Andrew Spiers is a Senior Associate at LCN Legal. He has extensive experience of a wide range of corporate legal work.
As we speak you’ve been at LCN Legal for about a month; has the reality matched your expectations?
To be honest, it has exceeded them. Everyone has been fantastic, and the work is really interesting. So I can’t ask for more.
LCN takes its culture and values very seriously: seeing people as people, and really supporting them. Have you felt that yet?
Very much so. I think a lot of firms talk the right talk, but its often mostly lip service. At LCN it’s more than that: they back it up with actions. They want to look after you, and I think that's a fantastic way to approach work and your people.
Was the legal profession a vocation for you? When did you first think about being becoming a lawyer?
I had two years out after college, before university, and I had various offers from universities to do business management or finance. Business is something I've always been very interested in – as you’d expect from someone who became a corporate lawyer – but some form of business management role never fully ticked the box in terms of what I wanted to do.
Then over that gap year I spoke to various people, and the idea of going into law came up. I'd never studied it at GCSE or A-level, but it sounded like it would be a good fit for me. So I applied to do law at university, which, looking back, was a bit of a risk.
A few family members tried to discourage me, pointing out that I’d never studied law before but, as cliché as it sounds, from that first lecture at law school, which was on contract law I think, it immediately clicked. I instantly knew this was for me.
So I got through law school, then I trained at a single-office commercial law firm. Despite them being fairly small, the firm considerably punched above its weight and had a number of really good lawyers. I was very lucky, having the opportunity to be trained from the start by some excellent lawyers, and to have exposure to some really fantastic corporate deals.
On qualification, I moved to a large national firm. At the time, this gave me the best of both worlds – I had the benefits that came with being at a bigger firm but, as the actual team I was in was fairly small, early on I was given responsibility and deal exposure far beyond my level of qualification. The team was based in the Midlands, but most of the deals we were working on were national or London-based, sometime with a cross-border element. This gave me exposure to different deal sizes, different deal structures and different markets.
What exactly was it about the law that clicked with you?
It's challenging. During my gap year I had a what I'd call ‘a proper job’ but I found it very disengaging, because it wasn't challenging. Whereas with law, it’s always evolving, there are always arguments on both sides of the discussion, and you get you apply your mind in a way which you don't really get in other jobs.
On top of that, you’re almost always involved in something substantial or significant. Otherwise people aren't going to be using lawyers. Fundamentally, it comes down to helping people – we are in the service industry and I’m very lucky to have the opportunity to help people on matters that are very important to them in my day-to-day job.
Are there any particular mentors or role models who've shaped your career so far?
There's a few. I was a trainee of a guy called Ed Nurse, who is a fantastic corporate lawyer. He gave me a really solid foundation of how to be a well-rounded corporate lawyer, both technically and in terms of approach. And then there’s Phil Baigent and Keith Gilbert, who both let me spread my wings while also being able to turn to them for guidance and support.
At various points, I've worked with people who've refined me and I’d like to think that I'm kind of the sum of everyone I've worked with.
I think it's important to try and take a little bit from everyone and also to never consider yourself to be the finished product, because there is always going to be someone who knows more than you do. There's always going to be someone who does something better than you do it. And I think if you're open to that, you can continue to develop and reach the upper echelons of what lawyering can be.
Before you joined LCN, had you done much work in transfer pricing, and intercompany agreements, or is that all quite new?
It is almost entirely new. My background is in M&A, private equity and group reorganisational work – which obviously LCN do as well. But I find transfer pricing to be very interesting and have been able to apply the skill set from my previous work. Transfer pricing involves the same mindset – it's just the knowledge base against which that mindset is applied that changes.
It's quite rare, although refreshing, particularly at the point I’m at in my career now, to have the opportunity to be exposed to a new area of work. it's also quite humbling, because you go from being someone who knows a lot about their specialist areas to someone who is largely inexperienced. That being said, I’m lucky enough to have some real experts around me showing me the ropes and bringing me up to speed.
Is it more fun to be at the lower and steeper end of a learning curve?
Yes, and I think it's very satisfying as well. The development curve is so vertical when you start learning something new. You start off knowing very little, and then after your first project you’ve increased your knowledge and understanding in magnitudes.
Where do you see things going in the corporate world and the business world over the next few years?
It's an interesting question. I think that with reorganisations and transfer pricing work, the market will always be there, just because tax is an inevitability.
