James Lingard retired from the partnership in 1993 and now spends his time writing novels. We caught up with James to hear about his memories of the firm and discover the inspiration for his most recent novels.

When did you work for Norton Rose Fulbright, for how long and in what team?

I joined Norton Rose (as it was then) in 1972 from Cameron Kemm (now CMS) where I had ten years’ experience of domestic banking and insolvency law. I was recruited to prepare a complete set of bank security documents for Hambros Bank but within a few days Court Line and its subsidiary Clarkson Holidays went into compulsory liquidation. The firm had no one with insolvency experience except me and were suitably impressed when I persuaded Peat Marwick that I could form a team to act for them.

The senior Peat's partner set me an aptitude test: 'What's your view of s38?' He did not say which Act! I knew he referred to the old Bankruptcy legislation and laughed. He clapped me on the shoulder: 'Good answer. You'll do. For the next three weeks follow me to all meetings and take notes of the decisions we reach.' I acted as his liaison with the Official Receiver who required me to ring him at 4.30 each day. I persuaded Raymond Walton QC to be available at 4.15 to advise on any obscure difficulties which arose.

I retired as a partner in 1993 but was asked to stay on as a consultant for two years.

What are your abiding memories from your time with us?

In 1972, Con Surtees (the senior partner) instructed me that I must not recruit lady solicitors to do insolvency work; they could do banking work. The crash in the following year meant the firm had too many banking lawyers but not enough insolvency people. Inevitably, my banking assistants found themselves handling insolvency cases. Walking down the corridor, I heard one girl speaking on the telephone take a deep breath and explode: 'Now look here --'. I knew then that Con was mistaken - a relic of the past!

I was also instructed never to go to a meeting without an assistant to take notes. This practice persisted until clients objected to the cost. My own negotiating practice was to raise but then concede a sprinkling of trivial points but to dig in on points that mattered. I did this when standing in for another partner. His Australian assistant became frustrated at a series of concessions leading up to a point of real consequence where I refused to budge. She exclaimed: 'Good on you sport.'

During my career, managing clerks retired and were replaced by female solicitors, many of whom went on to become partners. In the early days, every partner had his own secretary, many of whom took down letters in shorthand but personally I recorded my work on tape. Research entailed looking up books and law reports - no internet or computers.

Where did your career take you after retiring from the firm?

I retired not only from Norton Rose Fulbright but gradually from the following appointments:  Council Member of the Association of Business Recovery Professionals (now known as R3); Council Member of the European Association of Insolvency Practitioners (now known as Insol Europe) - being the first English solicitor so selected; Founding President of the Insolvency Lawyers Association; Chairman of the Banking Law Sub Committee of the City of London Law Society;  Chairman of the Insolvency Law Sub Committees of the City of London Law Society; Chairman of the Joint Insolvency Examination Board; Member of the insolvency licensing committee of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales and Member of the insolvency licensing committee of the Law Society.

I then became a Judicial Chairman of the Insolvency Practitioners Tribunal. This entailed presiding over a number of hearings one of which the Insolvency Service regarded as so serious that Treasury Counsel was briefed to advise the Tribunal and handle any appeal. No appeal resulted. I was also Reviewer of complaints for the Association of Accounting Technicians. Here, I acted as an Ombudsman.

We understand you are writing both novels and legal publications, can you tell us a little more about that?

Whilst at the firm I wrote Lingard's Bank Security Documents (now in its 7th edition) to upgrade my knowledge of the subject and Corporate Rescues and Insolvencies and a number of other articles to assist practice development. When first summoned to a meeting on Maxwell Communications Corporation, I was asked to confirm that I had written the book! The books also led to me being instructed by the Bank of England on several large matters.

When I retired, Tim Parsons took over responsibility for the new editions of Bank Security Documents but the publishers retain me to vet the result. I tried to get Norton Rose Fulbright to take over the book but no one volunteered. There may still be an opening for future editions if anyone is interested.

It seemed natural for me to carry on writing so, having researched WW2, I wrote Britain at War 1939 to 1945 which is non-fiction. That led on to the novels which are dealt with below.

Where do you get the inspiration for your novels?

The Girl Who Disappeared is fact based on what happened to me and my family during WW2. It is classed as a novel because the first six chapters relate to a period before I was born and no one knows exactly what happened then. The book has received excellent reviews: ‘A beautiful historical blend of fact and fiction. This book was an emotional read for me. 5 stars.' (Readers Favorite) and 'very well-defined, and at times frightening view of life in Britain during World War II' (Martin Dolan).

The Caucasus Cauldron is pure fiction, a thriller inspired by the ill-fated Georgian invasion of Russia in 1992. It has a 4 star review and further reviews are expected shortly. It gives a vivid focus to a world ripping itself apart and ravaged by never ending hatred and blood feuds. Can our hero, Mac, trust the attractive Russian FSB officer, Kris, who befriends him and how will she react to Doctor Anna, a Separatist rabble-rouser who holds the key to his secret mission? How will Mac cope with the Chechen terrorist who has vowed to kill him? 'You are a dead man English. We know who you are. Now you die.' The result is an intense action-packed thriller full of danger, death and fear but a story with quiet humour and surprising twists and turns.

Reflecting on your career as a writer, what advice would you give anyone wanting to write?

Writing novels is not a way to earn money unless you hit on a best seller. Major publishers will only accept submissions through a literary agent. My advice, if you cannot find a literary agent, is to avoid the myriad of self-publishers who live off the fees they charge and have little interest in promoting sales and try the smaller traditional publishers who will publish in return for a share of royalties. Good luck with your writing!