In a series of interviews for Legal Eye CI, we speak to those heading up some of the wide range of law firms found in the Channel Islands. From major multi-national players to boutique specialist firms, we find out their thoughts on the industry.
In this profile, we meet Advocate Alastair Hargreaves, managing partner of Guernsey-based law firm Ferbrache & Farrell LLP to discover his views on the challenges currently facing the sector and the changes he sees coming.
What path did you take to qualify as a lawyer?
I grew up in Australia but had an English/French/Welsh legal education. I took a traditional path towards becoming a lawyer. I was fairly undecided when the time came to make career decisions. I’m not sure that as a young person I actually knew what I wanted to do for the foreseeable future, so I followed my parents’ guidance. They said to try to have a career which had enjoyable challenges, the potential for progression and the means to make me self-sufficient. Gap years in those days were not the done thing, so I continued straight from education into the workplace. I thought I’d be a geographer for a while. I enjoyed travelling, so I took a law degree and incorporated a year of French law, which was a bit unusual at the time. I had a fantastic year in Chambery, which meant that I was able to see a good number of European cities during the holidays. After the law degree I completed a legal practice course (to become a solicitor), with two years of articles and exams, and then I qualified. I worked in a variety of areas of practice but settled on commercial property. I am also interested in commercial law so was fortunate to be able to complete a Masters in Commercial Law. We moved to Guernsey in 2011 where I have since become an advocate.
What do you find rewarding about your role?
Variety, and the people I work with. I enjoy the fact that you don’t necessarily know who’s going to come through the door next, or what the legal scenario might be. It might be somebody with a very technical question, it might be somebody with a more straightforward need, or somebody who doesn’t even require legal advice but didn’t know it, and just needed someone to talk to. I do like the satisfaction of having worked through a situation successfully and everybody is happy with the outcome and having the chance to continue to learn and develop.
What are the challenges of your role, and how do you overcome them?
The challenges of my role could probably described as macro and micro. For the larger challenges, these probably depend upon what’s happening in the wider world. You might have geopolitical differences or changes, like Brexit, which might require adjustments in how business works. You might have changes in economies, which again might affect how we operate. Technology undoubtedly has an impact on how we work. Micro challenges might be daily business and operational considerations, and ensuring excellent service delivery. Overcoming challenges, I think, is achieved by educating ourselves as to what those challenges could be, learning from how others have dealt with challenges in their environments and coming up with our own creative solutions. Ideally we try to be proactive and foresee challenges, but inevitably there will be times when we must deal with them as and when they arise.
What is the professional success you are most proud of during your career?
I can’t say that there is one single professional success. I think every day we have successes and inevitably we have problems and challenges, but we get over those. Basically, I think this is not a profession where you can work in a silo; you have to work as a team and pull together. The professional successes I’ve had have not been down to me but have been down to me plus the people I’ve worked with, and that’s been most satisfying.
What do you consider to be the main challenges facing the legal industry at the moment?
It is a privilege to be an advocate in Guernsey, and to help provide a legal offering here. No doubt the challenges we face here are very different to other jurisdictions. We must ensure compliance with regulatory requirements, keeping up to speed with technological advances (and threats) and providing a service which is attractive to people who potentially have the choice to go elsewhere. I think that we must not focus too much on artificial intelligence to the detriment of our human relationships, and particularly we must remember that most people who engage with us may still want to have a ‘trusted advisor’ rather than a faceless experience.
We’ve just moved into a new decade, how do you see the industry changing over the next 10 years?
I think that there will be a further gap between the very large firms with a multi-jurisdictional offering, and those which seek to focus more intensively on a single jurisdiction. Undoubtedly, with the speed of technological change, this will adjust the way we work, be it by creating new efficiencies, changing service delivery or perhaps even the need for physical office space. I expect greater flexibility in working patterns and I also anticipate greater regulatory controls to keep pace with what is expected of a best practice legal and financial environment.
As a new firm in a fairly traditional industry, how do Ferbrache & Farrell differentiate themselves?
I am fortunate to work alongside great people. We identified a gap in the marketplace where we were able to provide an offering to the community, both local and international but with a single focus on Guernsey and not other jurisdictions, which wasn’t necessarily being looked after adequately. We have some extremely successful global law firms in Guernsey which have tremendous impact on the reputation of the jurisdiction, and that’s fantastic. But we also have a lot of people who might not be large businesses, who prefer to have their legal needs looked after in a certain way. My colleagues and I have all come from very large global law firms, so we are able to look after the whole range of client legal needs. We offer cost-effective access to highly-experienced, successful lawyers, who are completely committed to the community where we live.
Describe your management style.
I’ve never really thought of myself as having a management style. But I’d probably say enthusiastically realistic. I try as best as I can to be collaborative, always respectful of those I work with, but able to make and implement decisions.
If you weren’t a lawyer, what would you be?
The rock star/ A list actor/ professional chef/ sportsman outcome is sadly unlikely to materialise now, so I think an animal rescuing travel writer would be today’s answer.