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HALL OF FAME INTERVIEW

HALL OF FAME > INTERVIEWS > MAX BERGER

INTERVIEW: GWENDOLINE DAVIES, WALKER MORRIS LLP

The Legal 500 Hall of Fame highlights individuals who have received constant praise by their clients for continued excellence.

H A L L   O F   F A M E   I N T E R V I E W


What has been your greatest achievement, in a professional and personal capability?

In a professional capacity whenever you win a case on behalf of a client you feel a tremendous sense of achievement. However, there is one case in particular which stands out for having gone all the way to the House of Lords (now Supreme Court). We were advising the administrators of On Demand Information plc in a claim against Michael Gerson (Finance) plc. The issue before the Court was whether it had the power to grant relief from forfeiture in relation to a finance lease, for which there was no prior case law. We lost the case at first instance and appealed to the Court of Appeal where we lost 2 against and one dissenting judgment. Following consultation with the client, we decided to take the case to the House of Lords where we eventually won. Having previously lost in the Court of Appeal the administrator was under a lot of pressure and was reliant on my judgment and that of Counsel, so we had to get it right. It was a calculated decision which proved to be the right one but there were a lot of tense moments as you can imagine. I felt extremely proud when we won that we had been able to guide our clients through a difficult case and given them the support to keep going to a successful conclusion. The icing on the cake was having a glass of claret in the House of Lords bar!

On a personal level I was immensely proud to achieve fellowship of the Institute of Arbitrators a few years back. The last step was having to sit an exam and prepare an Award in a set time. Having not sat an exam in many years it was somewhat daunting.

Completely unrelated to work I still remember the sense of achievement in crossing the finish line of my first half marathon. The previous year I had been to watch my husband running in the Great North Run. Whilst watching him I decided that I wanted to give it a go the following year. Despite having never done any running previously, I managed to train and complete the Great North Run the following year. I still run (and enter half marathons) but the first one was definitely the greatest achievement.

What do you do differently from your peers in the industry?

I would say I have a different approach to some of my peers. Litigators adopt many different approaches and tactics to obtain success. In particular, some litigators can be aggressive, particularly with their opponents. Whilst I'm known as the 'Welsh Dragon' for my Welsh fighting spirit, I try not to get aggressive and score unnecessary points. My colleagues describe me as the 'iron fist in a velvet glove'. Calm and gentle on the outside but forceful and determined underneath.


What advice would you give to your younger self?

Don't work so hard - you soon get old! Try and have a more proportionate and balanced life and take time to achieve things in your personal life as well as in your career.


Can you give me a practical example of how you helped a client add value to the business?

Any case we win has a value for the business but one good example of how we can support clients at the strategic level is the work we have done for Jet2.com supporting them on economic loss claims arising from disruptive passengers. Many people don't realise just how much disruption airlines suffer when flights are delayed or diverted as a consequence of disruptive passenger behaviour on board flights. We've been providing advice to support Jet2.com in their strategic decision to pursue claims against disruptive passengers and we have obtained a number of successful judgments which has made a positive impact on the business.


Within your sector, what do you think will be the biggest challenge for clients over the next 12 months?

I would say that the biggest challenge for clients is going to be adjusting to the imminent and significant changes to disclosure and edisclosure rules and practice in civil litigation. A mandatory pilot scheme is due to run from 1 January 2019 for two years in the Business and Property Courts, and clients (and their legal advisers) will need to get on board. Wide-ranging proposals for a new regime were published by a dedicated Disclosure Working Group in November 2017, which advocated "a wholesale cultural change" to the current system. The proposed new rules steer the parties, and the court, towards a more restrained approach than has traditionally been common practice. Not surprisingly, perhaps, there is a proposed requirement for the parties to discuss and seek to agree on the use of technology assisted review software and techniques, with a view to reducing the burden and costs of the disclosure exercise.

The proposed new approach to disclosure is designed to be more flexible than the current rules and to reflect developments in technology. We are awaiting confirmation of the final rules, following an informal consultation and feedback period.

Also on the horizon is the proposal for a pilot to test the use of a 'capped costs' scheme in a number of courts, including Leeds, for claims up to £250,000. This follows proposals by Lord Justice Jackson (now Sir Rupert Jackson), the architect of wide-ranging reforms to civil procedure and cost and case management over the years. The number of cases potentially caught by Jackson's proposals (which are being considered by the government but are likely to be implemented) is huge. The key for clients and their lawyers will be to get the balance right, so that the right amount of work is done by lawyers with the relevant expertise, ensuring that cases are managed as effectively and efficiently as possible.

The capped costs pilot was put on hold while the disclosure pilot was being finalised. We expect to hear more details in the near future.

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Hall of Fame Interviews