Neil Golding

What motivated you to apply for your course at Leeds?

A completely random choice involving a very high level of ignorance about everything to do with the law. I changed my mind about wanting to be a history teacher in the final year of my history degree; my two best mates were staying on in Leeds; so another two years at university to do a law degree seemed like a good idea, even though I had never met a lawyer or knew what they did. The idea of being a law lecturer appealed at the time.

Tell us about your career path since graduating.

After graduating I did a year at law school, and have been at Freshfields ever since. Trainee lawyer 1990–92; associate from 92–2000; partner from 2000 to date. That said, my job has evolved over time so I obviously don’t do the same thing now that I did when I was a trainee. I ended up here in the first place following a summer placement: despite my misgivings about working for a big firm in London, I loved it, and have never wanted to work anywhere else.

Tell us about your current role.

Freshfields is a very large City law firm, so we tend to do big cases, usually with a significant international element. I specialise in restructuring and insolvency, so tend to get involved when clients are in some sort of financial distress, or where creditors are at risk of not getting their money back. The teams working on these cases vary in size from a few people up to several dozen on a really large matter.

I am very lucky to be able to work with the top QCs in the area, and many of the clients I have known for a long time and have become good friends. I also enjoy the travelling: I have been to 60 or 70 countries on various cases over the last 20 years and it is always fun figuring out how the legal system somewhere outside England works.

Some of the pro bono work we do is also very worthwhile: getting a good result for a client who had been in a difficult situation and who would not otherwise have been able to get good legal advice is very satisfying.

Finally, I like being involved in the interview process by which we select the students who are seeking training contracts: I never cease to be amazed at the standard of the candidates who apply.

What have been the highlights so far?

I have been very lucky with the way things have panned out, so it is difficult to pick highlights. Biggest was being made a partner: a fairly competitive process involving 10 years of quite hard work.

Aside from that if I had to pick three things, the first would be travelling by Concorde to New York for a meeting in 1995. I had never flown long haul before, still less on Concorde, and never been to the US. It was all tremendously exciting: from the free champagne on the plane to arriving in NY and seeing the skyline I had seen so many times in movies.

Next would be working on some really interesting and high profile cases when the financial crisis started: Northern Rock, Icelandic banks and Lehman Brothers. Last would be working on a big restructuring in the Caribbean a few years ago which involved presenting our proposals to various different governments.

Have you been back to the School of Law?

I go back very regularly (once or twice a year), and enjoy all the trips which are great fun, though it is very disconcerting (as a 1987 graduate) to find that today’s students were all born in the 90s.

I judge the mooting competitions and give a talk to the students about career opportunities. Three changes really strike me; one is size – the University just seems (in fact is) so much bigger now; two is the nice new law building, which seems to work very well; and three is how switched on and sophisticated today’s students seem to be compared to my generation. I think I’d be unemployable if I were looking for a job now.

What are you most looking forward to in your future career?

More of the same really: doing very interesting work with teams of talented lawyers for clients who are for the most part extremely nice is a good way to earn a living.

In 2020 I get a sabbatical: four months off to travel round the world will be very nice; as will planning where to go. We get them every 10 years, so my first one was in 2010 – easily the best holiday I have ever had.