Le bon endroit, le bon moment : Pourquoi Katherine Evans pense qu'il est parfois préférable d'être chanceux plutôt qu'intelligent.

After graduating from the University of Cambridge, Katherine initially pursued a career in marketing and business development, before re-training to become a lawyer in her mid-twenties. After completing articles with Eversheds, she joined specialist shipbuilding practice, Mills & Co., where she remained until joining the international law group of the US telecommunications giant, AT&T in 1997.

Katherine held a number of positions within the AT&T international legal group, including as lead lawyer for AT&T’s international outsourcing business, before leaving at the end of 2006 to form Legal Hobbit, the predecessor practice to Mirkwood Evans Vincent.

As well as being a technology lawyer, marketing expert, and all around world traveller, Katherine Evans remains a philosopher at heart, who recognises that “sometimes it’s better to be lucky than to be smart”. Katherine is referring to the fact that she was one of those fortunate individuals who was at a junior stage of her career during an extraordinary epoch in history – at the very moment people across the world were discovering mobile phones and logging onto a new invention called the internet. It was perfect timing. Katherine could see there was a sea change about to happen in technology and telecommunications and she made it her business to ride on the crest of that wave.

These days the right place for Katherine is a small legal practice involving herself and her business partner, with office locations in London, Worcestershire and Brighton.   Katherine practices commercial and corporate law, with a strong focus on the technology and telecommunications industries worldwide. Her impressive client base includes multinational corporations, technology start ups and venture capitalists, while her international focus has made her a natural choice for foreign businesses looking to expand or raise finance in the UK, as well as UK businesses looking to trade worldwide.

The Cambridge philosopher

In her final year of studying Philosophy at Cambridge, Katherine took and passed the Civil Service Exams, but instead of joining the Foreign Office as she had originally planned, she decided to take some time off to write a book on Philosophy, which was subsequently published and is still used as a philosophy textbook in the UK and on liberal arts courses across the USA.

“I actually became a lawyer by accident,” Katherine smiles. “I took a job as a marketing manager with a company which imported Belgian chocolates into the UK, because it gave me a day off during the week to go up to Sussex University and do research for my book. The company had a flagship shop in the Lanes in Brighton, and I spent time there arranging meetings with the managers of the hotels in the area and talking to the customers who came into the shop. One of those regular customers (let’s call him Jo) came in most days for his chocolate fix, complaining about the torrid time he was having with his divorce attorney, allegedly paying alimony to his ex-wife and maintenance for his children even though two of those children were living with him and his wife earned more than he did”. Believing that what was really going on stemmed from the discriminatory assumption that women were somehow inferior beings who needed constant care from a man, Katherine’s sense of justice was inflamed and she asked Jo to get the files from his solicitor so that she could have a look at them.

“I run about 10km at least twice during the week and then again at weekends. It’s an ideal life and really suits me. I actually live on the edge of a nature reserve – so I have a beautiful place to run right on my doorstep. How lucky is that?”

The files she received included what she describes as “reams of mind-numbing letters that appeared to be heading into a legal cul de sac; an endless litany of legal Q&As going nowhere. There were literally hundreds and hundreds of legal letters but nothing ever really seemed to be moving on the case and Jo was paying this lawyer £60 a week, which was a lot in those days”.

Katherine started writing letters to the other side’s solicitors as though they were from Jo. After four years of going nowhere, it took less than two months to work out and document what in Katherine’s opinion was a fair and reasonable solution for both parties. Since this “fair and reasonable solution” was not accepted by the other side’s solicitors, Katherine needed to apply for a court hearing and find (a) a jobbing barrister to appear in court to represent the solution she had proposed; and (b) a solicitor to act as a postbox to instruct that barrister (because public access barristers were not a thing in the UK in the 1980s). When the judge’s decision came back in Jo’s favour, Katherine had what she refers to as a “light bulb moment”: “I thought this legal stuff seemed really easy and I could be really good at it, and so I decided to retrain as a lawyer.”

Katherine’s first husband had just got his dream job as an education adviser for Newcastle Upon Tyne Education Authority, and so Katherine followed him North and signed up to do a graduate’s law conversion class in the evenings at Newcastle Polytechnic,” whilst working during the day as a paralegal in a general practice law firm in Whitley Bay on the Northumberland coast.

Divorce Law versus Commercial Law

Katherine soon realised that Divorce Law (the main reason she had decided to retrain as a lawyer) was not going to work as a long term career option. “I just wanted to knock these people’s heads together,” she recalls. “I listened to people in my office calling hell out of their soon to be former partner/spouse with their children in the room with them. Can you imagine what that sort of thoughtless behaviour does to a child?  After one particularly horrible meeting with a client who seemed utterly oblivious to their traumatised offspring, the lawyer I was working for must have seen the murderous look in my eye, and suggested I’d make more money and feel less vengeful towards my clients if I made the switch to commercial law.”

Shortly afterwards, Katherine took a job as marketing assistant with Ingledew Botterell, the practice which was about to become the Newcastle firm in the new Eversheds national law practice, with the promise that if she helped with the marketing initiative to promote the Eversheds message, she could start her articles with them as soon as she had completed her academic legal studies. Katherine duly completed her articles with Eversheds and then moved to work at Mills & Co, a specialist shipbuilding practice headed up by a fiery tempered former partner from Eversheds Newcastle, who had allegedly accused his former partners of aspiring to be “part of the legal equivalent of a McDonalds fast food outlet”.

Right place, right time

A few years later, armed with an excellent grounding in contract law and a boss who had stressed intellectual rigour and independent thought as the principal moral virtues, Katherine joined telecoms giant AT&T in 1997. Suddenly, and fortuitously, she found herself at the forefront of the tech revolution.

“I always made it my business to understand the technology underlying new services and how those services would be delivered, because I knew that I could not give the right advice to my clients about what regulations would apply in which countries if I did not really understand how these novel services actually worked in practice. I started networking the old fashioned way, ringing up the British embassy in each country my clients wanted to do business in, making contacts with people and making sure that my clients had the right regulatory approvals for what they were proposing to do.”

Telecoms and technology

After leaving to form her own practice, Katherine’s work with telecoms and technology companies, brought her to the attention of venture capitalists and private equity professionals eager to do business in these new and emerging industry sectors. Soon some of those venture capitalists and angel investors asked Katherine to start acting for business clients across a wider range of industries because they realised before she did that the skills which make a good technology lawyer also translated well to other business sectors.

In 2010, Katherine was joined by her partner Corinne Vincent, a specialist commercial property lawyer, who she had known since childhood. Katherine works largely from one floor of her home in Worcestershire, which she converted into office space, while Corinne has since opened a busy office in Brighton. They are a very small firm with an enviable client base including long standing UK and international clients and referrals.

“I started networking the old fashioned way, ringing up the British embassy in each country my clients wanted to do business in, making contacts with people and making sure that my clients had the right regulatory approvals for what they were proposing to do.”

Katherine admits the structure of the business is ideal for her in terms of work/life balance. She can train lawyers in her office until they are experienced enough to work from home at least some of the time, and she has no commute to work. Katherine actively selects lawyers who want to work in a particular way. “They need to embrace the ideal of doing something different every day and not being scared to do careful research to find the right answer. I don’t want lawyers who just want to do the same safe thing day after day. They also need to be comfortable with their own company. Some lawyers want to be in a busy office environment but we need to be honest that we don’t offer that.” Outside of work, Katherine likes to run. “I run about 10km at least twice during the week and then again at weekends. It’s an ideal life and really suits me. I actually live on the edge of a nature reserve – so I have a beautiful place to run right on my doorstep. How lucky is that?”