Paul qualified as a solicitor in 1981 and worked for a number of firms before joining Herbert Smith (as was) as a partner between 2000 and 2010. Since 2016, he has worked as an independent arbitrator and mediator, as well as being an honorary professor at the University of Dundee. However, it is classic cars that Paul really wants to talk about.
“Do you know Plutarch’s story about the Theseus paradox in the 1st century AD?” Paul asks. “In legend, Theseus had a wooden ship which, over time, had all its panels replaced and renewed. Was it then fundamentally the same object? That has generated much philosophical debate during the ages. I wondered whether that same paradox applied to my passion and main hobby, classic cars. That got me thinking.”
Paul has done more than think about the conundrum; he has now written a book on the subject, The Past and the Spurious (great punning title). Historic cars are a precious asset (they can cost hundreds of thousands, or even more) whose value derives from its origins. Increasingly, historic cars have been making their way towards the courts. At dispute is their identity, originality and authenticity. This brought together Paul’s twin passions – law and classic cars.
“I have become completely absorbed in the provenance of old cars and, linked to my interest in mediation, it seemed like a perfect match to do research into old classic cars and raise some interesting legal questions,” he says.
As a classic car enthusiast – and investor – Paul had special interest in carrying out the research, although it was the research that interested him most, rather than anxiety about the value of his investments. His interest in cars dates back to his university days, when, if had a few pounds to spare from his university grant (older readers will remember them), he would buy motoring magazines. He became fascinated with the old racing cars.
Paul later on became a collector of classic cars and a competitor in classic car races. This year, he will be driving his 1923 Bentley in a race to mark Le Mans’ 100th anniversary. He has owned many cars over the years and currently is the proud owner and racer of a 1954 Connaught (which Stirling Moss used to race) and two Coopers from the 1950s – a T51 Grand Prix car (Moss again) and a 1959 Cooper Monaco which Jack Brabham raced with Bruce McLaren.
Lockdown in the summer of 2020 gave Paul an opportunity to devote a lot of time to writing the book, and he is very pleased with the results. The reaction by his readers has been very encouraging and sales have exceeded his expectations. The book launch was at the Royal Automobile Club (where else?), the home of motoring. He is selling mostly through his own website, to save on publishing and distribution costs so he can give more to the charities who will benefit from the book.
However, Paul will be best remembered by Herbert Smith Freehills alumni from his time as a partner in the Oil and Gas practice. He came to the firm in 2000 after spells with some others, attracted by the firm’s reputation in oil and gas and energy and the persuasiveness of Richard Bond (then head of Corporate and later Senior Partner).
Paul had a very happy 10 years with the firm and highlights a number of major deals on which he was involved, none more so than the insolvency of TXU Energy, the US-based energy trader, and the demerger of British Gas.
He looks back generally on a very good choice of practice area. “Oil and gas had so many elements to it, so I never really saw myself as a specialist in one practice area. You had to have a good understanding of several areas, for example, litigation, even if you then included other partners in the specialist work. It was very international, which I really liked. Plus, oil and gas is an industry of constant changes and very unpredictable, so you always had to keep up to speed on those changes, which is very stimulating. And, with climate change and the pressure on fossil fuels businesses, much more change is in prospect.”
Assembling his expert knowledge in one place, Paul edited and contributed to Liquefied Natural Gas The Law and Business of LNG. He felt that it was important to share his knowledge and his experience. “I always felt an obligation to give back, whether it was speaking, writing or mentoring. Again, I feel very privileged to have been able to do that.” Paul is now an honorary professor at the University of Dundee, having taught there for many years.
After giving up private practice in 2016, Paul started life as an independent consultant, arbitrator, mediator and expert witness and can draw on a long career which has seen many changes. Strange to think that in his earliest days, closings would require all the parties being in the same room at the same time signing bits of paper. Face-to-face dealings meant that Paul established many fruitful and enjoyable professional relationships. “I am not saying you can’t have those relationships now, but it must be more difficult with the fact that so much is now done online,” he says.
So what has been Paul’s biggest triumph on the track? That happened when he started at the back of the grid in Monaco in 2018 (because some late damage to the car had prevented from qualifying), but managed to overtake several cars to finish 17th. “This was in my Connaught, which had a much smaller engine than the other cars in the race, but because it was pouring with rain, those with the bigger engines were at a disadvantage because their extra power was lost to wheel-spin in the puddled conditions. I just gradually made my way through. So, I was far from winning, but it was very satisfying!” Watch out for Paul on the circuit!