Partner, Construction & Engineering
What were your career ambitions growing up?
I actually always wanted to be a lawyer! I grew up in the US and was very active on my school debate team, which was known as ‘informal law school.’ I enjoyed problem solving and thinking on my feet, and the skills I began to develop there have served me well ever since.
Tell us about your current role?
I lead the specialist construction industry team at Hay & Kilner Law Firm in Newcastle and work with a wide range of clients within and outside the North East on every type of contractual and contentious dispute project. The regional construction sector remains in rude health, despite all the challenges that we’ve faced in the last two years, and there are some fantastic projects in development.
What is your proudest business achievement?
Trebling the size of our construction team over the last six years, widening the client base and getting involved with more and bigger projects. It’s taken a lot of hard work, and there’s lots more to do, but the progress we’ve made and the wider recognition we’ve gained in this sector has been extremely pleasing.
How has your industry changed in the last decade?
The biggest changes have obviously come over the last two years. People are now far more flexible with how they operate and remote working has become widely accepted, allowing companies to cast their net wider when looking for new business. Being able to provide high-quality services for clients in London while charging North East rates offers them some very attractive cost benefits, as well as considerable new opportunities for us.
What are you currently working on?
A mix of different projects – high-value projects in the London Technology & Construction Court, development-related contractual work and adjudications which will resolve ongoing disputes.
Tell us about the team you work with?
Hay & Kilner is a full service firm, meaning we have highly experienced specialists in every area of the law who often work together to meet clients’ needs. My own specialism dovetails with many different other teams, from insurance and corporate & commercial to dispute resolution and commercial property, and it’s a pleasure to work with such impressive practitioners.
What is the best piece of business advice you have been given?
Just after I joined Hay & Kilner, I was advised to “make yourself indispensable” to both the firm and my clients through the work you do and the way in which you do it. It’s a principle that remains just as relevant today and one that I’ve tried to follow through my career.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Building Hay & Kilner’s construction unit to the point we’ve reached now, where our expertise in this area is widely recognised and we are respected as a strong competitor to our regional rivals.
Who are your heroes inside and outside of business?
Within my profession, they would be Graham Sutton, who taught me everything I know about construction law, and Martin Soloman, whose work ethic, dynamism and attention to detail remains inspiring. Outside of work, Nimsdai Purja MBE was the first ever Gurkha to join the UK Special Boat Service. After a distinguished military career, he turned his attention to mountaineering and climbed all 14 of the world’s 8,000m peaks in a single seven-month season, breaking the previous record of just under eight years!
How do you unwind outside of work?
With the previous answer in mind, my passion for mountaineering and for spending time in very high places probably isn’t a surprise. In 2019, I reached the 5,895m summit of Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania as part of a fundraising drive for the Tiny Lives Trust and later this year, I’ll be taking part in an expedition to the Tian Shan Mountains, which lie on the border between Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and China.
My favourite book, John Milton’s Paradise Lost, and my favourite CD, Metallica’s Master Of Puppets, provide quite the contrast! As far as favourite DVD goes, The Force is still strong with The Empire Strikes Back more than four decades after its release.