BEING A LITIGATOR “WHAT I’D TELL A YOUNGER ME”: SUE HARRIS – DIRECTOR AT WALKER MORRIS

For this interview we move to Yorkshire, more specifically to Leeds and the offices of Walker Morris. Sue Harris is one of those energetic people who do a tremendous amount outside their work.  A litigator who works in construction and engineering Sue has also been President of Leeds Law Society and is currently its Secretary, as you will read she is heavily involved in many external activities. I know that she is heavily involved in training at her firm and I  saw her most recently leading the way on the Leeds Legal Walk.  I couldn’t pass up the chance to ask her a few questions.

Tell us about how you became a litigator in your specialist area rather than working in any other area of law

I enjoyed litigation during my training contract and realised that is what I wanted to do. I started as an Insolvency lawyer but when I moved to Walker Morris LLP (25 years ago!) I became a more general litigator ultimately moving to Construction & Engineering in 1997 to work with Martin Scott. It has been an interesting and varied litigation career.

What is the one thing about the technical aspects/rules of litigation that you know now that you wish you’d known when you started out in your career

I started my career pre the Woolf reforms so I have seen some changes and (alleged) simplification of the rules. It is important that there are rules that people work to and they have to be seen positively as a framework to work within.

What is the major aspect of the job and lifestyle of being involved in litigation that you wish that you’d known when you started

Technology is the main change (from the first pcs I used in 1994) and it can be a double edged sword. When we had post only it was accepted that you might have three days to respond, faxes probably 24 hours. Email is much more intense (you feel you have hours if not less to answer) and the more senior members of the profession have had to adjust our working styles over the years to deal with the freedom that technology brings, and the increase in the working day/week.  There is more of a 24/7 culture than there was 25 years ago and it is vital to respond to clients’ needs and expectations. I am always amazed at how many people respond within minutes to my emails sent at 11pm on a Sunday evening!

You have done a lot of work outside your practice, being involved in the local Law Society and other external activities – what does that add to your practice (and your life generally) 

I enjoy being involved in areas outside of my day job. Some are high profile (President and now Secretary of Leeds Law Society) and it means that I am more well known in Leeds than would otherwise be the case. I have really enjoyed getting to know people in other professions and those in important positions in Leeds and Yorkshire. My position as West Yorkshire Ambassador for the Legal Profession with the Institute of Directors has led to the opening of doors that otherwise would have been closed to me. For example I was honoured to have been asked to be the secretary of One Yorkshire and to be part of the movement to try and achieve the all important devolution for Yorkshire.