In our blog series, ‘Behind the loupe’, we go behind the scenes of our international law firm to uncover the driving forces behind our success – from the lawyers, to our leadership team, to HR, finance, business development and more. Our people, based across our global locations, including offices in Europe, Asia, North America, and the Middle East, have a vast number of unique roles that all play a part in bringing Gowling WLG to life. Throughout this series, we’ll explore the details of their roles, what it’s like to work with us and an insight into their lives.
In this first blog in our series, we meet Reena Patel, partner in our Real Estate team in London.
What is your role at Gowling WLG?
I am a partner in Gowling WLG’s Real Estate team, and my main areas of work are real estate investment, development and regeneration. Within this, I advise a wide range of clients including FTSE 100 and 250 companies, financial institutions and property developers.
Our Real Estate practice is ranked in the top five by size and expertise in the UK and real estate accounts for c.40% of our overall annual turnover, so it’s a hugely important sector for our business. Just last year we advised on over £8bn of real estate investment, so there is a lot of work involved.
What are your main priorities?
My main priority as a partner is ensuring that the business is delivering excellent client service and best in class profitable legal advice, retaining and growing relationships with existing clients as well as winning new clients. In order to do this I need to ensure that I am well networked both outside and inside of Gowling WLG, that I look for opportunities to introduce colleagues and clients and drive our performance.
As a partner I am also focused on managing a team of people. One of my main priorities as a manager is to inspire and develop an outstanding team of lawyers, who are happy and motivated. I am responsible for supervising, teaching and nurturing my team to be the best in class lawyers. We’re always looking to the future as well, so building a strong team is also really important.
Underlying these priorities is thinking about the bigger picture. It’s important that as a partner I ensure my work is future proofing Gowling WLG and creating a legacy that stands the test of time. Many lawyers are focused on the here and now but when you have worked in a career as long as I have, it’s about creating a team and a business that will continue to grow and develop, even after I have sailed off into the sunset (my current retirement nirvana).
What does a typical day look like for you?
I don’t think there is any such thing as a typical day when you work in a law firm, but that’s part of the fun. I am always blindsided by something unexpected. I spend most of the day doing jobs that weren’t on my agenda at the start of the day.
No day is ever the same, but it normally consists of a good mix of hard-hitting and tricky legal questions from clients, a generous sprinkling of laughter and fun and every so often some difficult drafting and negotiating.
I will also spend some of my day supervising my team, and meeting their needs as well as client needs.
Internal activity such as housekeeping, admin, finance has to be prioritised as well – keeping on top of billing and fee budgets is an important part of my day-to-day tasks.
As a partner, a massive part of the job is dealing with new work. This includes managing fee quotes, pitch requests, new work streams and all the processes behind this, from winning the client to putting a team together to work on a new project.
Business development tasks also play a significant part in a law firm, which helps to keep Gowling WLG at the forefront of the market. I often send our articles and news updates to clients to help keep them up to date with the latest legal and market developments that they need to be aware of.
How long have you worked in law?
I have always worked in law. I qualified all the way back in August 1996, so more than 25 years ago.
Almost a decade of that time has been with Gowling WLG. As I’ll be celebrating quite a milestone soon I hope to take a sabbatical. I’d love to travel, with Tibet and Myanmar being at the top of my list.
I also plan to take the summer off and spend it with my two kids somewhere warm and sunny.
How did you get into your career?
I would like to say it was always my passion, but really, I fell into it. Growing up, my parents were keen for me to go to university and study a ‘traditional’ degree. I am the first generation of my family that was born in the UK and had the opportunity to take part in higher education, so I always wanted to make my parents proud – and law was one way to do that.
It hasn’t always been my passion but having stayed in it for a quarter of a century, I must have found something in it that I love.
What has been a highlight of your career so far?
My career has spanned over two decades, so it’s hard to pinpoint an exact highlight. One of the most rewarding parts of my career has been teaching others. I love managing a great and high performing team, as well as continuing to grow that team with more extraordinary people that you are able to help develop and take under your wing. Seeing people flourish is one of the biggest joys and achievements of my career. As someone in a senior leadership position, your team almost become like your children, so the team really does feel like a family. We laugh together and we cry together. I’ve been able to stay in contact with most of the people that I have managed, even if they leave to work somewhere else, so I am able to continue seeing their progression. I feel a sense of pride seeing them succeed.
Another highlight is the relationships that I have built with clients over the years. I have built longstanding relationships that have been nurtured over a number of years. It’s a great feeling to know you have helped people along the way and made a positive impact on their businesses.
As well as helping clients, I have also learnt a lot from them. Every client has taught me something different, and I continue to learn every day. I think the day I stop learning, is the day my career would stop – for me it’s all about new perspectives and continuously growing.
What has been a highlight in the past year?
In the last year, I had the opportunity to act for a new client, Hyde Housing Association. I worked on a major deal for them, which was the biggest for the company and very significant for the affordable housing sector. It was a great privilege to be selected by Hyde to work for them on this deal. It took 18 months of hard work, in which we worked across sectors, so I was extremely proud when the deal came to a close last year.
Another big highlight was Gowling WLG’s appointment to the Land Securities (Landsec) Legal Panel. The business conducted a retender of its property legal panel to align legal services with the organisation’s new strategy, with a particular to focus on mixed-use urban neighbourhoods. The appointment to the panel reflected our position as leaders in real estate and I was very proud to lead a fantastic Gowling team land this client win.
How do you take a step away from work?
My day-to-day working life is quite intense and it normally continues through to the evening, so it’s not always easy to step away. There’s always work to catch up on since the day is filled with distractions and interruptions, so I like to finish my priorities when I get some quiet time.
When I need to fully unwind, I love to cook and shop, which is how I normally spend my free time and weekends. Cooking is a great downtime as it requires your full attention – there’s no time to check your phone or emails.
Cooking is one of my greatest passions, especially cooking for other people as I think food brings people a lot of joy – which is a great feeling.
If you weren’t a lawyer, what would you be doing?
A travel writer or food critic would have been my chosen career path. I absolutely love to write, especially anything light-hearted and humorous. I believe it’s important to laugh at yourself and not take anything too seriously, writing allows for that type of expression and creativity.