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08/07/20

Q&A with Chris Sunderland

Meet Chris Sunderland in this Q&A

Meet Chris, the new Director of Business Development and Marketing for Driver Trett and Diales. We delve into his past, look to his future, and find out what makes him tick.


What is your role within the Group?

I am the Director of Business Development and Marketing for Diales, the expert witness arm of the Group, and Driver Trett who provide support to the engineering and construction industries it serves, from the outset of a project to its completion, and beyond.

 

How did you get into the industry and how did you get to where you are today?

Like many people, my route into my current role wasn’t planned, it just happened. I left school with mediocre exam results which meant my idea of becoming a physiotherapist was simply not going to happen. Whilst researching courses, I stumbled across Sport Science as a subject, which had some vague relevance to my interests at the time. I spent three very happy years at Chichester Institute of Higher Education learning about the physiological, biomechanical and psychological characteristics of athletes, and how to apply these skills to performance enhancement. The campus included students studying Music, Dance, Art, English and trainee teachers which enhanced the overall experience.

It was at the graduation of one my best friends, Mel, I met Barry, who was the senior clerk at Keating Chambers. We hit it off on the day and he suggested I should think about becoming a Barristers’ clerk, and that Keating were currently looking to recruit a junior clerk. I had absolutely no idea what a clerk did, but duly turned up to the second interview of my life to be met by a panel of six Barristers, including some of the best cross examiners in the world. The interview went well, and I was offered the job, but with the suggestion I should remove my earring and thumb ring when I am at work! I spent 18 very happy years at Keating Chambers progressing from post room boy / Junior Clerk to Senior Practice Manager and my best friend from University, Mel, finally succumbed to my charms after 10 years (or just gave in as she says) and became my wife. I therefore have many things to be thankful for from my time in Chichester.

In 2015 an opportunity arose to take on the role of Senior Team Clerk for Construction, Commercial and Energy at Crown Office Chambers. I was sad to leave many friends behind at Keating Chambers, but as the saying goes, a “change is as good as a rest” and it gave me the opportunity to set and implement a strategy to push on an already very successful team at Crown Office Chambers, another set of very talented individuals.

 

In recent years, other Clerks had successfully made the transition out of the “Bar bubble” to the consultancy world as well as Litigation Funding, proving the skills that I had learned over the years were transferable into the commercial world. I had known Paul Battrick for several years, as well as a number of the experts who always spoke very fondly of Driver Group, especially the people focused approach and general friendliness of the business. This type of collaborative approach suits my own style very well and when the opportunity arose, it was simply too good to turn down. As much as I enjoyed working with the Bar, the role at Diales & Driver Trett included all the things I loved about Clerking, the business development, and none of the things I didn’t enjoy.

It’s been an interesting start during lockdown, but the people and the technology the company uses has certainly made it easier than it could have been in these exceptional circumstances we find ourselves in.

 

Who has been the greatest influence on your career?

I am sure my wife will say that she is! Having the support of your family is a very important factor, understanding that the long days and overseas trips are all part of the job. That aside, I have had the pleasure of working with a number of top draw senior clerks over my career, each with their own styles and approaches to business development, and I think you take the best pieces from your experiences with each. But, without doubt the biggest influencer would be Barry Bridgman.

He taught me that people buy people, and you must gain the trust of your client so that you are the first call they make when they need help. It was instilled in me early on in my career, that my main role is making clients lives as easy as possible. Whether that means guiding them towards the best person or team for an assignment, not only matching experience but also, and perhaps just as importantly, matching personalities.

Connecting people with others in the industry to their mutual benefit is a very powerful tool, and something that connections never forget.  



What has been the best moment of your career?

Joining the Driver Group family of course! I have had many over the years, but those that stick out include seeing very talented people who you have assisted in their careers and development taking silk, or on a more personal level, being recognised by the client base in the legal directories with some very nice comments.



How have you found starting a new job during lockdown?

I’m pleased to say that despite not being able to see people in person, the Driver group have a first-class IT system where you can contact anyone in the business via Skype or Microsoft teams with ease. My remit going forward will predominantly be UK focused, supporting globally where required, but my influence will be best felt in the Middle East and Far East where I have the most international experience. The lockdown has not only afforded me the time to learn the Driver / Diales ropes and get to know all my colleagues and their various skill sets around the globe, but also time to get in touch with friends and contacts to say, “Hi, I have landed, if they haven’t beaten me to it already.”
I am pleased to say the feedback I have received has confirmed I have made a good career move and joined a world-renowned business.
 


What makes you tick?

It’s simple: people, and the competitive edge that makes me want to do the very best for my colleagues and clients.

 

Tell us a little-known fact about you.

I used to work for a Greyhound trainer at weekends and during school holidays in my teenage years. If I hadn’t fallen into the construction disputes arena, I would have liked to have had my own Kennels attached to one of the very few Greyhound stadiums around these days, ideally Brighton and Hove.

 


 

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