Trust and Probate Litigation partner Emma Holland spoke to Private Client Global Elite for the April 2023 edition of ‘The Month’ magazine.
Emma was selected for the ‘In the Spotlight’ feature as part of the new Rising Leaders edition of the monthly magazine. Launched in 2017, the Private Client Global Elite serves as a highly respected global directory of the world’s top private client and trust and estates litigation talent, as well as rising stars within the industry.
What is keeping you busy at the moment?
Currently, I’m working on a response to an application in the Court of Protection for a significant lifetime gift and statutory will. I’m also advising on applications, both here and offshore, in respect of removing fiduciaries – trustees, protectors and executors. I generally have a good mix of trust, probate and Court of Protection/ capacity focussed work.
What do you enjoy most about working at Stewarts?
I know it sounds clichéd but it really is the people I work with. Back in 2017, I was the first person to join James Price when he started the team and because of that I’ve been lucky to have some say in who we have recruited. Although there are now 13 of us, it feels like the team has grown very organically. More generally, the firm is very forward looking and as a result seems to attract dynamic people who look outside the box in terms of developing new practice areas and being innovative (for example, as regards funding of disputes), which makes it an exciting place to be.
What kind of litigator are you?
You would have to ask my opponents but I hope they would say that I am tough but fair: I don’t want to be known as someone who takes cheap shots or is unduly aggressive. The private wealth industry is a small world and reputation is important. I am often told that I have a great attention for detail, which I’ve always felt was important because being on top of the details can give you the edge both in terms of developing strategy and also giving your clients confidence that you really understand the issues at hand.
What is the most important lesson you have learnt so far in your career?
To really add value, you must not be afraid to tell your client when their approach is misguided or to disillusion them if they have an unduly over-optimistic view of their prospects of success. That said, in the types of dispute I deal with, clients are often experiencing emotional turmoil and being able to empathise and show that you really understand what matters to them is just as important. Sorry I think that is more than one lesson!
What piece of advice would you give your trainee-self?
Don’t spend too much time or energy theorising about your career path. Instead, take up the opportunities presented to you, do a good job and other doors will open.
Have you ever had an embarrassing moment at work?
I’m sure I’ve had many but I’ve blocked them out! One I do recall is flying to Switzerland for a meeting with clients and multiple lawyers to finalise a hotly debated trust restructuring. My luggage went missing in transit – fortunately I had used my hand luggage to carry the final bound agreements. Less fortunately, because it was a Sunday and the meeting was not until the next day, I was wearing a very casual ensemble including some polka dot trousers. At the meeting the next day, I overheard someone commenting that it would have been nice if I had bothered to change out of my pyjamas. (Nowadays I doubt anybody would have commented as since the pandemic everyone’s attire is generally far more casual.)
How do you deal with the stress involved with litigation?
Probably akin to most litigators, I don’t mind working under pressure and often actually enjoy the associated adrenaline kick. Easier said than done, but I also try really hard to keep things in perspective. An ability to keep a cool head is part of the job description. Having been on the beach in Sri Lanka in 2004 on the day the tsunami hit, I know that even a really bad day in the office is unlikely to rival that experience!
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