My Working Day – Alison Chivers – Corporate Partners at Trowers & Hamlins LLP

My Working Day

As the leader of a company, you are there to set an example, to lead and inspire a team individuals to achieve a series of business goals. But how do these business leaders go about their daily routine?

Business Leader spoke to Alison Chivers – Corporate Partners at Trowers & Hamlins LLP about her working day.

What time do you usually wake up?

I normally wake up around 5:45am, but if it’s particularly dark outside or raining I’m more likely to press the snooze button. I like to try and get to the office fairly early, as I find that I’m most efficient first thing in the morning before my inbox starts filling up with emails. Some people prefer coming into the office late and staying until late but I am much more relaxed if I feel like I’ve got a head start on the day.

What do you typically have for breakfast? I tend to have breakfast when I get to the office and it’s usually a yoghurt and some fruit and a large coffee. I am normally out with clients for lunch or in the evenings at least once a week, so I try to be good on those days and stay away from the bacon sandwiches in our excellent staff restaurant.

What is the rest of your morning routine before you start work?

Before leaving the house I feed my two cats but I don’t generally have time to do anything else before I rush out of the house and walk to the station. I will usually check my emails when I get to the station, then I read the newspaper on my iPad on the train.

Although I sit in front of my computer all day, if I don’t read the news first thing in the morning I can be so involved in my work that I could leave the office 10 hours later and realise that I am not up to speed with what has happened in the world. It’s important for me to keep on top of business news so that I can spot any trends that might be of interest to my clients.

What is the first thing you do at the start of your working day? How do you prioritise your day’s work?

I work predominantly for UK based mid-market private equity firms, investing in the health and care sector. Most of my work is transactional (i.e. my clients are either investing in, buying or selling a business) and, as you approach completion, deals of this nature can sometimes become more complex.

The most important thing for me at the start of any day is to make sure the associates in my team know what their objectives are for the day and what, collectively, we need to get done. On a large deal it is about teamwork and making sure that everyone is pulling in the same direction, so that we can hit the transaction timetable for our clients. I am a big fan of to-do lists and will generally put that together first thing in the morning, then speak to the associates on the deal team to allocate tasks and set appropriate deadlines.

Once that is done, I will start work, typically concentrating on the things that need input from a third party first – as although you can dictate your own timetable you have to appreciate that other people have their own independent deadlines and I try really hard not to be the person that drops something urgent on someone else at 5pm on a Friday.

Do you plan meetings or are they a waste of time?

I think meetings are important, especially when we have a large team working on a particular transaction – it’s really important that all members of the team know what each other is doing, so we can make sure that nothing is missed. I also think that from a client care and business generation perspective, meetings can be really helpful as a forum for generating and discussing ideas and new initiatives.

The way that corporate transactions are conducted has changed over time; now I can complete entire transactions and never have a face-to-face meeting with the client (although I talk to them and email them regularly. I think that in terms of relationship building, nothing beats a face-to-face meeting and at the end of the day our business is all about people.

As the saying goes, people don’t do business with companies, they do business with people, and maintaining close relationships with our clients is the most important part of what we do.

Do you have a working lunch or is it good to take a break?

This really varies from day to day based on meetings, workloads and client commitments. I try, if I can, to take a break away from my desk as that helps me to concentrate better in the afternoon.

When does your working day finish?

As a corporate lawyer there is no set routine, which is one of the parts of my job that I love the most. When we are working on closing a big transaction, the whole team can find themselves working longer hours – so I’m lucky that all of my colleagues at Trowers & Hamlins are genuinely nice people who want to help each other and there is a good atmosphere in the office.

Although some days can be challenging, there is nothing like the sense of achievement when a deal completes. On a day when we are not gearing up for a completion, I try to leave the office by about 7:30pm, so I’m home in time to unwind for a couple of hours before bed.

How do you prepare for the next day’s work?

I couldn’t survive without my to-do list and I regularly send myself diary appointments so that I don’t forget things. I try to reply to all of my “quick” emails on the same day as I receive them, otherwise they can end up getting lost at the bottom of the pile.

I think responsiveness is such an important part of good client care and one of the best things about Trowers & Hamlins is that we really like to make all of our clients feel valued. Having said that, if I can’t reply to someone on the same day, I will leave a post-it note on my computer screen reminding me to make sure I go back to them first thing in the morning.

What’s your favourite piece of technology?

Perhaps controversially, I would say my blackberry – I love the fact that we can now work remotely, pick up emails and work on the move. When I was a trainee, people used to spend hours in the office in the evening, waiting for an email to come in from a client or a lawyer on the other side; now people can go home and pick up those emails outside of the office. This makes such a difference to work-life balance and to quality of life.

Generally, lawyers need to be responsive and may need to reply to emails at the weekends and in the evenings, but in my experience, the benefits of being able to work flexibly outside of the office, really helps this process.

How do you switch off?

I love reading and read books on my commute home from the office, which helps me unwind at the end of the day. Aside from that, I regularly take up new hobbies – I’m currently trying my hand at tennis, but I don’t think that I will be leaving the law to take it up professionally any time soon.

Best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Don’t speak just for something to say.

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