Posted on Wednesday 29 August 2018 by Ulster Business
Emma Hunt and Chris Guy of Mills Selig on charting their career courses from the ground up to the top table at one of Northern Ireland’s leading law firms.
Starting off as apprentices almost 20 years ago, Emma Hunt and Chris Guy now hold senior positions at Mills Selig – one of the region’s leading corporate and commercial law firms.
And according to both, it’s the firm’s culture, its ability to attract some of Northern Ireland’s leading businesses as clients, and a practice which is firmly focused around its staff.
Belfast-based Mills Selig was formed when two solicitors, Ivan Selig and Stratton Mills, formed a partnership in 1959.
Emma Hunt is now head of litigation at the firm. The Queen’s University graduate joined the city centre-based practice in 2001, after completing a master’s degree at University College, Dublin.
Emma’s an expert in a raft of areas, including dispute resolution and litigation, debt recovery, media and defamation and professional regulation, and became a partner in 2009.
“The way you start at Mills Selig is you sit in each of the core departments, to get a feel for the different areas,” Emma said.
“I chose litigation as I was more interested in that area, which includes court work and disputes - I like the contentious elements of it.”
And it was there Emma worked across a wide-range of areas, including media law.
“I was given exposure at a very early age to running my own cases, client-facing. It grew quite quickly, both the department and the practice.
“You have to be able to turn your hand to anything, and I’ve covered a wide spectrum. The media work is obviously interesting.”
And with the rise of technology and use of social media from 2010 onwards, changing the face of media cases, Emma and the Mills Selig team were instrumental in growing the defamation practice to focus resources on defamatory online publications, acting both for, and against, leading social network sites.
As a director and head of corporate with Mills Selig, Chris Guy started out as the firm’s first apprentice in 2000, after completing his law degree at Queen’s University, Belfast.
In his almost 20-year career, now specialising in high-value and complex M&A and private equity transactions, he’s been behind some of the largest corporate deals to take place in Northern Ireland in the last few years.
“It’s getting to act in the high-value, most complex transactions around that gets you, and keeps you interested,” Chris says.
Among his recent high-profile deals, Chris won the Insider Deal of the Year award (£10m and over) for his work on the sale of Co Antrim’s SDC Trailers to CIMC Group.
He also acted for the MBO team on the acquisition of Trucorp Ltd, which won 2017 Insider Deal of the Year (under £10m).
In 2018, under the leadership of Chris, the corporate team at Mills Selig was involved in two of the biggest prizes awarded at the Insider Dealmakers Awards.
“It demonstrates that we are involved in those high-profile, and high-value deals,” Chris says.
“We have a very strong reputation for M&A deals. They are happening all the time, and the Northern Ireland market is very busy.”
Emma and Chris say a lot of the firm’s top-end work comes about through referrals, and is down to the reputation the business has.
In the years since Emma and Chris joined, Mills Selig has grown its workforce by 75%, and now has 49 employees.
The company also weathered the storm of recession, and continued to expand during the economically tougher years, from 2008 onwards.
The firm also boasts both a dynamic and young workforce, while maintaining a long-serving list of staff members
And despite the current political deadlock, subdued economic growth and Brexit, it continues to deliver a strong trajectory in terms of turnover and employment.
In the past five years, Mills Selig has seen a 60% surge in turnover, with an increase of 10% in 2018 already. And the practice continues to expand.
“Mills Selig is a great place to work, and everyone is very personable,” Emma said.
Speaking about why he’s been with the firm for almost 20 years, Chris says:
“One of things I remember from my interview for Mills Selig was that the practice was described as a meritocracy. It is based on how you perform and what you do. That has always been true.
“It’s about fantastic lawyers who are doing great work.”
“For me, it is around the quality of work. We act for a range of world-class clients, such as First Derivatives, Hughes Insurance and Devenish.”
Emma says the firm also always has one eye in succession, and making sure that those working for the practice are on the right career path.
Mills Selig is continuing to grow, and has taken on more than half a dozen new lawyers in the last 12 months.