Dealmaker: Fieldfisher's Jill Greenfield on Harvey Weinstein, court antics and rewarding work



Fieldfisher personal injury head and litigation partner Jill Greenfield is acting on the UK’s first civil claim against US film producer Harvey Weinstein. Greenfield, who was instructed earlier this month, is representing an anonymous client who alleges they were sexually assaulted by the US movie producer.

Greenfield joined Fieldfisher as a partner in 2005 from RPC, with a mandate to head up and grow a catastrophic personal injuries team.

Why did you become a litigator?  It was very clear to me that I was always going to be a litigator. I enjoy fighting for my clients against often big insurers and corporations. On a difficult case, getting a great result for a client is what it is all about.

What’s the closest you have come to doing something other than law? I almost studied geology at University. However, I did not have enough of a science background and I felt that law was ultimately a better option. I still sometimes wonder what life would have been like studying volcanoes!

Do you think there will be many more damages claims against Harvey Weinstein to come in the UK? What are the next steps? I am fully expecting this to develop into a group action as other women come forward and for similar claims to be issued against other people when appropriate. The next step is to wait for response from Mr Weinstein and then ultimately to serve him.

Why work in a law firm rather than become a barrister?  The reality was that when I was qualifying in law I simply could not afford to go to the Bar. In fact, that was a very good decision for me. The contact that I have with clients is tremendous and I am very pleased indeed to work at Fieldfisher. I have the most fantastic team of people to work with, all incredibly committed and I can’t now think how I might have done anything else.

Which judge or barrister do you most admire and why?  I very much admire Elizabeth Ann Gumbel QC who I work with a great deal and who is always able to come up with a unique way of looking at a knotty problem and finding a way through; it’s a real skill and few have that.

What’s been your proudest professional moment in court?  There have been some big cases along the way. The campaign to introduce a scheme of compensation for British victims of terrorism was very satisfying, as was winning a civil rape case at trial. However, the best bit for me is working with people who have suffered terrible injuries but who through really excellent rehabilitation (paid for in the litigation) can really regain some quality of life. It shocks me how many of my clients could have been confined to a very different and much poorer quality of life. The litigation can bring real hope.

…and worst day on the job? Telling a client who has serious injuries that I cannot run a case; devastating for them.

What advice would you give to young litigators starting out? Go for an area that fires you up and that you are really interested in. You will spend many hours at work and you need to enjoy it.

What’s the best/worst thing about being a litigator? It’s a constant battle; which can be good but can also be frustrating. When we are talking about people with serious injuries, game-playing by defendants is incredibly annoying.

What’s the funniest thing you’ve ever witnessed in court? I did once have an opponent start to bang his head on the table. The District Judge remained unperturbed and I carried on. My opponent was clearly trying to put me off and fortunately it did not work.

How do litigators differ from deal lawyers? I don’t really know any deal lawyers. Even my husband, a barrister, is a litigator. I am sure that we are all very similar at heart.

How much do you conform to the spiky litigator stereotype? Totally, I expect.

What’s the toughest ethical/moral dilemma your job has ever presented you with? Fortunately I always act for claimants and it rarely brings with it ethical dilemmas. Life must be much for difficult for defendants.

What most annoys you about the legal profession?  Game-playing – it is pointless and does no one any favours.

What’s your strongest characteristic…and worst trait? Strongest – passionate and tenacious. Worst – you had better ask others about that.

What’s the worst corporate event you’ve ever attended? I don’t tend to attend such events.

Most memorable case you ever have worked on and why? See above.

Do you see yourself having a career outside law? No – it is too late now, I am stuck here for good.

What’s your favourite TV-depiction of a litigation lawyer?  Paper Chase – it was a real inspiration.

What’s your favourite item of clothing? Er – just clothes….

What’s your favourite cheese?  Roquefort.