Hello and welcome to the Career Success Podcast on Jason Connolly. If you’re a regular list that it’s great to have you back, but if you knew, welcome to the show in this series. Every week we speak to the biggest names in business all across the globe. We talk about their career stories, the lessons learned, how they overcome challenges, and what success habits they practice. Practical advice to help you in your career if you have a passion for business, then this is the podcast for you.
In this episode, I’m delighted to be joined by John Seigel from London, John qualified as a solicitor in 1984. He joined Clintons in 1987 and remains with them 30. Four years on, John became a partner in 1988, having completed an advanced course in management, becoming the managing partner in 1997. A year ago, John voluntarily stepped down as a managing partner, but still plays a key role in the management of printers and remains. The firms Kofa John takes a particular interest in training recruitment. In interview Process is which involved reviewing all of the many hundreds of applications received. A number of the current partners at the firm were originally recruited by Jeon’s trainees and he regards this as a particular career highlight. Together with the fact that on his watch no equity partner left the firm to join a competitor during his tenure as MP and throughout the sessions, Clinton saw year on year sustained and increased growth and profits. John thanks so much for joining me on this episode is great to be with you Jason. You have many badges of honour. Which we’re going to talk about throughout this episode, but there John, for people that don’t know Clintons that maybe haven’t come across Clintons before. They are massive in the media space and so tell us a bit about Clintons and people that haven’t come across the firm before Clintons. Is Basing Kong Garden in London. We sort of regard ourselves as one of the entertainment and media firms. Although we do we were a full service firm but that’s kind of what we’re known for, particularly in the music, film, TV and. You know theatre space that that that’s really bad, and you know we’re a household name in those in those sectors, and it’s very interesting who we come across in who we work with. Yeah, I guess this kind of naturally leads on to you telling us about your career because I remember John as we said before, we started recording this, I came to meet you years ago and this story about you know how kind of everything evolved manifested. I found it so interesting and I’ve probably repeated the story to people. Thousands of times about Clintons, but to hear it from you and to hear your anecdotes. I’m sure people would like to tell us about. You know your storage on and how it’s all kind of evolved over the years for you and the firm. Yeah, I mean, Clintons has been at the forefront of the entertainment field since the mid 50s and we had a senior partner who was legendary in his day and he set the firm up and very quickly. He realised that entertainers were back in the day, so we talking 50s and 60s were not very well looked after and he recognised that they needed protections. And so we were at the forefront of giving predominately artist entertainments musicians. You know, the safeguards and the legal protections that in those days they weren’t getting. Typically an artist would sign a record deal that that was just appalling by today’s standards and, you know, we were at the forefront of. Getting those artists, you know, the recompense, that they deserve, and you know he. He recognised that these artists and these musicians and the light needed they needed to buy houses. Unfortunately, they needed to get divorced and they needed to be protected. And then if you just needed to be planned so that those are Genesis of the firm. When I Join Now, had absolutely no interest in in the music field or entertainment FFB and I certainly I. I certainly don’t describe myself as an entertainment via. There’s many people in the firm who do all that stuff are better than I ever did. A lot of my clients were in that sector and they were fascinating. And, you know, we’ve had a lot of fun with a client through the years challenging people. Let’s be honest, you know these are people who their regular people, but you know their day-to-day lives are very different from the norm. And it’s really interesting. I kind of. What are the, you know, when you kind of joined the firm has, it must have evolved massively even. You know how media is even while we how we even consume media these days and I’m guessing the firm, must, you know, as kept pace with that. And yeah, I guess it’s been quite an evolution for you to see as well, yeah? When I joined, there was one word process. It was it was the old. Wang faxes were the big thing, and it’s just massive. And yeah, it it’s impacted hugely on the on the business and the way that typically music is distributed and you know, physically, it’s not distributed. One of my main clients back in the day physically distributed, you know materials and, and that’s just unheard of. Now that’s right, it’s very much reduced, but you know, it’s not the way that that. Music is put out there now, it’s online, it’s digital and it’s not those funny black things that spin around anymore.
