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Paul Hatzer – Partner, Shipping (Hong Kong)

Law – Hull

After a law degree at Hull, I worked as a labourer for a year loading bread on 12 hour night shifts in a large Sunblest bakery, interspersed with Euro-travel, which the job happily funded. I then took up a training contract (then called "articles") with a high street law firm in London, followed by a brief period in a Middle Eastern war zone as a not very good tractor driver - possibly not too much competition for the job in retrospect - and then moved to the relative peace of law school in Lancaster Gate, and final qualification as a solicitor.

My early legal career took a number of different directions; following completion of my training, I moved to a small city firm based in the Temple working for Harrods, the Dorchester Hotel and similar high end clients. I then moved to Australia to do insolvency, cattle stations, aboriginal land rights and professional negligence; and finally, five years after qualification, I joined HFW in London to focus on shipping work. The practice of maritime law is by its very nature international – requiring as much common sense as it does in-depth legal knowledge. Much of it is contemporaneous and involves trouble-shooting problems which, when handled properly, avoid long court or arbitration proceedings. It also involves good knowledge of the shipping and commercial law of other countries as well as the countries of which one is admitted (in my case England & Wales, Australia and Hong Kong). I've appeared as Counsel in England, Australia, Hong Kong, as advocate in arbitration in HK and Beijing, and as Counsel in the Saigon Commercial Court. I've also been lucky to be on the doorsteps of both China and Vietnam over the last quarter century, watching historic changes as they become far more open and engaging, and it's been a privilege to watch that occur.

I moved across to HFW's Hong Kong office in 1991, and two years later was made Partner. In 2003 I was made Hong Kong office head, from 2011 – 2014 was Asia-Pacific Managing Partner, looking after six offices, and in 2014 was made head of shipping, whilst remaining head of the Hong Kong office, and still a practising lawyer.

Over the course of my career, I have been involved in a number of big cases, notably the "Super Servant I" (on the doctrine of "frustration") and the "Pioneer Container" (which was an authority on "sub-bailment on terms", which was a radically important development in liability in the container liner business). Other particularly memorable moments include organising a dinner for clients and friends in our conference room to watch, way below, the British and Chinese dignitaries, and the magnificent Black Watch, at the bitter-sweet official handover ceremony on a rainy night in 1997, as the British departed the jewel of Hong Kong and it was returned to the People's Republic of China; dealing with the real tragedy of ship casualties; going to some of the worst ports, and to some of the most exciting cities, in the world, and working with great people to solve immediate problems, in far off places. Working at Holmans involves a lot of travel and over the years I have built up a network of professional acquaintances and friends worldwide. Many of my colleagues from my first days at the firm have gone on to take up senior management roles at the firm, and I can truly say that the firm is a very collegiate place to work, and one where development and promotion of employees is taken seriously. I would recommend it as a serious option for any Trainee solicitor/junior lawyer wanting to gain top level international experience, in an exciting sector-focused context. There is rarely a dull moment!