Corporate and Commercial Solicitor

Number of lawyers in team: 112

Legal directory rankings: 9

Q&A with corporate and commercial lawyer, JP Irvine who joined in 2017 from Translink Group where he was General Counsel

How would you describe the Corporate & Commercial team and your colleagues in this area?

The team is cool, helpful, and full of a wide mix of lawyers and personalities. One of the really good things is that no matter what weird and wonderful client matter you are working on, there will always be a lawyer in the crew who has been there, done that and bought the t-shirt. For example, I have come across forfeitures of shares, New Zealand to UK Flips, US venture capital reverse-vesting clauses, simple-agreements-for-future-equity (which are anything but simple), and on each occasion there has been a colleague with experience to speak to. Work in 2020 on Rishi Sunak’s Future Fund (convertible loan notes) has been particularly fun and collegiate. I know of at least 5 other colleagues who got in touch, swapped notes, asked for my help with British Business Bank contacts I have, and shared their learnings around completing these Covid-response investments in UK companies.

With the support team based in a different location to you, how have you found this and how does it compare to a traditional firm?

I am based in Belfast most of the time but have needed support from Central Office and Nasstar (the outsourced IT support provider) from different time zones when I have been working abroad. I am pleased to report that wherever in the world I have been, every single software, system and access issue has been dealt with perfectly by the team in London, no matter what time of day or night it was.

How did your clients feel about your move? Has the way you worked with them changed and where/how do you meet with them?

I had zero clients when I began my Keystone Life, coming from 10 years in-house, so my clients I have acquired over the past 3 years have known no different to the way I work now. They expect me to be constantly on the move, perhaps meeting them in some chic hotel or trendy coffee shop when we need to meet face to face, or in Chancery Lane when in London. Overall my tech-focussed and modern client base do not expect office meetings these days, nor do they expect a suit when we do have a meeting.

How did you get to meet other lawyers in Corporate & Commercial and other practice areas? How quickly did you do this?

Being regional and separated by the Irish Sea from most colleagues, I make a point of getting involved, coming to London, meeting people at and outside CPD events so that I feel properly part of the Corporate & Commercial team and the Keystone family. Very happy to say that every effort and input a new lawyer pays forward into meeting, out-reaching and getting to know others pays off very quickly. Using my days in London from early morning to late at night by meeting people for a face-to-face coffee or attending an industry event with colleagues is worth its weight in gold. And besides all that, it’s a heck of a lot of fun.

Do you ever refer work to colleagues and is there any benefit in doing so?

I started off being a beneficiary and recipient of lots of work from colleagues who grew to know, trust and like (the famous KTL test they teach at Harvard) me. But as my own network has grown, especially in the new-tech and start-up worlds, it has spun out more and more instructions for colleagues. Certainly, over the past 6 months I have been a net giver of new work rather than a taker, which is a nice position to be in. Again, you need a very clear circle of trust that comes with time, before placing work and client relationships in the hands of others. But the benefit to the client of cross-Keystone relationships is huge, and this in turn benefits the firm and our model exponentially. One client owns a range of sports and gym businesses which has spun out at least six new deals and matters, some worth £multi-million deals across property, franchising, M&A, family law and general commercial.

Do you personally pay for any membership or subscriptions that are not covered by the firm that are essential for your area of work? If you do, what are they?

I pay for Institute of Director membership because they have superb networks of interesting people and potential clients. Plus their business-focussed CPD and seminars are amazing. I was paying for MBL web seminars myself until the firm kindly created an MBL hub that covered everyone’s online training needs. These are truly excellent resources that help every lawyer brush up. One thing I have learned is that you never stop learning in this job, and if you do, there is something wrong and you need to change something up. Some of the best professionals I know take at least 2 hours, reading, learning, mapping areas of law that they want to know more about.

Is there anything else that you pay for which is not covered by the firm and which a new lawyer should budget for?

The investment in travel and time which we all have to make in our own way. Sounds simple but is often overlooked by some. It probably costs me more than most (living in NI) to get to London 10–12 times a year, stay in hotels, take clients and colleagues to dinners and lunches – but I enjoy and value every penny spent on building richer, deeper, better relationships. (Plus it’s a nice way to “work” and get a rest from my 3 kids back at the ranch). I also try to see clients in Dublin, Bristol and Manchester too, which adds to the time and costs away from the desk.

How would you describe the social life at Keystone? Are there any events or highlights from events that you are happy to share?

It is genuinely exceptional. I have been a consultant for other firms and business models and nothing comes close to Keystone’s social scene. To have monthly top-quality drinks nights is one thing; to have occasional quiz nights, museum trips, horse riding, ski trips, golfing days, and super parties is a total bonus on another level. Hats off to the generosity and fun which the management team bring to these initiatives. Long may it continue.

Has your life changed since moving to Keystone and if so, how?

The French Revolution motto, “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité” is the way I would sum it up. It has been liberating. It has been an equality of colleagues not concerned with rank, and it has been a true fraternity. It has been an education and it has been fun.

For me especially, I have cultivated a very good client base and have had some lucky breaks along the way. The thing with luck, as US entrepreneur Jesse Itzler says, “Luck does not just happen. You need to put yourself in to positions where luck will find you”. I worked really hard in 2018 and then had a tremendously fortunate year in 2019: I got offered lots of work which took me to Bermuda, Fiji (the week before Christmas), Los Angeles, Dubai and Kuala Lumpur. All 1st-class travel and all 5-star hotels. But aside from the international gigs, the day to day has been amazing as well.

I couldn’t recommend the firm, its opportunities and its people any higher.

What advice would you give to a Corporate & Commercial lawyer thinking of joining Keystone?

Be brave, be bold, back yourself to try your best and give your first year 100% effort. If you do this, the chances are that you will establish roots at Keystone that will benefit you and your family for years to come. In this way you can revolutionise your life.