Indeed, and when you joined Clintons, you pretty much joined soon after qualifying. What was it that made? What was the appeal to the firm and how? How did you find yourself coming to join them? Yeah, strange interview ever had, so I grew up in a very small typical three partner firm in in Mayfair, and I had. I mean, I look back on it now. I had training contract that just don’t exist anymore. I mean, one day I would be and this was, well, I was an article Clock, but. But one day I would be literally in your Bailey defending somebody. The next day. I recall being at Luton Airport selling a jumbo jet. I kid you not, it was just it was the Wild West. And in those days and it’s before many of your listeners will call the things with bravery, injunctions, their search and search. And you know, he could literally go into anybody’s property and look for an Sense goods. And you know, as a. He can’t tell anymore, but as a trainee I would go along with my minder and we will waive all court orders and we were rifled through what it was that we were looking for in this case. Typically it was a very famous. Branded good as a shopping old Bond Street which will be familiar to certain of your listeners and we had great fun finding the counterfeits. Yeah, there’s many stories on that like don’t get me started. You won’t Get Me Out. I’ve been treated I I’ve enjoyed the story job please carry on. Oh well OK go on you insist I will so. So basically we found out that the counterfeits were actually not really counterfeits, they were actual originals from the factory in Italy, and they kind of found their way through to, shall we say unusual channels in the market. So much so that at the time, and this is many, many, many years ago the manager of the shop concern. Cannot tell the difference between the real and the fake, because actually they weren’t fakes. It sounds like a very unusual trading contract. It was very far away from what people are probably experiencing that, but in a lot of ways I’m sure there’s lots of people listening to this thinking. You know, that doesn’t sound bad. I would like to be doing a training contract like, yeah, you know it was. I learned so much because when I when I qualified in a couple of years after I could have done anything I could have been a property lawyer. I could have been a family law. I could have been a criminal. Funny enough for one thing, I probably couldn’t be on. I ended up with it. Company commercial lawyers. So that took me to Clintons and that was the bizarre interview I’ve ever had the senior partner so called senior partner whose legendary senior partners are preferred to earlier. He must have had my CV. I decided to move on for four. It was time to move on and I got this call out of the blue and he said is that John? I said yes, I wonder the voice. It would be meaningless to your listeners anyway but it says that Johnny said yes. He said this is Sam Sylvester senior partner at Clintons. I said how do you do? He said that I require your presence at 2:00 o’clock this afternoon, so I was a bit thrown back. Anyway, you know, when somebody says they require your presence at 2:00 PM, I don’t know what it was. I just went over there at 2:00 PM and it was a bit bizarre. It’s bizarre, it’s experience and I remember it to this day. I went in and you know, he. He literally asked me one or two questions. You said I’ve seen enough and Dan literally walked out and I was left to finish the interview with one of the other juniors and. And they offered me the job there and then and basically the rest is history I suppose. Well, what was it? He asked you the two questions and you know what? I think he was fishing because I think he knew the senior partner of my old phone and I think there was a family connection and I think he was just fishing.
I really can’t remember, but it was something pretty inconsequential, but whatever it was, I obviously impressed him that that’s, you know, it’s I think you know that says a lot, doesn’t it? It’s very different to how things are done now, but you know, maybe not in every firm. Who knows. And that’s where you’ve got have been from. Then on in, it’s absolutely yeah man. And boy, I was very well equipped because I’d come from this background where I’ve done absolutely everything and it was all seat of the pants stuff so. I was even though I ended up doing this sort of corporate commercial business loss. A side of things. You know, I when I look back and I look at people now and the training that I had by complete default. I mean it wasn’t that I had a great teacher at the time. I had somebody who was phenomenally good at getting business and doing the work. But no, no classic training and such and you picked it up as you went along and good Amber. So I hit the ground running. I mean you know I wasn’t really phased by. Joining a much better, much better structure, Furman and with all the resource is I was used to know resource is the resource is I had with my resource is and you know pen and paper and so called fax machine so that that was what I was used to. So coming to Clintons was great because I had a lot more support and people around me who actually knew what they were doing at the time you joined the firm. I know the practice as it is current day but it was it just media focus or has it kind of evolved a lot since then or. You know has the kind of practice involved in in the time that you’ve been there. Yeah, we, you know it’s evolved massively although so saying it was always. We always did everything, but it’s no. It’s much, much more refined now and it’s much more structured now. I mean, in those days he you know it was controlled. The sound the senior partner was, it was. I think it would be fair to say he’s no longer with us unfortunately, but he wouldn’t mind me saying it was a benevolent dictator, but so many of those firms in those days were structured that way. And you know it was. It was much smaller and the equity was much smaller. It was very tight and