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- Sheena SoodSenior Partner, London
I am the Senior Partner of Beale & Co. My role involves advising clients on a number of different issues including contentious construction, professional negligence and health and safety.
Another significant part of my role involves working alongside colleagues in the leadership team in leading the strategy and direction of the firm and management of various issues internally. I have an external facing role representing the firm with a significant part of my time spent on business development.
I grew up in West London with my parents and three siblings. My parents emigrated from India to the United Kingdom in the 1960s, and both worked full time. I attended a local comprehensive school up to A-levels and had a number of Saturday/summer jobs throughout my education. My parents stressed the importance of education to us from an early age and this is a value which has stayed with me to this day.
My father was called to the Bar in London and completed a pupillage but never obtained a position with Chambers. It was his desire to forge a career in law and untimely death which largely inspired me to pursue a legal career. My interest in the law also came from volunteering at my local Citizen’s Advice Bureau which I found to be really valuable work experience. During school, I was accepted into Brunel University to study computer science. However, at the last minute, encouraged by my family, I requested my course to be changed to law and this was luckily accepted! I owe so much to the unfailing support of my mum through my education and beyond.
My law degree at Brunel University was a thin sandwich LLB course and involved working in industry for 3 summers out of the 4 years of the course. The first industry experience I gained was working within the legal department of the London Borough of Hounslow for 6 months. Working with its dedicated lawyers on child protection issues was eye opening. I then sought to obtain experience in a private practice law firm which I discovered was difficult, especially with no links to the legal industry. I wrote letters to a number of different firms requesting work experience placements. Of the letters I wrote only two law firms responded, one of which was Beale & Co which then offered me a (paid!) placement. During this placement and subsequent placements with them, I worked closely with Antony Smith on contentious construction work, gaining great experience. This is where I gained an interest in the construction industry. I particularly enjoyed helping clients to get disputes solved and the ‘highs and lows’ of litigation. Mainly the highs! The skills required go beyond pure legal knowledge.
I was offered articles (a training contract!) in 1990 and went on to qualify in 1992. I have stayed at the firm since qualification and so have been working at Beale & Co for almost 30 years! One of the key reasons why I enjoy working at the firm are the people and the clients I work with. I also enjoy the many different internal business aspects to my role as well as the external aspects of business development. The day job is incredibly varied, mentally challenging and interesting.
One of the ongoing challenges I have found with working in the legal industry is achieving a good work life balance. I have two children Shania and Ash and, whilst by no means easy, through the support of my colleagues and my husband Sanjay, I was able to both progress at the firm and raise a family. I believe they have benefitted from seeing me go out to work and progress in my career whilst at the same time being there for them and having them as my absolute priority.
My advice to those embarking on their careers is to listen hard and learn from others, to always maintain a professional approach with colleagues, clients and all others you interact with along the way and, above all, to be yourself.
- Amanda NortonCompliance Manager, London Office
I am the Compliance Manager at Beale & Co. My role involves ensuring the firm is compliant with regulatory and statutory obligations. This includes advising the firm on SRA requirements, anti-money laundering regulations and data protection rules.
I grew up in the West Midlands with my parents, sister and brother. My father was a dentist and my mother was a trained secretary. My parents got married in 1965 and this is when my mother stopped working in order raise the family.
I attended a local state school up to O-Levels (now GCSEs). When it came to choosing my A-level subjects, I did not really know what career I wanted to pursue. So, instead, I focused on choosing subjects which interested me and these were English, History and Mathematics. I studied these A-Levels at my local 6th form college.
After A-levels I went to Hull University to study a degree in American Studies. This combined literature, history, politics and involved a year studying abroad at an American University. I was lucky enough to go to the University of California which was a really valuable experience, albeit a bit of a culture shock! It felt like a different world as there was no internet or email back then and there were also time delays on the phone lines whenever I called home.
