In our 60 second interview series, Citywealth speaks to Suzanne Kingston, a consultant for Mills & Reeve about the importance of possessing a ‘black book’ of trusted advisors and embarking on a new challenge, a cheese and wine half marathon.
Tell me about your role.
I am a family lawyer. I see myself as a dispute resolver; I help the client to deal with their particular situation in whichever way is best for them. Sometimes that means that I am involved in heavyweight litigation on their behalf and spend days in court. In other cases, I may be negotiating in a round table meeting or helping the client as they go through a mediation process. I am an accredited mediator and arbitrator and have spearheaded family law arbitration in England and Wales. I am referred to in the Legal Directories as the “Queen of Mediation and Arbitration”.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I walk to work every day and like to get in early. I start the day by prioritising my to-do list but of course I am used to dealing with whatever the day brings. There is no such thing as a typical day, that’s the joy of the job. I may be in Court or mediating or arbitrating a case. I often have lengthy client meetings or conferences with Counsel as well as conference calls throughout the day. I sometimes meet contacts for lunch and attend team and firm meetings. I always have a number of projects on the go whether preparing teaching materials or helping with strategy for various organisations. I would like to say I go to the gym every evening but that’s more of an aspiration than reality.
Tell us about interesting client instructions.
I have acted for all sorts of people over the last three decades. Some clients have been major celebrities where the key feature of the case has not only been family law but issues of press reporting or confidentiality; I have been involved in numerous pre-nuptial agreements often spanning 4 or 5 jurisdictions and my role as the lead solicitor has been reaching a consensus and drafting one document that reflects all of the requisite points from each of the jurisdictions. I always have a number of cases in which I am mediating and more recently have been involved in both children and financial arbitrations as arbitrator. I have acted for trustees advising them on family law issues and have thoroughly enjoyed working with colleagues in all other teams of the firm.
What challenges do your clients face and how are you helping your clients to overcome them?
In the family law context the challenges are diverse. Some people wish to treat their divorce as a business transaction and leave all emotion out of the room. For others, they find the emotional component overwhelming. Each client is different and needs to be treated as such. I am always fascinated by how many different areas of law a divorce/cohabitation case may span, we often need experts in relation to property, property valuation, corporate structuring, tax and trusts, partnership, insolvency and so really knowing all of the best people to assist your clients in relation to all of these aspects is crucial. Further, more generally in the private client world we often connect with Independent Financial Advisors / Pension Experts / Actuaries / Wealth Managers / Accountants and so again having a “black book” of appropriate trusted advisors is crucial.
What is your proudest professional achievement?
I am proud of the fact that I have spearheaded family law arbitration in England and Wales and have helped other jurisdictions set up their family arbitration schemes. I have really enjoyed being at the cutting edge of development of family law. Also I have met some truly inspirational people along the way many of whom I can call good friends, I feel genuinely lucky.
What do you consider to be the most important attributes for a leader?
Leading by example and having the sort of personality where people will want to engage with you and be around you. Also, I think it is great if you happen to be a visionary and have creative skills.
Who do you most admire and why?
I really admire Nelson Mandela for his tenacity and sense of justice.
Where was the last place you travelled to for work or pleasure?
Bit of both. I went to Cape Town to help the South African lawyers with their family law arbitration project but managed to have a few days on the beach as well.
If you weren’t in the wealth management industry, what else might you be doing?
In days gone by I would love to have been a ski instructor but not so sure about my knees now.
How do you relax after a long day?
I have recently signed up for a half marathon so although it is not very relaxing I have taken to doing ever increasing runs, don’t worry it’s a cheese and wine marathon so there will definitely be some socialising too.