Euan McSherry: expects to be busy ahead of COP26 (pic: Terry Murden)
Interview: Euan McSherry, disputes lawyer
There’s a certain symmetry between Euan McSherry’s day job dealing with company disputes, and his fondness for marathons. Both require a lot of preparation and stamina, particularly for those uphills battles he confronts while running, or the tricky legal cases he hopes to steer to a successful outcome.
He heads an eight-strong team of lawyers at Aberdein Considine handling the full range of corporate conflicts, and while change is always in the air, it has been coming thick and fast in recent years. Not only has Covid thrown up its own challenges, but new laws around privacy, data protection and the still relatively new phenomenon of social media which is steadily spreading its influence through the work environment.
“The impact of these developments on reputations and copyright, for instance, are still being debated,” says McSherry. “There is a new act of defamation but there are concerns it does not do enough to protect people’s reputations online.”
Data protection laws have proved to be a minefield for employers and employees alike, with both sides often committing offences because they are ignorant of the rules. Corporate theft can be sophisticated and on a large scale, but is usually committed by an individual either deliberately or because they are not aware they are doing anything wrong.
“Departing employees may copy documentation to use in their new business,” says McSherry. “It is theft, but employees either don’t realise it, or think they can get away with it, maybe by just making a few changes.”
Reputational management of businesses could not have been more topical as we chat on the day that BrewDog was being castigated by former employees on Twitter. McSherry suggests that in such situations the business should instigate an immediate internal investigation into the allegations and consider whether the terms of any non-disclosure agreements have been breached prior to responding.
Dealing with attacks on businesses, some from within and others from external sources, is all in a day’s work.
“Some businesses are more open to attack because of the sector they are in… fossil fuel firms, petroleum, certain players in the food industry,” he says, and offers a warning to those planning COP26 in Glasgow that climate campaigners will be preparing to disrupt those they see as key targets.
‘Insolvency practitioners are hiring as there is expected to be a lot of activity in the Scottish market’
“They will seek to cause as much disruption as possible and businesses have to be mindful of this,” he says.
He expects to be kept busy during the run-up to the summit in November, anticipating applications from companies for various protective orders, not just for property but in relation to campaigners demanding their rights to protest and also against damaging blogs.
The focus of the law has changed, he says. “It used to be more about property ownership and rights, now it is about issues including the health and safety of employees and risks to occupiers while recognising the right to protest.”
McSherry expects a lot of work in Q4 over business viability. Companies will see the support packages that have kept them going suddenly being switched off. It is likely to lead to disputes between companies and suppliers over contracts and orders.
“I think we will see a lot of director-led petitions to wind companies up as well as creditor action,” he says. “Insolvency practitioners are hiring as there is expected to be a lot of insolvency activity in the Scottish market.”
Job title: Head of Dispute Resolution
Education: Aberdeen University – MA(Hons) ; Edinburgh University – LLB & Dip. LP
Career highlights: Shepherd + Wedderburn LLP – Trainee Solicitor (2004-06); Biggart Baillie LLP – Solicitor (2006-09), Associate (2009-12); DWF LLP –Partner & Head of Real Estate Litigation (Scotland) (2012-15), Partner & Head of Litigation (Scotland) (2015-18); Aberdein Considine & Co – Partner & Head of Dispute Resolution (2018 to date)
Who or what has been the biggest influence on your career?
First mentor at Biggart Baillie LLP
What did you hope to be when you were young
Professional golfer or astronaut
How do you relax?
Gardening and cooking
Do you carry cash?
Yes, always enough for the Tooth Fairy
What have you learned about yourself?
In lockdown, I became obsessed with removing moss from our lawn and working on having the perfect grass (ongoing). There is a plague of pigeons who refuse to allow this to occur.
Optimist or pessimist?
A good Bordeaux red
What other activities do you engage in?
Playing Monday night touch at Raeburn Place, home of the Edinburgh Accies, with an ageing group of players; watching Scotland play rugby (rarely relaxing); creating a wild garden with my daughter, with plenty of pollinators and an over-sized water feature
What do you find frustrating and what annoys you?
That mediation has not become more prevalent in the resolution of disputes in Scotland ; pigeons, see above
Do you have any outstanding achievements or claims to fame?
After a gap of 12 years post last marathon (I’d run 3 in my twenties), aged 40 I ran the Copenhagen marathon in 2017 and, most recently, the Prague marathon in 2019 (running a personal best time of 3hrs 12mins). I’m hoping to run the Istanbul marathon in November 2021.
What is your business motto?
‘In a conflict situation, plans are useless but planning is indispensable’ (a quote attributed to President Eisenhower), and ‘Be kind on the people, tough on the issues’ (from the mediator John Sturrock QC)
Name three people, living or dead, who would make the perfect dinner party guests
Professor Brian Cox, Colonel Chris Hadfield (test pilot & astronaut) & my late granny