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30 Years a Solicitor


Article by Andrew Koffman, Litigation Partner

1 October 1987, a typical grey autumn day in Manchester, a far cry from the hurricane-strength winds that buffeted Britain exactly 2 weeks later. But a big day for me; after 6 years of study and training, I was finally admitted as a solicitor. I had a moderately exciting morning serving a search order on a defendant although the location (a block of multi-storey flats) was about as unglamorous as it could get!

Anyway 30 years have sped by and I have now evolved into a grizzled old (but still enthusiastic) commercial litigator, a veteran of over 30,000 chargeable hours.

That time has seen many changes to the job. Some are not unique to the law (increased use of technology, 24-hour communications, an element of commoditisation), others are very specific (costs budgets, known to their friends as precedents H and R, come to mind). No doubt there will be many more changes to come, some foreseeable, some not.

Certainly the rapid pace of increased automation is a challenge – and an opportunity – and it will bring changes. However there will always be a need for clients to engage with legal/business advisers with human insights, who can draw on their experience to anticipate, and if necessary deal with, the unexpected problems that inevitably arise. Sometimes specialist expertise is needed; some business owners wish to will have a chosen lawyer as their point of contact. Many lawyers (myself included) perform both roles at different times. One of the most enjoyable and rewarding elements of the job is learning in depth, and then advising about, a hitherto unfamiliar area of law because the client values advice from a familiar source.

The way litigation is seen by business owners ranges from an unwelcome and often expensive distraction, to a necessary process which inevitably occurs from time to time – though still not one to be taken lightly. One major change of the last 30 years is the rise of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and this can be very effective when both sides take part in good faith. Almost any significant court case (or potential court case) will now involve ADR at some point, often by way of mediation. I have taken part in many mediations and over 90% have resulted in settlement on the day (or night!) or shortly afterwards.

ADR looks set to become even more widespread: the Manchester Law Society has just launched a pilot scheme which will be promoted for – though not limited to – court cases pending in Manchester. Also one of my roles at Bermans is to help promote our unique litigation product “Escalate” – in which ADR plays a large part.

So it has been a very enjoyable 30 years. In the words of the man from whom I borrowed the title, my narrative is at an end. My legal career however moves on into its 4th decade!

For further information about Escalate please contact Andrew Koffman at or on 0161 827 4604.