After university, I still did not know what I wanted to do, so I decided to train as a Chartered Accountant at PKF, qualifying in 1996. In 1997, I joined the Law Society as an Investigation Accountant. The team I worked with eventually became part of the Solicitors Regulation Authority (“SRA”).
After a number of years, and by now a mother of two, I moved to the Regulatory Management team within the SRA, which conducts regulatory oversight of the largest firms. As well as my regulatory work, I wanted to expand my personal development by training in coaching. During my spare time, I completed a training course at Warwick University and qualified in 2016. I found that coaching is a valuable way for me to help others in achieving their goals and reaching their potential.
After 20 years as a Regulator, I decided that it was time for me to move on to a different role. I then applied for the role of Compliance Manager at Beale & Co, joining the firm in June 2018. I wanted to use the regulatory and compliance knowledge I had gained throughout my career and apply it to a private practice law firm.
One of the main reasons why I enjoy working at Beale & Co is because there is a very supportive environment, which is largely due to the people at the firm. Additionally, I really enjoy the international aspect as it creates a whole new dimension to my role. I have had to learn how other jurisdictions operate in order to advise our Dubai and Dublin offices on compliance. Further, the firm has supported my flexible working arrangement with a 4-day working week, and has been hugely supportive as I am now also a carer after my husband suffered an acquired brain injury.
The area of legal compliance is increasingly becoming a specialism in its own right, and I would say to anyone considering a compliance role in a private practice law firm that, no day is ever the same. There are a steady stream of new regulations being introduced which require law firms to constantly adapt. This makes it an incredibly varied, interesting and diverse role.
- David MurphySolicitor, London
I am a Solicitor in the Contentious Construction team at Beale & Co. My role involves working alongside Partners and Senior Associates to advise clients on a variety of different construction disputes, which include arbitrations, adjudications and court proceedings.
I grew up in Hertfordshire, attending a local state school. At this stage, I did not contemplate that law was a feasible career option and focused mainly on sport at school – in particular cricket – whilst trying to balance this with academic studies.
I began studying Politics and Business Management at Loughborough University in 2008. From the start of university until September 2017, I was a professional cricketer at Northamptonshire County Cricket Club. I thoroughly enjoyed playing cricket, however after suffering some injuries in 2014, I began to explore other career options. Amongst a number of different work placements, I undertook some work experience at two law firms, which was stimulating, and a good introduction to the field.
I have found that many of the skills that I developed in my cricketing career dovetailed seamlessly into a career as a solicitor. I became used to working in a team environment, and operating under pressure. Through cricket, I also developed a competitive edge that can, at the appropriate times, be put to good use when working in disputes. During the years of cricket, I also became familiar with attending networking events, having hosted various tables and boxes with sponsors over the years, which I hope in time will help with business development.
I began studying the GDL part time in 2016 whilst continuing to play cricket full time and applying for training contracts. Beale & Co immediately stood out to me as being welcoming from the first interview and I certainly did not feel disadvantaged as a career-changer. In fact, throughout my interviews the firm was genuinely interested in hearing about my previous career and my experiences.
I began my training contract in Beale & Co’s London office in September 2018, and am very pleased to say that I recently qualified! During my training contract, I had the opportunity to attend a client secondment and spend one of my seats in the Dubai office assisting on and attending an arbitration, which were both great learning experiences.
One of the main reasons I enjoy working at Beale & Co is that trainees and newly qualified solicitors are given a high level of responsibility at an early stage. Even on large dispute cases, Partners will value your input on the strategy of the case, which assists your training and career development. There is also a great work/life balance and the firm is supportive should you be working longer hours due to an upcoming deadline for example. There are many opportunities to make a mark on the firm at the start of your career, ranging from writing articles on recent legal decisions, to organising presentations to other fee earners and clients.
To those seeking a career in the legal profession I would say that it is achievable and advise people to build a good rapport with other trainees/colleagues, ask plenty of questions and get used to working hard!
