Our third VIP interview is with Nina Ferris, a Legal Director at Hill Dickinson, an international commercial law firm, with over 200 years of heritage.
Nina spoke to us about her recent election as President of Liverpool Law Society, why she chose a career in law and what she's up to in 2018.
As Legal Director at Hill Dickinson, how would you describe your role?
Interesting. The joy of commercial litigation is that you never know what is going to come across your desk or how reasonable the parties are going to be. Something that you think might settle quickly could go all the way to the supreme court and vice versa. It can also be challenging. Whether it's business owners who have fallen out, a disgruntled supplier who has not been paid or families torn apart over the contents of a disputed will, my clients are often under a considerable amount of stress and it's my job to help them step back and try to see a way through what can seem like an impenetrable problem.
What does 2018 have in store for you as you take over as President of Liverpool Law Society?
It's going to be a busy year. My main focus this year is going to be on driving engagement with the Liverpool Law Society. We have to continue to promote Liverpool as a centre for legal excellence and a great place to practice, to attract and retain talent in the city so that we can service the great businesses and institutions that are here. Liverpool has always had a strong history of fighting for access to justice for individuals and that work will continue to grow in importance. I am happy to shout about how great the Liverpool legal market is and what lawyers do for the city region, its residents and its economy. I need our members to join in and shout with me, especially when we have a great showcase like the International Business Festival taking place in 2018 on our doorstep.
Why did you choose a career in Law?
Looking back, it wasn’t something that I grew up knowing I wanted to do. I didn’t know any lawyers or really have any idea what being a solicitor was about. Studying law was interesting (in parts) but it really fell into place for me when I did the legal practice course. The practical application of the law made sense to me. I was able to use it to find solutions to people’s problems no matter what they were. I’ll admit that I am afraid I did not have any virtuous “calling”, but helping people is a deeply satisfying side effect of what I now do and is one of the main reasons that I, and I am sure all lawyers, like to do the job well. It’s helpful to your own client and it's helpful to society to keep the wheels turning, whether it's someone’s personal life or commerce.
What do you most enjoy about your role?
The work is only the beginning. I am part of a fantastic team. I learn from my colleagues at Hill Dickinson every day and get the chance to share some of what I have learned with them and with our clients. I love the opportunity to mentor and train our junior lawyers and see them mature into confident and valuable members of the legal profession.
How would you describe your career over the years?
A lot of hard work and a little bit of luck. Not long after I qualified, lots of commercial firms were laying off junior lawyers by the bucket load so I was lucky to be in a discipline that was not transactional at that time. Because of that, I have never taken my role for granted. You have to continuously look for ways to improve for your clients and firm, but more importantly for your own peace of mind and satisfaction - and that is hard work.
Can you tell us about one of your greatest achievements in your career?
Being elected President of Liverpool Law Society. It's only recently that I have actually taken a minute to reflect on the fact that it is a great achievement, as I enjoy being a part of it so didn’t really think about it. I am probably the first president under 40 years old and only the sixth woman in its 190-year history. The significance of the position only really hit home when I had to give my vice president’s speech at our Annual Dinner in November. It is one thing speaking to a group of students, but quite another speaking to 300 lawyers, judges and eminent academics and professionals! It was nice that it went well, but now I have to follow that up with some action. You will have to ask me again this time next year what I have achieved!
What career advice do you wish you could give to your younger self?
Back yourself. Don’t be nervous about speaking up if you know something is right, or think that someone else has a better chance of getting on because of who they are or what they sound like. For aspiring lawyers, in particular, I would say don’t be intimidated by lawyers who are more senior than you. You will find that they are overwhelmingly willing to share some wisdom and that they are (mostly) human beings.
Check here in January to see who our first VIP of 2018 will be ...