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Advice to my younger self
London partner Ian Bagshaw reflects on his career

January 2021: Ian Bagshaw is White & Case's Global Co-Head of Private Equity, based in London. He looks back on his career to date and what he's learnt along the way.

What attracted me to White & Case was the passion of other partners
I was really struck by how entrepreneurial their attitude was, how motivated they all were to take risks and challenge the status quo. The business opportunity—to build the Firm's Private Equity practice globally—was big, but it was the passion of the people that I met that was most persuasive.

I'm an accidental lawyer
I don't come from a family of lawyers—nobody else in my family had been to university before me. I was meant to be a football coach in America, but I broke my leg. A mate told me about a graduate trainee position with a Leeds firm. I never set out to be a lawyer and I think that makes me a better one. I can stay objective and focus on delivering excellent results for my clients. It's never about me, it's about them. 

The customer is always right
My parents ran a fish and chip shop and we lived above the shop. I learnt a great deal from them about keeping customers happy. Law is a service business. The same rules apply to global corporations and hungry customers. Stay humble, listen to what they want and deliver your best.

Always ask yourself, have you given your best?
It's that last ten per cent that matters. At the end of every task, every day, ask yourself if you have done your best, for your client and for yourself. That's all anyone can ask of you.

… but don't get emotionally involved
An early mentor of mine told me to remove emotion from the job. Keep some distance and the bad days will never be that bad. You can stay focused and bring better judgement to situations. It also means that the good days will never be as good as you hope, but that chimes with my Northern outlook.

Adversity is the best way to learn
When my brother—who I also worked with—died suddenly, it was an enormous blow. Since then, any other challenges or obstacles that I've faced seem both insignificant and surmountable.

Aim for possible failure, not guaranteed success
You learn more when you fail. If you only go for the certain successes, you'll never get out of your comfort zone. 

Diversity is about building a meritocracy
At White & Case, diversity is a fundamental business value. We want the best people. As well as the immediate benefits—better results for our clients—it's also about building a long-term meritocracy and acting as good stewards for our Firm.

Keep on walking
Break the problem down, focus on the next step and just keep going. That's what I always tell new associates and trainees. Whether I'm riding the Tour de France for charity or dealing with a client's issue, the only thing you need to do is keep going.

Associates and trainees are adapting quickly to virtual working
Being a mentor is something that's important to me. It's a two-way street—I take great pleasure in helping others achieve success. I've noticed that associates and trainees have become more assertive about reaching out and asking for a 'virtual coffee'—it's impressive. It also makes me more aware of the talent and ability that these younger lawyers already bring to the table.

This is a great time to be a lawyer in London
I'm old enough to have experienced recessions before. Brexit and COVID-19 will certainly change London. But this is an entrepreneurial city. If there's a way, London will find it. It's going be an exciting place to work and I feel hugely positive about the next few years.