Michael Webster

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This was a BLD interview with Debo Nwauzu in August 2009. 

Our Lawyer of the Month is Michael Webster, the joint founder and Managing Partner of the City firm Webster Dixon.

Michael read Law at Leeds Polytechnic (now Leeds Metropolitan University) graduating in 1987 and he also did his Solicitor’s Final (Legal Practice Course) at the same institution. He trained at Barber Young Burton and Rind in Knightsbridge, London, qualifying in 1990. After qualification, he joined Sprecher Grier Halberstam as an assistant solicitor and following a stint in-house with Lehman Brothers International, he joined Conway & Co. Solicitors as Head of Litigation in 1993 and became a partner in February 1994.  He remained with Conway & Co. until co-founding Webster Dixon with Dawn Dixon in January 1998.

Michael’s firm, Webster Dixon is a commercial law firm providing strategic advice to multi-national corporations in Europe, North America and Africa as well as small and medium-sized enterprises. The firm opened its US office in Washington D.C in May 2009   “in order to enhance the legal services we offer our clients”. The Washington D.C office is currently headed by 2 partners who are US Attorneys and 4 other attorneys with plans for expansion.

For four years Michael was the secretary for the Society of Black Lawyers as well as being an active committee member. He was the chairman of the Black Solicitors Network between 2007 and 2008. He regularly sits as a member of the Legal Services Commission Appeals Panel. In July 2004 he was elected as a Council Member of the Law Society and in 2005 became a Board member of the City of London Law Society.
He was the Editor of the Diversity League Table which analyses the demographics of the top 100 firms in the UK by ethnicity and gender. He was also listed in The Lawyer magazine’s Hot 100 2004 and featured in the magazine in 2007 as "one of an influential new generation" of lawyers.
Michael is a football coach, coaching school children. He describes his hobbies as “football, running, playing golf and fine wines”.

Michael is married and has two children, a boy and a girl. 

Below is our interview with Michael.

BLD: Why did you choose a legal career?
MW:  I was introduced to law at an early age by taking an ‘O’ Level Law at school.  It sparked my interest and once I chose the option of taking a law degree, I was really on the conveyor belt to becoming a lawyer. 

BLD: If you were to choose another role/profession other than law, what would it be and why?
MW: Journalism – either business or sports.

BLD: What was the best career advice you were given?
MW: I was inspired by two black teachers at my school, Mr & Mrs Kanu.  They said to me “aim high as the sky is your limit”, They also taught me ‘O’ Level Law.

BLD: What was the worst career advice you were given?
MW: Being told to consider a career within criminal law even though I had no interest in that area.  Given the current market conditions concerning legal aid, crime does not always pay!

BLD: What career advice would you give to others?
MW:  Invest in yourself otherwise people won’t.

BLD: Who is the person you most admire (dead or alive) and why?
MW:  Nelson Mandela for his vision, courage and humility.

BLD: What are you most passionate/happiest about?
MW:  My children.

BLD: What are your dislikes?
MW: People who waste their God given talent.

BLD: What was your worst moment as a lawyer?
MW:  I remember in one case that we were required to play a taped conversation.  The client had ensured that he had the correct tape and that he had lined it up to play just the conversation required.  On pressing the play button the judge was entertained by the lyrics of Buju Banton (a reggae artist).  The judge took it in good humour but it was rather embarrassing.

BLD: Tell us about your professional high point(s).
MW:  Opening up Webster Dixon in January 1998 with Dawn Dixon, opening our Washington D.C. office in May 2009 and helping to establish Black Solicitors Network as a leading voice for black solicitors in the U.K.  In 2004 we had less than 250 members we now have over 6000.

BLD: What was the most famous/interesting case(s) you have handled to date?
MW:  The landmark case of Design Progression –v- Thurloe Properties [2005] WLR 1 - the first ever landlord and tenant case in which exemplary punitive damages were awarded. 

BLD: Any professional regrets?
MW: No.  All my mistakes have been good lessons.

BLD: If you could rule the world for a day what would you change/do?
MW: I would pass an international law to ensure that everyone in the world has sufficient resources to feed and clothe themselves and have the opportunity of a good education in order to fulfil their aspirations in life.