This month, we introduce you to our Hereford-based Dispute Resolution solicitor Matt Deem. He tells us about what he wanted to do when he left school (it wasn’t being a lawyer!), why he loves Hereford and how he feels about qualifying as HCR celebrates its 10th year in the city.
Where did you grow up and where did you go to school?
I was born in Hereford and have lived here for the vast majority of my life. I feel incredibly lucky to have grown up here – it has always been such a beautiful and peaceful place to live, and in recent years it has really developed with lots of new businesses being set up. Hereford is definitely a place on the rise!
I went to Fownhope Primary School, followed by The Bishop of Hereford’s Bluecoat School for my secondary education. I then studied at Hereford Sixth Form College before attending university.
What did you want to do when you left school, if not the law (be honest!)?
I didn’t really consider a career in law as an option when I was at a school, beyond my general interest in watching courtroom dramas and films such as Philadelphia and To Kill a Mockingbird. I always dreamed of playing sport professionally or being a journalist, neither of which panned out.
That said, pursuing a career in law has combined the competitive spirit and dedication required in sport with the creative streak needed for journalism – so effectively I still feel like I am following my dreams!
When and why did you start training for law?
I began my journey with law by studying the subject at A-Level at Hereford Sixth Form College. Through learning the basic principles of civil and criminal law, I became fascinated about how law influences the lives of everybody on a day-to-day basis, often without us even knowing. I also started taking part in mooting exercises to understand and appreciate just how multi-faceted the law can be, both in theory and practice.
My passion for the subject led to me reading law as an undergraduate degree from 2011 to 2014, and from that point on I was hooked. I also undertook work experience at various law firms during this time to understand the practical application of law.
I joined HCR in October 2016 as a paralegal in the DR team in Hereford. I then started my training contract with HCR in March 2020 before re-joining the DR team in March 2022 upon qualification as a solicitor.
How you feel about qualifying as a solicitor, particularly in HCR’s 10th year in Hereford?
I was incredibly excited to re-join the team as a solicitor to continue my previous work on a wide range of commercial dispute resolution matters which I had undertaken as both a paralegal and trainee.
Being a part of the HCR Hereford office has been a vital part of my personal and professional development, so it is particularly poignant for me to have qualified as a solicitor during HCR Hereford’s 10th year.
I am very excited to begin my journey as a solicitor with a DR team which has already achieved so much in the last 10 years. This includes advising on cutting-edge topics such as e-disclosure, electronic trial bundles and the use of artificial intelligence, as well as our active involvement in a number of reported High Court and Court of Appeal cases.
Why did you choose to stay in Hereford and to qualify at HCR as opposed to another firm, perhaps further afield?
I have such an affinity with the Hereford team and office, having worked here since 2016. There is a real sense of community and shared learning which you would struggle to find anywhere else. That has helped and encouraged me to develop as a lawyer and strive to achieve the best results possible for our clients. Plus, being able to work opposite Hereford Cathedral and to have the perfect window view is an added bonus!
Similarly, training with HCR and working in other service teams showed me how important and distinctive the firm’s culture truly is. It has a forward-looking and innovative approach in everything it does, but at the heart of it, the people who work at HCR make the difference and make this firm stand out from its competitors.
In the same breath, even though HCR has an increasing national and international reach, I have always admired how our focus is on our clients and trying to obtain the best result possible for them every time. I am extremely proud to work at a law firm that is so ambitious, but where that ambition is rooted in important principles like teamwork and equality.
Why did you choose DR?
Dispute resolution appealed to me because it is constantly evolving and requires an understanding of many different areas of law. I enjoy problem solving and coming up with creative and out-of-the-box solutions to complex issues, so naturally DR has always interested me.
It is slightly cliché to say but it certainly rings true that no two days are the same working in DR. The Hereford team has an extremely varied portfolio of work and I really enjoy working with interesting clients and learning about different businesses. Every day is a school day and the law in this areas is varied and constantly evolving, which enables me to always learn something new to apply in practice.
The crux of all of these different qualities is that DR is principally about resolving disputes. I am passionate about helping others and ensuring the individuals and businesses can keep moving forward towards a positive outcome despite the challenges they face.
What are some challenges or changes facing DR in the near future?
One of the key and unavoidable changes we have seen recently is the development of the digital justice system for civil cases in England and Wales. This has been in place for a while now, with claimants able to issue claims online, the use of portals for filing documents in the Business and Property Courts in the High Court, and a number of electronic working pilot schemes being trialled.
However, the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic also prompted the use of remote court hearings by telephone or videoconference and a greater focus on the court systems becoming paperless.
Since then, there have been further changes to allow claims to be issued and resolved online, such as the launch of the Damages Claims Online platform. We have also seen similar developments with family and employment tribunal claims.
I think that some important lessons have been learned about the way that DR can adapt as a result of the pandemic. It is clearly possible to deliver justice effectively without the need for in-person hearings or using the court in the traditional way.
It is clear that the digitisation of the civil justice system is here to stay and it is important for all those who practice the law to embrace these changes try to use the systems in place effectively. The litigation process is being modernised and it will be very interesting to see how that works in practice in order to allow access to justice for all court users.
Tell us something interesting about yourself that isn’t connected to work
I am passionate about health and fitness and staying active. I enjoy running and going to the gym on a regular basis, as well as playing golf and squash with my family and friends. I am a Liverpool FC fan and follow a number of other sports closely, including cricket and basketball.
I also once ate fish and chips sitting next to the late Professor Stephen Hawking, which is not something that happens every day of the week!