Hot 100 career quiz: Taylor Wessing’s Graham Hann

Name: Graham Hann

Organisation: Taylor Wessing

Role: Partner

Trained at: Allen & Overy

Year qualified: 1997

Hot 100 2019 entry

What’s your most vivid memory from being a trainee?

In my very early trainee days, I recall trying to save time when doing a large photocopying job in my first seat in the real estate team at a previous firm. I had to create copies of hundreds of original deeds and stamp them with “copy”. Through some creative thinking involving feeding a blank sheet through the machine with “copy” stamped on it I was able to cut down the time it took. That was until I accidentally fed a pile of the originals through the copier, only for them to emerge with “copy” emblazoned across. More creative thinking led to the only solution possible –  writing “Not a” in front of the offending addition on each original.

My supervisor kindly passed the incident off as a bizarre technological accident. With hindsight I now characterise the incident as early evidence of my passion to use technology to increase efficiency and cut costs in delivering legal advice…

Who has been the most influential person in your career? Why, and how have they helped you?

Theo Savvides, a truly remarkable lawyer, and friend.  He was an inspiration, and leaves a huge legacy, including the UCL / Bristows Theo Savvides Law Scholarship.  I miss him every day.

What was the toughest decision you’ve ever had to face in your career? How, and what, did you decide?

Moving between different jobs is a big decision for anyone. Back in 1999 I felt secure and motivated in my role as an associate in the Tech team at a magic circle firm, and was working with a group of great people and clients. The arrival of the Internet brought opportunities for young lawyers in law firms to move into in-house commercial roles, and I was made an offer to become the first lawyer at a well-backed start-up (in 1999, known as a “dotcom”).  It was an extremely tough decision, and the move was to be the steepest learning curve of my life, but taught me a huge amount about what businesses really need (and don’t need) when working with law firms, as well as the tech sector generally.

I don’t regret the move to this day not least as it ultimately led me to Taylor Wessing two years later.  I don’t think I would have achieved what I have at the firm had it not been for the insight into business I gained in those two years. Our clients need us to be much more than just lawyers, and my time in-house in a growing tech business enabled me to place myself in the shoes of a founder, or an investor, or of course an in-house lawyer struggling to balance priorities. The decision to leave was a pivotal point and has been a major part of my ability to grow a technology focused practice since.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to get to where you are/do the job you do?

Three things:

  1. You need to stand out – there are a lot of law firms vying for business, and to many clients most of them sound the same.  You have to have a passion for the sector you specialise in, as without that you’ll never be sufficiently immersed in it to be credible, let alone stand out.
  2. You have to be grounded. As much as you may find the law interesting, generally speaking, clients don’t, they just want to grow and protect their business. Gone are the days of providing purely academic reasoning and advice – use the law to tell clients what you think they should do, not what the options are.
  3. You work with people, not businesses, and having someone’s back may have more impact on your long term success than any deal you will ever complete.

What work or career-related project or activity would you really like to do, but don’t have time for?

I’ve always wanted to create a music track that becomes available for streaming on one of our music streaming clients, although the barrier here is lack of talent rather than time.

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