one of the worst experiences in my life. Jason, I have to tell you was the day before I joined 1987. this so clearly it was the semi pharma spur support. It was a semi-final the of the FA Cup and we travelled up to remember what the ground was but it was in the middle in somewhere and it was a semi final and probably yours. It was sitting next to a guy another Spurs supporter. Now we got chatting and I was on Saturday. Due to join the firm on the Monday on this Saturday, I’m up in. I’m up in the middle of watching the semi-final, the FA Cup and speaking to this guy and he says to me, what do you do? I said on this list. I said he said, well, I said to him what you do. He said he’s a solicitor. He said to me where you based. I said I’m just about to join a new firm on Monday and he said who’s that and I told him and he’s now fell down. Basically, he just left the firm and I was gonna be sitting in his office on Monday and he wasn’t very complimentary. I have to say. I remember someone worried it may be scared when I was going to say every word there, but it scared the watch. It’s out of me but and for the first couple of weeks I was absolutely petrified. But then I work my way through that one and he’s not doing very much now. And of course in comparison, and I’ve done extremely well. I like to think and you rose up the ranks. I would say quite quick time to become managing partner in 10 years, especially back in the kind of error when you joined the firm that you know that was quite a quick trajectory to become managing. Did it feel like that for you? Yeah, I suppose it was it was. It was circumstances we could. During that time. We did have an unbelievably successful merger with another media firm called DM Landsman that was in 1990 and they were. They were big as well. They had some really good media and entertainment clients and it was a tree merger. Until this date. You know the partners were still partnered by people from that firm and that was in 1999. I think some retired not that long after and then senior partner general called John Cohen. I think he seen something in me that I knew was there, but he recognised that I would probably be a good manage and probably better than a better lawyer encouraged me to become involved in the management and I already was but very peripherally. And then I. Then I went on this advanced training course, which was incredibly unusual back in the mid 90s and people weren’t doing that sort of thing. So I remember being one of the first cohort of there was a government initiative to train lawyers to become managers, and I went on this court. It was the first year of you know, and Ma, I never. I never did the end, but it was the first year of the MNI lunch. Tremendous amount. Just open my eyes. It was like, you know, there’s a whole world out. Then I realised then how law firms should be run and we were ahead of the game. I mean, you know, I think that it stood as. In really good stead over the years and I understood what management was, I understood I understood figures. I understood finance, I understood what the difference was between cash, income and profit, and you know so many lives don’t understand that even to this day. But it’s now much more common. You know the concept of having you know CEOs is non lawyers and all of that. But back in the day that was you know and but you was in an area where there wasn’t even the Internet. At some point in time it was, you know, I think it’s it might seem like absolute, you know. Crazy people may be listening to this and thinking you know, how can you not know that? But right now I think we take for granted the fact that you know everything is at our fingertips. Back then it was a book at the library and you know that was oh, gosh. Funny you should mention that was one of the first things I got involved with. Was the library. The library was the main resource. It was unbelievably expensive to run to maintain and you had to follow. You know you used to get these regular updates that had to be for real and you know it was a massive resource and a massive cost. And I realised that we were wasting a lot of money and took measures to sort of rain. All of that in so that that was actually one of the first things that I. I cut my teeth on finance, run very interested and you mentioned this course taught you a lot about management. I’ve become a manager, I think through life experience. I’ve never been the cost and I had to manage people necessarily. What was it? This course taught you in in terms of people leadership? ’cause I’ve never heard of such a course. Well basically it covered everything. It was called an advanced management so it talked. It was about branding. It was about marketing. It was about financing is about leadership. So we covered everything really and at the time it was, it was headed by people who had probably academics that. No, that’s not fair, they were solicitors, but probably more on the academic side, but they invited in, you know, well known experts in their field and you know, it’s I’ve still got the I still got the course notes and I’ve had quite a few no recourse to them throughout the years. Just too and I’m following up. I’m still in touch with the one of the people who gave. The course I I’m still in touch with an I I will name checking ’cause he’s great at Gent, Matthew Moore who does all of our regulatory stuff and you know he was great and as I say yeah as a result of that he looks softer and still we still use him on a regular basis for all the regulatory stuff. So be the managing partner for such a long time in your career. What kind of obviously you’ve led the firm through? A recession you’ve let it through. Many you know, I’m sure challenging times and even to keep the firm current in you know what is a pretty competitive area of law. Media is something that sounds very ****. Yeah, so lots of people want to do it but you know what’s kind of you know your secret then to your success. Do you think what’s catch you?
