Dealmaker: Simpson Thacher's Clare Gaskell on making partner in pyjamas, Mount Fuji sunrises and 3am conference calls

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett partner City corporate partner Clare Gaskell joined the US firm as an associate in 2009 and was made up to partner in 2015. She is currently advising KKR on its bid for Unilever’s £6.5bn spreads division.

Why did you become a lawyer? I wanted to be an ‘international lawyer’ from the age of about 12 – but I don’t think I really knew what that would entail. I was attracted to the combination of intellectual challenge and international travel. I have been rewarded with a number of trips to glamorous locations, where I have been confined to law firm offices for days on end. I wonder how many people can say they have watched the sunrise over Mount Fuji… from the windows of Freshfields’ offices in Tokyo?

Who has been the biggest influence on your career? Adam Signy, with whom I worked at Clifford Chance and who started the UK corporate practice at Simpson Thacher, I wouldn’t be in my current role if he hadn’t made that move. I also credit him with the broad experience I’ve gained over the years, across a wide range of private and public M&A, private equity and ECM work.

What’s your proudest professional moment? I have worked on a lot of rewarding deals but my proudest movement would be my election as partner. It was a slightly surreal moment as given the time difference I was at home in my pyjamas when I had the phonecall from New York. Luckily I just happened to have a bottle in the fridge!

…and worst day on the job? It was many years ago now but involved admitting that a notice of general meeting and the related proxy form did not, in fact, relate as closely as they should have done. The client was very good about it and it all worked out in the end.

Aside from your own firm, which lawyer do you most admire and why? I had a great formative experience at CC and have kept in touch with a number of people from my years there. I have been particularly impressed by Emma Danks, who is now head of private equity at Taylor Wessing and who has proven that it’s possible to combine good nature and a collaborative approach with a steely determination to get the best deal done for her clients.

What’s your strongest characteristic…and worst trait? I would say impatience for both – it’s essential in a transactional lawyer as without a sense of urgency deals don’t get done. But I imagine it makes me a bit annoying at times (and it’s not ideal when looking after small children!).

What advice would you give to young deal lawyers starting out? Don’t underestimate the importance of first impressions. It’s critical not only to be curious, competent, diligent and enthusiastic but to convey that to others – and not just to clients but also to colleagues. But (without being contradictory!) try to relax.

What’s the best part of your job? The sense of achievement when something gets signed or announced really is worth the stress and late nights – especially if it makes the FT!

What most annoys you about the legal profession? People focusing on technical points that don’t actually mean anything in practice. You have to pick your battles.

What’s the most unusual/shocking request you’ve ever had from a client? I would like to say that requests to join conference calls at 3am are unusual – sadly they’re not!  It’s a round-the-clock job when there’s a deal afoot.

Most memorable deal you ever have worked on and why? It’s tough to choose, but getting the Melrose acquisition of Nortek announced within a fortnight after the Brexit referendum, against all the odds and despite the plummeting pound, has to be a particular highlight.

What is the daftest bit of corporate jargon you’ve heard (and did you smirk)? I used to have a whiteboard in my office featuring the most egregious things to come out of bankers’ mouths – I think the worst was a reference to “the mood music from the sellers”.  I’m still not quite sure what they were on about.

Do you see yourself having a career outside law? Probably not, to be honest, but if I did I suspect it would involve some combination of boutique hotel, cool bar, good restaurant.  But the hospitality industry is even tougher than the law, hours- and pressure-wise, so I think I’d have to be a silent partner.

What’s your favourite item of clothing? I have a leather jacket that my husband rather rudely calls my ‘Hasselhoff jacket’ – I still like it though.

It’s midnight and you’re in the office for the night, where’s your takeaway from? So much choice now with Deliveroo – it’s a game changer.  Sushi if I’m trying to be healthy, a burger if I’m not!

What are your desert island discs? I have some pretty eclectic playlists on my iPhone but always seem to get the most compliments for the 90s and noughties nostalgia – think James, Embrace, The Killers, Stereophonics, Crowded House and the like.

Favourite boxset? Back in the day, it was The Wire, and multiple episodes in a sitting.  Now anything written by Sharon Horgan – nice and short at 25 minutes each!

What’s your favourite cheese? Camembert – it was typically the only food to be found at my trainee flat in Paris and it’s still a favourite.