Lawyer of the Week, Clive Zietman of Stewarts Law
30 May 2012
30 May 2012
by Linda Tsang
Lawyer of the Week: Clive Zietman
Clive Zietman, the head of commercial litigation at Stewarts Law, acted for 83 of the 104 Dresdner Kleinwort bankers claiming €50 million (£40 million) in unpaid bonuses promised before its takeover by Commerzbank. In the largest bankers' bonus dispute to be litigated after the financial crisis, the High Court ruled that Commerzbank is liable to pay the contracted bonuses.
What were the main challenges in this case, and the possible implications?
The challenges included, firstly, the practical difficulties in acting for 83 claimants and secondly, an opponent with an extremely large fighting fund. The wider implication of the case is that any employer who makes a serious promise to its employees should not assume that the promise can be unilaterally withdrawn or altered. The bank assured the FSA that it would set up a retention pool to ensure that there was no mass exodus from the bank: the FSA was concerned that this might happen.
What was your worst day as a lawyer?
As a young articled clerk I played football in a match between my new employers, Herbert Oppenheimer and the firm's star client, Sainsbury's. Within ten minutes of the start, I had broken the leg of one of the Sainsbury's players. Not a great start to my training contract. I suppose one could have called it a career break.
What was your most memorable experience as a lawyer?
Acting as the supervising solicitor on a search order in a case involving a very odd defendant who had stolen the rubbish of a pop star with a view to finding information that could be sold to the media. The defendant's house was filled top to bottom with bin liners full of rubbish. The incriminating evidence was unearthed after a five-day search. The smell is still etched in my memory.
Who has been the most influential person in your life and why?
My entire family. They support, challenge, question and participate. As a newly qualified lawyer at Herbert Smith, I was lucky enough to work with Lawrence Collins (now Lord Collins of Mapesbury, the former Justice of the Supreme Court) who taught me a lot. His best advice comprised of two words: assume nothing.
Why did you become a lawyer?
I am not sure. I became a litigation lawyer because I am competitive and like the challenge of a fight.
What would your advice be to anyone wanting a career in law?
If you had not become a lawyer, what would you have chosen and why?
Probably a journalist. I enjoy writing - my particular skill is writing letters of complaint.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Hopefully doing the same thing at the same place. Working with a fabulous team at this firm makes coming to work a pleasure.