OW Spotlight Max Hope

Hardinge '96

Civil Service and Government COG Leader

Tell us about yourself

Somehow, I have ended up running with my business partner, Phillips Law, an award winning law firm, building it from strength to strength. I read law at King’s College London, practiced in the City at Linklaters, CMS and Clyde & Co, and in between found time to serve in the Army in Germany, Cyprus and Afghanistan. I was also the General Counsel for two Lloyds of London insurance syndicates who insured anything and everything. I live with my wife Susannah (an English teacher), two daughters, Isla (7) and Cressida (5) who love to laugh and play, and our dogs Oscar and Indie.

What inspired you to work in Law?

I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, so law seemed like a good way to keep some options open, as you can detour into other things if you can find a calling. I can’t say I found a “calling”, so I stuck it out as a junior lawyer and now enjoy what I do. I get bored quite easily and quite like the pressures of fighting high value commercial litigation. Courts are essentially theatres where a story is played out and what happens can be unpredictable which keeps you on your toes. There can be a lot of emotion for the client as a lot of money and legal costs often rest on the judge’s final decision.

How did you get to where you are today?

A lot of late nights, early starts and networking. The networking is what people often call good luck, but really you just kiss a lot of frogs to meet a princess!

What advice would you give to students/young OWs who would like to join the profession?

Learn to express yourself succinctly and without unnecessary excess words; it’s much more powerful. Be prepared for a tussle to get your way. A lot will be expected of you because others are relying on what you do. Many areas of law are a contact sport, although not all, so it’s not for the faint hearted. The answer is often in the hard-to-find detail, and you’ll meet some fascinating clients along the way, and work with some brilliant legal minds. If you go into litigation, be prepared to knock on some opponent’s doors (sometimes literally) of some really bad people.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

Learn to become familiar with your own unconscious mind as much as you can be, if that’s not a contradiction. If you don’t know your own mind (conscious or unconscious), go to the Institute of Psychoanalysis in London and take the evening lecture course or the foundation course (in person or remote as it’s now all online). It may start an unexpected and positive change in your life.

What are your career highlights?

Winning Medium Law Firm of the Year with my law firm, Phillips Law, and taking a case to the Supreme Court to make new law. Also serving in Afghanistan with the army; it wasn’t easy but looking back it was a rare life enhancing experience and living history, with some gifted leaders to learn from. Good leadership is knowing your job backwards, putting your team first, and having no ego involved about what you’re trying to achieve. It’s really not about you.

Where do you see yourself in 5/10/20 years?

On a sailing boat with my girls, sailing slowly around the world, meeting up with friends along the way, and staying fit and healthy. Once back, I’d like to start an anti-bullying charity, to help children and schools in understanding how important a school’s culture is to supporting more vulnerable children who become targets for others who are themselves vulnerable but hide from it through bullying others. It’s a vicious circle, and you can’t police every corridor, but you can change a culture for the better. It’s probably partly why I became a litigation lawyer. Even within our business, we have the motto ‘no one has the right to spoil someone else’s good day’. That’s a company I’m proud to be part of.

Do you have a fond memory of any particular teachers that really stand out?

Dr Bosher (History) and Mr Lovett (Politics) were two legendary teachers during my time. They would spend the first 30 minutes of a lesson talking about anything and everything at all with us, listening, debating, challenging, and exploring, basically maturing us into the adult world. There was very little course content in those minutes, but it was our valuable time to explore and be. Then there would be 20 minutes of intense study. We’d learn more in 20 minutes having had our minds opened and invigorated than in an hour of being talked at. Both were passionate about their subjects and the world, and we really listened. Great fun. If you want to influence someone, take time to build rapport. Mr Lovett’s words ring long in my ears “Remember boys, “all power corrupts, and absolute power is absolutely gorgeous!!””. Whether he was commenting on 20th century history or life in general, I don’t know…!

Thanks to Max Hope (Hg 96) for this spotlight piece.