Commercial Litigation News… Qamer Ghafoor
Qamer Ghafoor, Head of Commercial Litigation at Flint Bishop Solicitors, provides an insight into his successful career in the law and how he has transformed the firm’s litigation department.
The first thing you see when you enter Qamer’s office is the array of law books and files from floor to ceiling relating to a multi-million pound dispute that he recently won. The second thing you notice, or hear to be more exact, is the relentless ‘pinging’ sound of incoming emails – all of which he reads immediately.
It’s safe to say that Qamer didn’t become a solicitor in order to have an easy job. At the outset of his career, he set his aims very high with the intention of standing out from his peers and being recognised as one of the best litigation lawyers. He says: ‘I knew what I wanted to achieve and where I wanted to be, it was just a matter of how quickly I could get there!’ This drive and determination stems from his biggest inspiration – his father – someone who it’s clear has played a key role in Qamer’s career success. ‘My father migrated to the UK in 1963 from Pakistan with very little. He worked extremely hard, making a lot sacrifices on the way to become a successful businessman. I definitely get my strong work ethic and determination to succeed from my father,’ he said.
Qamer was born and brought up in South Wales and from a young age spent a lot of time at his father’s business. He recalls that during a summer holiday while studying law at Cardiff University, he had to project manage the finishing stages of a 22 house estate at one of his father’s construction sites. Handling problems and being exposed to the cut and thrust world of business soon made him aware of his natural flare for solving problems and disputes, and he was encouraged by his parents to take a career as a litigator.
After training and qualifying as a solicitor at Geldards (Cardiff) in 2002, Qamer had two job offers on the table. One was with a national law firm, the other was a newly qualified assistant solicitor position in the Commercial Litigation Department at Flint Bishop& Barnett (now known as Flint Bishop). He said, ‘I chose Flint Bishop as I believed that it shared the same values as myself in respect of being client focused and going that extra mile for clients’.
Even on a starter salary, as an employee, Qamer treated the firm like his own business, putting in as many hours as needed for clients and often working seven days a week, 12 hours a day. Qamer says: ‘It never dawned on me to have a 9 to 5 work attitude. I treat my clients’ problems as though they are my own and strive to find a solution for the clients, leaving no stone unturned on the way.’
His efforts have clearly worked, not only building his own personal reputation as an excellent litigator but also totally transforming the department within 10 years from having just one litigation solicitor and a couple of junior staff to employing a team of 24, which includes solicitors, a barrister and support staff.
But it is not just the size of the department that Qamer has changed; it is the type of work and clients too. His tireless efforts to put his litigation team on the map have led to it being seen as a regional law firm with a national reputation.
‘As soon as I joined in 2003, I started to build the reputation of our litigation department nationally by taking on more complex work for larger clients and securing major wins. I soon attracted new clients that would normally have instructed national law firms for their disputes.’
Qamer enjoys seeing members of his team develop and only recruits litigators that he feels can add real value to his department and share similar attributes towards client matters as himself. The department advises a wide range of clients from small local businesses and private individuals to large limited companies, government agencies, public sector bodies, insurance firms and Global PLCs. Such clients include Haven Insurance, Bowmer & Kirkland, Ward Recycling, Marston’s PLC, Southern Cross and global publisher Lexis Nexis.
Qamer’s achievements have also been recognised at the highest levels too. Annually since 2007, he has been elected by the Legal 500, the definitive guide to the nation’s best lawyers, as one of the UK’s top litigation solicitors. The directory has given him such testimonials as ‘A-star’ litigator, ‘absolutely superb’ and ‘the kind of solicitor that you would walk through fire for’. In the most recent edition published last month, Qamer has achieved elite status within the Legal 500 and is described as a lawyer who ‘cares deeply about his cases and so provides a dedicated personal service.’
In addition, his team (which he talks of very highly), is the only team in the East Midlands recommended in the top two tiers of the Legal 500 2012 edition for all areas of commercial dispute resolution, being commercial litigation, property litigation, professional negligence and debt recovery and is described as ‘A firstrate service to the level of the London Magic Circle, with the cost of a regional firm’.
To say Qamer’s success had been rapid would be an understatement. To go from a newly qualified Assistant Solicitor in 2003 to Partner in 2005, Head of Department in 2007 and Equity Partner in 2010 is meteoric. Especially as he is only one of six owners of a law firm that employs over 200 lawyers and support staff. And this success hasn’t gone unnoticed. ‘I frequently get approached by head hunters to join other firms but I have no interest in leaving Flint Bishop,’ he declares.
So, what’s next? Qamer admits that the challenges of his own practice now entail managing a busy department and handling complex cases. He intends to continue building and mentoring a team of highly competent litigation lawyers but also has great plans in terms of further growth and business development.
And when Qamer isn’t at work, how does he relax? ‘The two most important things in my life are family and work but creating the right work/life balance has proven difficult at times, so I’m lucky to have such a supportive family. However, when I’m not at work I’m just as busy keeping my two children (Sameera aged 9 and Ameer aged 7) out of mischief. I enjoy swimming and gardening and my new guilty pleasure is my quad bike – which is great fun!’