Spotlight on: Paul Grimwood
In this edition we talk to the newest partner in our Private Client group: Paul Grimwood. Having previously been a partner at firms in Chichester and Guildford, Paul joined our expanding Disputed Wills, Trusts and Estates Team in May of this year.
What are your specialisms?
Although, since qualification in 1987 I have been involved in a wide range of different types of litigation, in more recent years I have specialised in contested wills, trusts and estate disputes as well as Inheritance Act claims. I am also a Court of Protection appointed deputy and an accredited mediator (as well, since lockdown, as an online mediator). My most difficult mediation involved one claimant and five separately represented defendants with nearly 30 people at the joint opening session. A very long day ended up with a line of lawyers in a street near Berkeley Square passing a draft consent order up and down the line so that everyone could sign it!
What sparked your interest in contentious trust and probate work?
As a newly qualified lawyer I had a will dispute case which went to the Court of Appeal but was also mentioned in the News of The World under the headline ‘Gordon the gasman was my aged aunt’s toy boy lover’. The other side were represented by a very experienced consultant who literally threw everything at the case including at one stage calling me ‘young, dense and incompetent’. At that stage ‘young’ was true but I didn’t think the other comments were. For me this was an object lesson in how not to conduct litigation. In family disputes there is often more than sufficient acrimony between the parties without the lawyers adding to it and all this did was to provide me with even greater motivation to win the case at trial which we duly did. Although you should always be prepared to take cases to trial if you cannot achieve the right result for your client by negotiation, because of my qualification and experience as a mediator I am always alive to other ways of settling cases without the delay, inconvenience and distress of going to court – even if these days that is more likely to be online.
How has the country going into lockdown affected your work?
We are now fully accustomed to preparing entirely electronic court bundles and to having remote hearings and trials with just the talking heads of the judges and barristers being visible on screen. Although I suspect that we will not now go back to the old way of doing things, you do sometimes miss the theatre of the court room. In a will dispute case which went to trial shortly before I joined IBB, a solicitor witness initially said that a particular word in his handwriting was ‘each’ (which agreed with our expert handwriting evidence) – it being a key point in the case whether that particular word was ‘each’ or ‘both’. Upon our QC drawing the witness’ attention to the next draft of the will where the word in question had been typed as ‘both’, he complained that he was having problems with his broadband, that the questions were coming too fast for him to cope with and that he was confused by the barrister’s pixelated face! He therefore asked for a 5-minute adjournment which against our wishes was granted. When the cross examination resumed the witness completely changed his evidence to say that in fact the handwritten word was ‘both’. As the judge referred to in his judgement, if we had all been present physically in the Chancery Division in London a gasp would have gone around the court room.
Why IBB Law?
After more than 32 years at my previous firm and as with a number of other people I know, lockdown caused me to re-evaluate certain things. I decided that I needed a new challenge and wanted to join a firm that was professionally managed and was prepared to invest in modern systems and in expanding contentious wills, trusts and estates work which I very much see as a growth area. IBB already has a very good reputation in this area which I am keen to develop and enhance.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
With so few cases going to trial these days, I really enjoy the intellectual and other challenges of being a mediator and trying to help warring parties come to an agreement which they can all live with. As my first online mediation lasted 17 hours, finishing past 2:00 am in the morning, it can sometimes be quite gruelling but nonetheless rewarding. This is particularly so where the parties start the day off at complete loggerheads. I always ask both sides beforehand whether they want to have a joint meeting at which everyone is present. I vividly remember a mediation in Birmingham when one solicitor said to me ‘Well, it’s up to you mate, but the last time the two sides of the family met up was in the Magistrates’ Court and the time before that was at the family wedding when the fight broke out’! Needless to say, we did not have a joint opening session on that occasion.