example, producing a best practice guide for firms, commissioning and analysing research, mentoring other professionals, signposting sources of support, and attending Pride events. There are 12-16 committee members who meet four to six times a year as well as splitting into groups for particular projects.
The committee recently published its Pride in Law report, based on a survey conducted at the beginning of this year. “It made some interesting findings,” says Maddock. “For example, you would think because of how society is and how it has changed that more junior members of the profession would find it easier to come out at work. There’s a lot of emphasis on older role models for that reason. But that’s not the case. Actually, a lot of junior professionals struggle to come out because they worry about it affecting them as they’re at the start of their career.”
Maddock also set up Out Front, DWF’s own network group for LGBT+ people at the firm, some years ago. He says:
“DWF has been very supportive of EDI [equality, diversity and inclusion] initiatives. From my experiences as a trainee on, I cannot sing its praises enough. One great event that our trainees organised a couple of weeks ago was a young professionals’ panel on EDI, where they interviewed clients about their own initiatives, and had people speaking about their own experiences.”
So, what advice does he have for prospective candidates? “Going on a secondment really helped my commercial ability, it improved my understanding of clients’ objectives and how their business works, so I would definitely recommend going on secondment,” Maddock says.
Other hints for applicants include: “Enthusiasm is worth its weight in gold. It’s important that a person is enthusiastic about the job and personable because they will be working long hours with their future colleagues. When applying, try to increase your commercial awareness by reading a publication that supports that, for example, I subscribed to The Economist, which helped me keep up to date with events.
“On a less highbrow note, I watched Dragon’s Den, which gave me an insight into what businesses care about and how they think. Finally, find a firm that suits you and suits your temperament. It’s a two-way street — it might not seem like that right now, but it is, so it’s important to make a choice that suits you.”
Paul Maddock will be speaking at ‘What corporate lawyers do — with Goodwin Procter, Squire Patton Boggs, DWF and BARBRI’, a virtual student event taking place on Tuesday 26 October. You can apply to attend the event, which is free, now.
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