Sixty seconds with Jacob Gatley – Commercial Litigation Solicitor
What would you describe as the key strengths of BDB Pitmans’ commercial litigation team?
Put simply, they’re a team of highly experienced and plain-speaking lawyers, who translate jargon into clear legal advice. While much of our work is dispute resolution, our team works closely with our other commercial departments on dispute prevention, which is better for clients in terms of both time and costs. While it might sound a bit cliché, prevention is always better than a cure. As with many disputes or potential disputes, it often encompasses multiple areas of law, is rarely straightforward, and often requires cross-team support. That’s why one of our commercial litigation team’s strengths is our ability to work seamlessly and closely with other teams, such as corporate and employment, to deliver the best outcome for clients.
What is the most interesting case you’ve ever worked on?
During the pandemic, I acted for two NHS doctors and their dispute involving a wedding contract which involved the issues of force majeure, with covid intervening as an unforeseeable and uncontrollable event. This was a particularly rewarding case to work on for clients, who endured much during the pandemic and subsequent court proceedings which resulted in them receiving their money back.
Separately, I have worked on a shareholder dispute worth over £2 million – a scenario which was similar to one which you might find on a law exam paper! The debtors included a current employee, an ex-company director and the executors of an estate, so it was interesting to deal with very different parties on the other side.
Another highlight of my career was acting for a taxi driver who invested his pension in an expensive, brand new electric cab which turned out to be completely defective. I managed to secure him a full refund plus compensation, so this outcome really made a personal difference to the client’s life.
In your view, what issues are on the near horizon for commercial litigation clients?
The application of technology and the automation of day-to-day contract decision making. The increased use of tech makes processes quicker and easier, however as AI and other smart learning becomes more commonplace, it is also likely to lead to create new and different types of litigation, such as companies delegating certain tasks to AI which generates legally binding commercial agreements. AI and machine learning are already used in financial trading, but we are likely to see this type of technology being used by SME’s for their internal and external supply chains in the near future. Also tech will inevitably cause different and new issues in contrast to the traditional ‘gentleman’s handshake’ approach. Commercial clients therefore need to carefully consider their frameworks and processes that use AI in the corporate workplace and identify from the outset how decisions will be made, especially as specific AI regulations are yet to be implemented. Many AI systems are trained using personal data and many generate personal data, so GDPR considerations are already in play and will only become more complicated.
What does your typical day look like?
It often begins with catching up with litigation partners regarding my various commercial litigation, construction, and tech dispute matters. Mornings also tend to feature either client calls or meetings, before the afternoon which might involve drafting related tasks such as letters of demand, mediation position statements, court claims and defences.
If you weren’t a commercial litigation solicitor, what alternative career path would you have pursued and why?
I would love to have been a TV or film producer. My parents both worked in advertising, and I’ve always loved film, especially sci-fi. During my primary school years, I starred in adverts for Barclays Bank and British Airways, which sparked my interest in that industry.
Outside of work, what do you do in your spare time?
I practice and teach jiu jitsu and love to train whenever I am not in the office. I must however stress that those skills are left outside the court room!
Who do you most admire and why?
My mum. While running a full time business, she raised my four siblings and I to become an architect, a doctor, an IT programmer, a marketing executive and a lawyer respectively. My mum’s energy, determination and organisational skills are nothing short of amazing.