I am an Associate in the Dubai office of Beale & Co specialising in construction related international arbitration and dispute resolution.
My journey began in Kenya- a country raved for its natural beauty and wildlife. Though I did not appreciate its beauty until much later, as often happens with the place you call ‘home’.
From a young age, my parents drilled into us two things. First, the importance of education and to be in a constant state of learning. And second, the importance to do your best in every situation and every task. To this day I apply this philosophy not only in my career but also generally in life.
As much as my father was forward thinking and believed in education; he came from a society that believed that women had a certain place and a certain role to play. Although he encouraged me to excel in my education (which I did) he also encouraged me to pursue a career in accounting: he felt this would be a ‘manageable’ career for a woman especially when raising children. I, of course, had other plans.
Law brought my father’s dreams to a staggering halt. My first exposure to law came while I was following my father’s chosen path for me, that is, while studying business. I read a subject called Principles of Business Law and found ‘offer’, ‘acceptance’ and ‘misrepresentation’ to be concepts springing to life rather than dull numbers on a profit and loss account or trial balance. I was intrigued by the law.
I wanted to be a lawyer and decided I would do the LLB in the UK. My mother gave me her full support and so did my father once he came round to the idea. Inspired by the likes of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, I set out on this journey at 18 and flew to London. This was the first time that I would step out of the comfort of my home and the first time I would be alone: a milestone for a young woman from a conservative household.
Young and naïve, I did not fully appreciate the challenges that were yet to come. When I chose law, I forgot that Gandhi became a lawyer in 1891 a time when choosing this path was comparatively straightforward, whereas I chose this profession some 115 years later when there were requirements to complete vacation placements and apply to training contracts before you could qualify.
Once reality dawned, at every opportunity I sought work experience. While completing my first year of the LLB at Middlesex University (before transferring to the University of Kent where I graduated) I volunteered at Barnet Law Service in Hendon. Although it mostly involved round trips to the post office and manning the reception, it enabled me to gain an invaluable proximity to working with solicitors. Hungry for more, I resolved to gain some experience each holiday. This led me to work with law firms from across the world, including the UK, China, Kenya and the UAE.
University holidays for me meant time with family, time to apply for training contracts and time to gain work experience. By my calculations I was well placed to secure a training contract; or so I hoped.
In 2009 I found myself in London, training contract less (even though I applied to every possible firm) and visa less (the visa rules changed preventing me from extending my stay by a further 2 years) and amid a global recession.
Disconcerted but not defeated, I left the UK to come to Dubai. My younger sister was studying there at the time which made Dubai a viable option. Once in Dubai, I relentlessly applied to law firms and landed a position as a Trainee with Horizons & Co: a second milestone for a young lawyer.
At Horizons & Co, I was exposed to construction disputes in addition to the corporate and commercial work that I did. Although I was exposed to substantive work that a trainee would not normally be so early on in their career, my experience meant little to firms because I was not qualified. Realising this roadblock, after moving to Fenwick Elliott I studied the New York Bar and passed at the first attempt-my third milestone-I was now qualified.
I realised early on that I enjoyed dispute work (particularly construction disputes). I saw myself as an international arbitration lawyer and aspired to one day sit as an arbitrator. At Fenwick Elliott I had the opportunity to act as tribunal secretary for reputed arbitrators, this became my steppingstone to sitting as an arbitrator, my fourth milestone. I have now been acting as arbitrator for the past 4 years.
In 2017 I joined Beale & Co. I joined the firm because of its reputation in construction disputes and the collegial feel of the firm that I noticed during my interview. Sometimes, given the nature of the legal profession, the human element can be missed. But not at Beale & Co. We are human lawyers and that is what makes us sensitive to our client’s concerns and heightens our ability to make our client’s lives easier.
At Beale & Co I have been exposed to high value and complex construction disputes that has further developed my skills and experience. I expect that the firm can only move from height to height.