Sort of current at the forefront of you know an industry I don’t think media is full of those industries. It’s changed more than you know so many industries have it. You receive money in the way things are advertised. There’s been so much change, you know, just in the last 5-10 years. In a word, people, you know, we’ve got some of the industry leaders and I’ve always had some of the industry leaders across a number of the fields you know. And it’s a question in many ways of spotting the people in the 1st place, nurturing that talent, and making sure that they come through. In your introduction, you know one of the things that’s great for me to see is taking people and seeing them become Equity Partners. And that’s not. Common occurrence, I mean you know, and I’m talking in one case we’re looking at, you know, someone who is was literally office junior and to see them make partner is just very gratifying. And you know, on a personal level when as you also said, we get hundreds and hundreds of applications and. You know to be able to sift through and to try and spot something that’s for us and then go through that process of getting them through. But it’s about people, isn’t it? And getting the right people for Peoples business services, it is a people’s business. I, I think even when you are kind of, you know, going through all these people and sifting what. What is it that you know? You’re kind of looking for? That’s jumping out at you, or you know, when you’re sort of doing a paper, see what is it that you’re wanting to see? You know that is the that is such an interesting question. I wish I could say that I had a matrix and I score people and every single application is. I didn’t imagine you was gonna have a matrix, John. I think that was what kind of what led me to ask the so. Sorry I didn’t. I didn’t have a matrix. You do. I do alright? OK? Tell us more no, there’s nothing formal look. Here’s the thing. We are a bit left field. You know I’m looking for something. That’s not slightly out of the order. It ordinary, not bizarre, but something you know. I have seen literally thousands and thousands of CVS in my time. You know, we require a letter, a covering letter and a CV. The first thing and I treat and I give every single application due consideration, so I don’t just look at an application. Think not every letter gets read and every CV I look at and I enjoy that. I, you know. I do it because I enjoy it and I do it because these people have taken the time to write in and you know they. They deserve that consideration so you know if you are a perspective training. Listening to this, you can rest assured that I will read what you sent me. I can’t guarantee that you’ll get an interview, but it will be read. So what am I looking for? Listen, you know spelling my name right? It’s kind of important spelling the firm’s name right is kind of important. We’re not an LLP just yet. You gotta do your research wherever you’re applying. Do your research. Don’t write to Clintons when you’re writing to another firm, or vice versa. ’cause you get that silly, silly, silly mistakes. They rule you out. I’m afraid. Something coherent. Something that grabs my attention, something that when I read it within a few lines I got. Yeah, I get you I’m interested hook me, put me it’s so different from writing at a creative piece. I suppose a lot of it’s the same ’cause it has to be the same. But some of this is instinct. Let’s be honest, Jason. What you say and what I pick up may be completely different, but we got a pretty good track record. The form of doing this process, so I think we’ve got it. Got very good track records or not, you know to keep every single equity partner to watch people progress and stay with you. In actual fact that is a massive accomplishment in the current day we ran some data recently where at the moment every two years on average, according to LinkedIn, someone moves roles in legal and you know, a job for life is becoming. Less and less and less you people make career moves now, so you know to have hold held onto everyone. I think you know is a is a massive compliment to you and your leadership. ’cause actually I don’t know of any firm can say that I and I know a lot of firms job. Yeah, like that’s it’s nice of you to say I don’t think it’s just down to me that’s for sure how look it sounds. A bit trite, but we grew up as a family when we were smaller it started that way and in some ways we’ve tried to keep that ethos. Going and you know, we don’t all agree about everything. It’s not this cosy loving that we have the whole time, of course is not. But we’re on the same page and I think the secret is that we’ve been able to stay on the same page and we can have debates and we can have disagreements. And, you know, people can throw their toys out the pram because you know, we don’t encourage people to throw their toys out of the pram. But, but we would encourage people to speak their minds and two. Should bring the problems and. Let’s work it through and that’s what we’ve been good at and that’s down to all the partners. It’s not, you know, I can’t claim that. That’s down to me, but it’s, you know, we, we have a culture which allows people to thrive and don’t get me wrong, that the firm is not right for everybody. You know, you gotta be. You gotta be entrepreneurial. You gotta be as you gotta be a self starter. It’s not easy to succeed at Clinton’s not everybody succeeds, that it’s. It’s not. I’d hate to paint it as some sort of utopia. Jason, it’s hard work, it’s hard work, and it’s. It’s never ending. You finish one job. You go on to the next. It’s a treadmill as you know. Yeah, I constantly agree and what advice would you give to people John, who are, maybe you know, thinking well, maybe not just media law, but you are thinking I want to get out there and I really want to start my career. I want to have success, you know, and it is competitive now because it. In a more competitive than it’s ever been, what would you say to people at that kind of level and maybe even to ask you a further question? People that want to aspire to be partners or maybe at junior level of PQ E? What would you say to these people now