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Finalist Interview: Tammy Samuel

Introducing the Solicitor of the Year – Private Practice Shortlist: Q & A with Tammy Samuel, Partner at Stephenson Harwood LLP

What do you enjoy most about working in commercial and regulatory rail matters?

There are many things that I enjoy about my work, but a couple of specific things to mention:

  1. Sector focus: I enjoy working within the rail sector and having that as a focus. This allows me to be integrated into the industry, to understand what is going on commercially and politically and also to provide thought leadership on where the industry should go next; and
  2. Wide range of work: I am not limited by one practice area and instead provide a broad range of support for my clients across a number of practice areas (bringing in experts as required). For example, this can mean that within a usual week I could be doing one or more of a multi-£m rolling stock supply agreement, a large commercial dispute, competition related concerns/issues, a real estate transaction, data protection and/or more general commercial advice. This keeps the work very interesting and gives me a very broad overview of what is on the desk of my clients.
What is your background before working at Stephenson Harwood LLP?

I have been a qualified lawyer for 21 years this year, having training at Freshfields (where I worked for 7 years) and then moving on to Dentons (for 10 years and where I initially made partner). I originally qualified as a corporate lawyer, focussing on mergers and acquisitions and came across railways work by accident. My initial exposure to rail work was advising London Underground and the Government in the PPP transaction for LUL maintenance. I then started to look at rail franchising in the early years following rail privatisation. With the partner that I worked with at Freshfields, we set up the first rail team at the firm to pursue railways mandates and as I became more interested in railways, I moved to Dentons which also had an established rail team. At Dentons, I did a mix of rail work and large projects work (including roads, defence, nuclear power, wind farms and combined heat and energy) and was made a partner at 11 years PQE. I moved to Stephenson Harwood 6.5 years ago as a partner in Finance to galvanise the rail practice and establish a commercial and regulatory practice to compliment the finance work that the firm already did. Since being at SH, I have focussed solely on railways work and am delighted that the practice is recognised now as one of the best rail practices.

What is your ultimate goal for the successful outcome of a transaction?

My team and I pride ourselves on giving focussed advice in a commercial context, with specific industry advice. We are responsive and can get transactions done quickly and efficiently. The ultimate goes for the successful outcome in a transaction is to get to completion achieving the objectives of our clients, within the fee estimates and/or fixed fees that we have quoted. Happy clients make a happy Stephenson Harwood team!

What is the most rewarding work you have undertaken in your career?

One area that I find very rewarding is rolling stock procurement work. I act in different transactions for the manufacturers/maintainers of rolling stock, financiers or those buying the rolling stock (be that private or public sector). Transactions take around 12-18 months from initial bid to contract signature and then once the contract is signed, the trains take around 2 years to manufacture before they are introduced onto the network. It is really exciting seeing trains running around on the rail network that I have been involved in the contracts for and seeing the difference that they make to the travelling public.

Making the step from solicitor to partner: what are your top tips for succeeding in this move?
  1. There is no rush: partnership can take different people different lengths of time to achieve. A career is a long term investment and you could be a partner for a very long time, so don’t rush to get there or give up if you haven’t made it at the “requisite time” or in the same length of time as your peers.
  2. Make friends: to be a partner you have to have a business or the prospect of having your own clients. Lawyers often get overwhelmed by what this means and how they can possibly achieve this. The term “business development” causes chills to run down their spine. My tip is to make friends with people that you like – from clients, from other law firms, from within your own firm. You will be surprised that some of these connections may lead to business opportunities in the future and one day you’ll realise that many of your connections have also moved up within their organisations.
  3. Be organised and systematic: Being a partner requires a great deal of organisation and prioritisation. If you are not already, spend some time working on how organised you are to make sure that you can balance many competing needs and still have a life!
  4. Learn from others: partnership is often seen as the end of the road – but it is actually just the beginning of another, different kind of career and job. Learn from other partners around you. Find a mentor or coach within or outside of your firm, someone you can bounce ideas off and work together. Involve others in the development of the business and be generous with your time with other partners in their business development. We all work better when we work together.