Jagjit Singh Virdi

Jagjit is a partner in our insurance team, and is based in our Birmingham office. He discusses how he embarked on a career in law and his journey to partnership.

Can you tell us about your role?

I’m an insurance disputes lawyer who works in the casualty team, a sub sector within insurance which crosses over with other sectors such as healthcare and sport.

In a nutshell, I represent corporate clients to defend civil claims for personal injury, try to work out who is at fault, and negotiate a fair settlement for our client. I've also been instructed on cases where fraud is suspected, which is when we get to commission undercover surveillance!

How did you embark on a career in law?

It all started with an inspirational teacher. I didn’t really knuckle down at school until six months before my GCSEs. Academic work didn’t come easily to me but at A-Level I started to study law with a fantastic teacher who brought it to life and inspired me.

Before that I'd wanted to be a customs officer and work at an airport (I loved airports at the time!) but I was told that you needed to know a lot of tax law for that role and could potentially be sent to a port instead. My teacher helped me see law as a possible alternative, and my Mum agreed that my argumentative nature would suit a job where I could do that for a living!

I started off as a paralegal working first in claimant personal injury, then on the defendant side until I secured a training contract. I soon learned that there’s never a dull moment in insurance litigation. You always have lots of plates to spin dealing with the insured, insurer, other side and the courts.

What are the most important lessons you’ve learned along the way?

My parents were immigrants from India and had to work hard and sacrifice a lot for what they achieved. I grew up helping out in the family businesses including fish & chip shops and newsagents (the Sunday morning paper-round was a killer!). Their work ethic was a positive influence on me and probably the main reason I have managed to qualify as a solicitor and get to where I am today. I'm very proud of becoming a lawyer despite not initially excelling at school.

Do you have any advice for someone starting out in the legal sector?

Yes, you need to master your chosen area of law and become technically excellent. Clients need to have trust and confidence in you and your advice. You also need to be proactive, build strong client relationships, and challenge yourself to work outside your comfort zone. A phrase I often to say to myself is: “get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” It’s only when we work outside of our comfort zones that we can develop and grow as individuals.

It’s also good to have interests totally unrelated to the law and work. During lockdown I taught myself to make all different sorts of bread and now bake all my own, I'm also trying to master the art of Neapolitan pizza. Admittedly, I have not yet mastered pizza making and struggle with shaping the pizza base like a true pizzaiolo…

Can you tell us about your application process and transition to becoming a partner?

I found the process extremely challenging because you have to start thinking like a business owner which isn’t the same as being a technically good lawyer. It involves a completely different mindset and approach which was outside of my comfort zone.

The main challenge is demonstrating you have a viable business opportunity which is scalable and aligns with the firm’s strategy. You must convince the Board and other partners that your business case has merits and can succeed.

You also need to have a personal case. In other words, show you are the right person that can deliver the proposed business case. That too can be challenging as you need to have certain skills and traits to deal with the challenges of being a business owner and leader.

While I did find the process challenging, I had a huge amount of support from across the firm. Far too many to mention here. I was blown away with the support and the way other partners genuinely wanted me to succeed.

I am delighted to be a partner at Mills & Reeve. I still have a lot to learn but am confident I can do that with the partner support around me.

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