The Times (UK): Lawyer of the week: Martyn Hopper: “MARTYN HOPPER, a Herbert Smith partner, is acting for the former Shell chairman Sir Philip Watts, who is alleging that the Financial Services Authority has produced a “fundamentally flawed” report into the oil company’s overbooking of reserves…” (ShellNews.net)
Posted 28 Oct 2004
MARTYN HOPPER, a Herbert Smith partner, is acting for the former Shell chairman Sir Philip Watts, who is alleging that the Financial Services Authority has produced a “fundamentally flawed” report into the oil company’s overbooking of reserves and has contravened its statutory obligation to give him a fair hearing.
What is the most challenging aspect of working on this case? Defending an individual in circumstances where many have prejudged his role without his having any proper opportunity to defend himself. The case that Sir Philip has brought against the FSA raises an important issue about the fair treatment of individuals who are caught up in regulatory investigations into the affairs of major corporate entities.
It has been said that, as a former head of the FSA enforcement division's Market Integrity Group, you are now off its Christmas card list — any comments? I happen to know that the FSA abolished Christmas cards some time ago, so I don’t feel too bad. I’m sure the comment was in jest: my former colleagues at the FSA fully appreciate the importance of lawyers fearlessly defending their clients' interests. And fearlessness is essential when dealing with the FSA.
What was your worst day as a lawyer? As a young prosecutor I was discussing the background to a new case with investigators and discovered new evidence that called into question the conviction of a man I had prosecuted a couple of years earlier. I dug out the file, contacted the man's lawyers and his conviction was set aside but not before he had served a substantial time in prison. It was an early and sobering lesson in the fallibility of any justice system.
What was your most memorable experience as a lawyer? Probably working on establishment of the FSA as a single regulator and helping to shape the legislation and rules under which it operates. It was an enormously ambitious enterprise that involved a huge amount of creative legal thinking.
Who has been the most influential person in your life and why? My wife, Shami (Chakrabarti, director of Liberty), and the late Lindsay Addison, who as my first boss taught me that it really is possible to combine being an outstanding lawyer and a gifted manager.
Why did you become a lawyer? I have always enjoyed a good argument — as my brother and sister will testify. I enjoy the intellectual challenge and intensely human nature of the legal process.
What would your advice be to anyone wanting a career in law? Learn quickly that good lawyering is a craft rather than a science. Empower rather than intimidate or mystify your client. Keep your work life in perspective and never forget how to relax or how to party.
Where do you see yourself in ten years? Running a successful financial regulatory practice at Herbert Smith, I hope, and losing arguments with my 12-year-old son.