In terms of the wider corporate world, there is uncertainty, but that’s almost become the norm over the last few years. First we had Brexit then we had Covid. I remember when Covid first came into focus and the corporate world collectively held its breath, budgets were cut, targets were lowered, but nevertheless everybody continued to perform really well. And that – going on my personal experience and the people I’ve spoken to – has continued. So I think the market is very resilient.
Looking back on your career to date, what achievement are you most proud of?
I've been lucky enough to work on some really significant transactions, and some which are fairly well known outside the business world. One in particular is a transaction for Carlsberg that took place towards the start of Covid. It was a fantastic deal for a fantastic client but the deal with very challenging, particularly with the ongoing issues that Covid was presenting – remote working was entirely new, for example. That was a couple of years ago now but I’m still very proud that, notwithstanding everything that was going on in the wider world, we were able to deliver what was an incredibly complex deal… I’m proud to have my name against that one.
What do you think your ideal job would be now if you hadn’t found law?
When I was at college, I was looking at becoming a doctor. But I decided that it wasn’t for me. I didn’t want to be giving people bad news about their health etc. But I think that if I could have an alternate life, I'd quite like to be a vet, which I appreciate suffers all the drawbacks with being a doctor!
But I'm a big fan of animals: I think there's kind of a pureness and wholesomeness to them. And being able to help them, I think that would be fantastic. That being said, I don't think I would change anything if I could. I love my job, and I love how my job really complements how my mind works and my understanding of things. And ultimately – it sounds cliché, but having the opportunity to help people and make a positive impact on people's lives is a privilege. That is the heart of where I get my job satisfaction from.
What do you do to relax? What are your hobbies?
Music is the undercurrent of everything I do when I'm trying to relax. I enjoy listening to it, I enjoy making it and I enjoy playing it, and it's always there when I'm doing my other hobbies.
I'm very much into going to the gym, lifting weights, and I will always be listening to music in a whole range of genres at the same time.
I'm also into photography. I'll often go on hikes to find a perfect spot to get a shot of a sunset etc. and, music will keep me motivated when I’m exhausted from exploring.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
That’s very tricky…I'd say I'm focused. I think that applies both to my day-to-day work, and also just the way I approach life. If I see something, I'll go for it and if you miss, you’ve still probably somewhere better than you were before.
The second one is calm. When you’re a lawyer, there’s always going to be challenges and unforeseen issues will arise. A lawyer shouldn’t be phased by this sort of thing, it's our “bread and butter”, it’s our job to fix problems for other people. If you’re someone who gets knocked back when issues arise, you’re always going to be stressed and that’s not good for yourself or good for clients.
I think if you’re calm, you’ll perform better but you’ll also help instil a calmness on clients and the rest of your team.
And then I'd say, creative. I like to think outside the box and try to come up with perspectives or ideas that may be a little bit lateral, and that people haven't necessarily considered yet.
Which actor should play you in the movie of your life story?
That's a really tricky one.
I'm seeing a little bit of Vin Diesel, if I can say that…
I could go with that. Him or Jason Statham. I've recently shaved my head, and they a both cool guys and into their fitness so I think either would work.
Who would be your ideal guests at your dream dinner party?
Someone I've always wanted to meet – and I want to stress that I'm not a Manchester United fan – is Alex Ferguson. Particularly now that he's retired. I think maybe he's softened a little bit. Clearly he was hugely driven in his career, and was able to get the best out of people. I'm not necessarily thinking that his way of doing things would be my approach, because I think he was fairly hard on people. But I would love to know his approach to management: how he's dealt with issues, and just his general ethos.
Another guy I'm a big fan of Louis Theroux. I’m sure that given all of the work he’s done in his documentaries, there'd be some absolutely fascinating stories.
Two very different approaches. If Alex Ferguson is the steel fist then Louis Theroux is the velvet glove.
Exactly. It would be interesting to see how they interacted with each other.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I would say that one of the benefits of being a legal career is that the path of becoming a lawyer and progressing up the ranks is so well trodden, and so clearly defined in front of you. To a large extent you know exactly what your next step is. Go to law school, get your training contracts, get an NQ job, get promoted, get promoted, hopefully one day you make partner.
Unlike careers where you have to think, what's my next step? Am I going to have to take a lateral move into a different industry? You don't necessarily have to do that with law.
But on the flip side, it's really easy to become entirely focused on your next step at all times. And as much as I think it's very important to know where you're going and have your aim and always be working towards it, it's so easy – and I know I've been guilty of this – to forget that just a few months ago you would have been absolutely delighted to be where you are now.
So I would say: “It's absolutely right to be focused. Don't lose your drive; it gets you where you are. But don't forget to enjoy where you’ve already got to.”
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