My advice to the next generation lawyers is to go into the profession with your eyes wide open. Nothing comes easy in life and the same holds true with a career in law. But with hard work comes reward: whatever you do don’t ever give up.
- Antony MarshChief Executive Officer, london
I am the Chief Executive Officer of Beale & Co. I have responsibility for the operation of what is a very vibrant international construction and insurance law firm.
A solicitor by training, I have been involved in managing law firms for around twenty years.
I grew up in Hednesford, a small mining town in Staffordshire, where I attended the local comprehensive school. Mum and Dad were devoted to their children and I’m eternally grateful to them for all their sacrifices.
Like all families, we were enchanted by trips to the seaside. In our case, Blackpool.
My Dad worked as an electrical fitter in a factory. He had a dream of running a guest house in Blackpool. In 1978 that dream became a reality when we pooled resources with my aunty and bought a twelve bedroomed property near to the Pleasure Beach (those twelve bedrooms were serviced by only two “bathrooms” — how times change!).
The move (over which my brother and I were given a veto) was not easy, by mid-way through the third year of senior school friendship groups were well established, and a new arrival complete with a broad Black Country accent did not easily fit.
Things soon improved though, and we had a fabulous time living permanently in what to us was such a magical place.
Summer jobs included sweeping the floor at the iconic Woolworths on the promenade (where a perk of the job was getting to eat any of the pick and mix that had “fallen” to the floor), selling ice-creams on the beach (where if the sun shone it was eight hours of hard graft, serving a never-ending queue, and if it didn’t, it was reading endless books and tucking into the gradually melting stock!), and collecting glasses in the town’s premier nightclub.
The move likely impacted my future career as an option to study A Level law (which wouldn’t have been possible had we stayed in the Midlands) first ignited my interest in that area.
I had an enjoyable time studying law at the University of Warwick, followed by a year at the College of Law in Chester.
Despite good grades, I found it difficult to land a trainee position. After registering with an agent, an opportunity to interview with Fishburn Boxer arose. I discovered subsequently that they had made a last-minute decision to recruit an additional trainee. I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. I seemed to hit it off with Clive Boxer, and a job offer followed.
Little did I know, but I had well and truly landed on my feet. On our first day, the trainees were tasked with finding out what their mates at other law firms were earning. After consulting with friends, and friends of friends, and friends of friends of friends….. we had our answer. Mr Boxer promptly matched it – he wanted us to feel special – the best paid lawyers in the City! A secondment to anywhere in the world (in my case Chicago) followed at the end of the training period.
Far more importantly, I found myself amongst a bunch of kind and talented people.
On my return from Chicago in 1992 I was given a case that was to take over my life for the next three years and provide the most amazing experiences, culminating in a fifty-one-day trial and the most spectacular of success for our clients.
I became a Partner in 1995, and by 2002 I was Managing Partner of the kind and talented bunch mentioned earlier. In 2004 our Senior Partner departed, and I was honoured to be asked to take on that role too. Being re-elected in 2007 and 2010 was my personal highlight.
A merger in 2013 seemed the sensible thing to do, despite me knowing that my personal role would in time be much diminished.
In 2018 the opportunity arose for me to join Beale & Co. Again, I landed on my feet, another bunch of kind and talented people.
As I reflect on my career to date, I am struck by how big a part good fortune has played. In terms of advice for others, I would suggest:
1. Have fun wherever you can, it helps you and it helps those you interact with. Life is for enjoying.
2. Make sure you come across as organised, it enables others to have confidence in you.
3. Remember that the trust of others is so important, and that is gained by actions not words.
4. Wherever you can, surround yourself with talented people.
5. Do your best to make everyone feel special.
Finally, although I have had a successful and fulfilling career to date, I find myself thinking from time to time how I haven’t done anything half as radical as my Dad did following his dream all those years ago. It makes me immensely proud of him.