to get ahead? OK, I can tell you what our mantra is. And when I talk you through this, this is more Clinton speak. Then I can’t speak for many other firms, but in many ways. And this is. I’ve used it so often I’m not going to give away any trade secrets because it’s already out there. I say to people, trainees, you know what? What are we looking for? What are we really looking for and what I’m what I’m trying to get them to say is we’re looking for the next partners and one of the things the exercises that I used to do. But again and I don’t do it now because everybody you know it’s not difficult to work out what the question is. I ask at interview, but I I use this matrix. And people at a firm have grown up with it and he used to it, and it’s very, very simple. I like to make things simple. I really, really like to make things simple and it’s very simple. But the question is now, what do you think you need to do at this one too to make partner Ann and what it boils down to and I’ll give you the answers you get the work you do, the work you build the work and you get paid and it’s as simple as that. Now I can reduce it to a very simple equation, but trust me, getting all of those things lined up is not easy, but you know, for anybody who wants to aspire to be a partner at my firm, a Clintons, that’s the easy equation. And sometimes the simple things are the best things. I think. Why overcomplicate something? Man? It sounds like you know what you’re wanting is for people to protect themselves in that way, but a lot. A lot of people don’t do that. And I think a lot of people. Don’t always adequately prepare for an interview where they don’t come across in the right way. I think selling yourself is really important, and I think it’s something that people don’t necessarily get taught. University you sort of leave University for what I can tell, and then it’s you know out there into the big wide world. And people have a lot of misconceptions about you know what? What it is they need to do in order to, you know, make themselves job ready, so to speak. Yeah, I mean, I could write a book on this. I’m no intention of writing a book on this. You should job. It’s at this. There’s a deal in the wings just waiting to have. Trust me I I’d like to think there’s a booking me Jason, but no it if there is not on this subject I don’t think I think that people make a lot of common mistakes and the one thing that you know if I could tell people that they should be more aware of and it’s very. It’s difficult one, but it tells me more about somebody than they realize in his body language. And you will know Jason from being in the industry that. That we do most of our talking by virtue of body language rather than by speaking. Yeah no, I agree with you. I think I, I think body language. Well I can’t remember, will have the pie chart breaks down, but I’ve seen it before. But you know what you actually say is quite insignificant compared to the body language, the tone and everything like that. It’s, you know, someone could say something, but if they don’t sound convincing because of the tone of the voice of the way their SAP, it doesn’t matter what they’re saying because you’re not finding it convincing. If I could get 100% and if I could master one skill and I’m reasonably good at reading body language, but if I could really master something that’s because of course, you know there’s a lot you can’t hide. And yeah, you can ask questions, and the way people approach and answer the question leaves more out there than they may want to know, so I would encourage people to be aware of body language. I would encourage them to be. Please open as they possibly can to be who they are. Rather than what they think, I want them to be, and I had a case. I did an interview a couple of years ago with someone actually was had a measure of success in acting and they had were on the West End stage, not at the time, and he did. He did this interview. Ann and I had to stop him. I I had to turn him and say you are not on the stage. You are not auditioning. I don’t want to see you, the actor. I want to see who you are and it was great after that. It was absolutely great. Yeah, I can understand why someone in that position my. You know, go down that way of thinking. Or I think it’s. It’s a scary thing. Interviewing and I, I think you know, sometimes I I’ve done this for such a long time. I think to bring the best out of someone. I think a lot of the emphasis comes down to the interviewer because there’s a lot of people out there who are really bad at interviewing and you need to have someone like yourself to allow people to shine and ask the right questions because people are guided by the interviewer, it’s always the interviewer that leads to conversation absolutely, and I think I probably have a reputation of being as being scary. I can’t understand why that is job well. Just come on my best behaviour you are you are. It’s ’cause it’s me interviewing you, John. It’s the other way around tonight. Standard listen you know very much what you see is what you get with me. I’m very upfront. I don’t try and trick people. I try and be as Frank as possible and I think when people get that they can be hopefully more who they are rather than what they think that I want them to be. And I think that’s really important and I think that’s kind of a really Grey kind of listen and you know, point that you’ve just made that to kind of finish the show on then. I think you’ve made so many great points, and I think this episode is going to be particularly helpful for people who are train is because to actually hear it from a partner in what you look for, you know it is really going to help people, and I think there’s so much stuff out there. John on the Internet you can go on the Internet and find out one website that says one thing, another website that contradicts something else. And then people are left confused. Have you know your thoughts just down on this episode is such a nice thing, so thank you absolute pleasure Jason. Well, thank you John and that was John Seigal from Clintons solicitors. I’m Jason Connolly. This is the Career Success podcast until next time goodbye.