Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) real estate partner Alice Dockar led the firm’s team that advised real estate investment company Qatari Diar earlier this year on its £1.4bn joint venture with London property developer Delancey. Previously, Dockar was seconded to Qatari Diar’s UK office as interim general counsel for two years and acted on its partnership with Canary Wharf Group to redevelop the Shell Centre on London’s South Bank.
Why did you become a lawyer? The questionnaires I completed at school before making university applications all pointed towards me becoming an accountant or an actuary (it might have been A-levels in maths and further maths that did it!) but I decided that a career of number crunching was not for me. After two weeks’ work experience in a high street practice in Peterborough, I decided a degree in law was the way forward. At that point in time, the world of City firms was completely unknown to me.
Who has been the biggest influence on your career? I remember Stephanie Hartshorn (then head of graduate recruitment) saying to me during the HSF summer vacation scheme in 1999: “When you walk into a firm, you will just know if it is right for you by the feel of the place and the people you meet.” Seventeen years later, I say the same thing when I meet graduates and law students who are considering their career choices.
What’s your proudest professional moment? Shaking the senior partner’s hand as he invited me to join the partnership was a pretty brilliant moment. Coincidentally, it was also my last day in the office before my wedding day, so it was a double personal high.
What’s been your worst day on the job? After several days of very little sleep on the deal to sell Hammerson’s London office portfolio to Brookfield, and having worked all Friday night, I thought I would grab an hour’s rest in a sleeping pod in the Virgin Active Broadgate while I waited for documents to be returned. To my horror, it was closed for renovation that particular Saturday. Typical! So I had to call my boyfriend (now husband) to see if I could grab a power nap at his house before we went on our dinner date. Classy!
Aside from your own firm, which lawyer do you most admire and why? When I was on secondment as the interim general counsel at Qatar Diar, I had a lot of interaction with lawyers in other firms. I was always incredibly impressed by and admired Robert McGregor from Berwin Leighton Paisner. He has an incredibly calm manner in negotiations, distilling outstanding points with ease and always having in mind the commercial objective of the client. He is a very nice man and is always a pleasure to work with.
What’s your strongest characteristic…and worst trait? I like to be incredibly efficient but that does mean I can be quite impatient.
What advice would you give to young deal lawyers starting out? We are a professional services firm and top-notch service delivery is at the heart of everything we do. We have to regularly manage competing priorities, which can be overwhelming at times, but it is important to keep calm, seek guidance and not suffer in silence.
What’s the best part of your job? Working with a talented team who are good fun and witnessing (and helping) more junior fee earners develop as lawyers and businesspeople.
What most annoys you about the legal profession? Lawyers who are not commercial or pragmatic, which wastes time and, ultimately, our respective clients’ money.
What’s the most unusual/shocking request you’ve ever had from a client? I think being invited to board my client’s yacht for a signing meeting takes some beating as an unusual request.
Most memorable deal you have ever worked on and why? It was a good few years ago now but we were acting on a large acquisition of a retail portfolio for Hammerson. I had worked through the night but was going to a wedding at the weekend (it was July) so I paid a quick visit to the Tanning Shop in Liverpool Street station when it opened in the morning for a spray tan. I went back to the office and my supervising partner on the deal said: ‘Oh, have you been on holiday?’
What is the daftest bit of corporate jargon you have heard? (And did you smirk?) “Back fill”. Yes, it did make me smirk, and it still does when I hear it. Enough said!
Do you see yourself having a career outside law? I used to do a lot of dinghy sailing and occasionally I think it would be nice to teach sailing in a hot climate but realistically, I think I am a lawyer for life.
It’s midnight and you’re in the office for the night, where’s your takeaway from? I have a fond memory of when I was a trainee of going (on an all too regular basis) to Ponti’s cafe on Bishopsgate with the senior associate on the deal and a couple of other trainees. I smile to myself remembering back to those days when I walk past it now.
Favourite boxset? The last boxset I watched was all seven seasons of Sons of Anarchy. I like watching very violent, high intensity dramas just before I go to sleep.