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Get to know Susan Howe

11th Oct 2023 | Dispute Resolution | Muckle Collect Debt Recovery
Susan Howe in a pink shirt leaning against a wall with a window reflection visible

Susan Howe, partner and head of our dispute resolution team, was recently featured as Northern Insight's Solicitor of the Month.  

Read on to discover, in Susan's own words, how the legal industry has changed over the years, her best piece of business advice, and more.

What were your career ambitions growing up?

No one is ever 12 years old and wanting to be a litigation expert.

I actually wanted to be a journalist; a Kate Adie overseas correspondent type reporting from war zones. I lost interest when my father quite reasonably pointed out that I wouldn't get that sort of assignment straight away and would have to do my time reporting minor local affairs. 

As a child, I used to watch a drama series called Crown Court and then, when I was a bit older, an American programme called the Paper Chase. I think that hooked me into a career in law.

It was not a world I had any contacts in or insight into, but it seemed interesting and exciting and it turned out to be something I was good at.

Tell us about your current role and what do you most enjoy?

I’m competitive so I like to win but I’m also very commercial and I want to fix the problems that get in the way of my clients’ business goals. We specialise in high-value, multi-party, cross-jurisdictional work that normally gets done in London.

I like the strategy of litigation, the intellectual challenge of hard law and understanding a dispute’s different nuances to drive towards success. 

What is your proudest business achievement?

I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in some high-value and legally significant litigation over the years. I’m very proud that one of my reported cases is still quoted as part of the definition of a bank or financial institution in a loan agreement.

I’m also very proud of my Public Inquiry work. I was one of the lead partners on the team appointed to gather evidence for the Bloody Sunday Inquiry. This meant I got to meet and hear the stories of a wide range of people including civilians, soldiers, police and politicians.

We could really immerse ourselves in the history and politics of the time and it led to other fascinating work including the Harold Shipman Inquiry. It was an absolute privilege to be part of a bit of history and to make a very small contribution to something important and of historical value. 

How has your industry evolved in the last decade and what changes do you see in the next decade? 

How we practice law has changed immensely even over the time I’ve been qualified and the thing that gives me the most pleasure is the diversity in our workforce.

When I joined the Magic Circle firm where I trained and practised, I was an outlier as a Northerner, a woman and from a background that simply wasn’t the norm. I love that those perceived limitations are disappearing.

The major change in the last decade is the enablement of so many legal functions through technology; something we embrace and invest in here at Muckle. AI will never replace the human interaction required to get a good commercial outcome in a legal dispute, but it certainly makes case management a lot easier.

What are you currently working on?

I could tell you but then I’d have to kill you…

Tell us about the team you work with?

Despite our size (170 people and counting!), we still have a fantastic “people-first” culture at Muckle which I’m very proud of. 

I lead a brilliant team of individuals who are great fun to work with and just happen to be exceptionally good commercial lawyers. I’ve tried to create a team with a perfect combination of curated skills and talents, including attitude and litigation instinct (the things you can’t train).

I am convinced that this team is the best dispute resolution team in the North and can easily compete with any disputes team nationally. 

What is the best piece of business advice you have been given?

Step back and see the bigger picture because there’s always something you haven’t considered. 

Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?

On a beach.

Who would be your 4 ideal dinner guests, alive or dead?

David Bowie, Shirley Williams, Simone de Beauvoir and Angela Hartnett so she can cook.

How do you unwind outside of work?

I’m a working mother, I never unwind. 

Favourite book and boxset? 

Book – too hard a question and different on different days, but my favourite probably lies somewhere between Jude the Obscure, Madame Bovary and To Kill a Mockingbird.

Boxset - most recently Succession; I’m still processing that ending…

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