Edmund Locock, associate at Gateley Legal, took home the Young Professional of the Year award at 2023’s Leasing Life awards in Budapest for his expertise and professionalism on a range of contentious asset finance and leasing matters.

Contentious asset finance covers a broad range of areas including fraud, debt recovery, title disputes and high-value asset tracing.

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Contentious asset finance “is a very, very broad and nebulous term,” Locock explains to Leasing Life. “But we deal with all aspects of that, ranging from sort of small scale to larger frauds. We deal with satisfactory quality disputes, and things like asset seizures by government agencies.”

He adds: “Anytime an asset finance agreement goes wrong, for whatever reason, we’re here to step in … The team I’m in specifically does contentious asset finance. That’s really where my specialism lies.”

Locock explains that in the most basic sense, contentious asset finance is “when asset finance and leasing agreements go wrong.” He continues: “Assets are prone to different types of contentious litigation. If you’re dealing with hard assets, you’re more likely to have title disputes, for example, or fraud relating to the vehicle, you’re more likely to have fraud which relates to impersonating vehicles or stealing vehicles.”

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Locock has recently worked on several cases relating to fraud, asset recovery of motor cars, conversion of assets as well as seizure and restoration of assets by bodies such as UK Border Force and HMRC. With these cases often being time-sensitive, Locock says he is adept at responding quickly to pursue inventive recovery strategies that are legally sound and offer commercially beneficial results.

The 34-year-old, who has been with Gateley Legal since 2016, specialising purely in contentious asset finance, has curated a level of expertise within the industry that has made him a valued advisor for many clients.

Edmund Locock is clear that he is not a lawyer “who does other things and then does some asset finance when my clients need me to.”

“This is the industry in which I operate on a daily basis,” he says. “This is the sector in which I’ve chosen to operate. So I think having that level of industry exposure and experience built up over the last however many years gives me kind of a unique ability to understand clients.”

While Locock believes that a comprehensive understanding of the law is fundamental to how his team does, he argues that an inventive approach keeps clients coming back.

“We’re good at coming up with inventive, sort of commercially astute answers for clients,” he explains. “Because we don’t follow sort of the standard routine.”

Expanding on the varying routes explored by himself and others, he suggests that the key to achieving the best results for clients isn’t to follow the sort of prescribed path.

“You might have what seems like a very clear contractual recourse but there might be no money there,” says Locock. “And so, what we specialise in as part of this as our team, is target selection. So, reviewing in full, legal and factual background, and as part of our initial advice identifying where to go to where to turn to whom to turn in order to get a result.”

Edmund Locock tells Leasing Life that, alongside a high level of teamwork with partner James Baird, what makes him excel in this field is the ability to clearly communicate to clients the best strategies based on the firm’s understanding of the law.

“Combining our joint experience and things that we’ve learned along the way, you can only produce a better result for clients,” he says.

He adds that giving quick plain advice to clients is a differentiator for the firm.

“Because very rarely do clients in our industry want to know that you’re a clever lawyer,” he explains. “They want to know that you’ve got the answer. But whatever the answer is, you’re giving them the best advice to get the best outcome … They want to know that you know, but what they need is direct straightforward advice, so they can take action and can take action quickly.”

As statute and law develop, Locock also keeps clients up to date with industry and legal updates, circulating notes to clients with news that might be relevant to their interests.

On the growth of the industry, Locock comments: “This sector is sort of counter-cyclical, because as defaults increase, we get busier, because our services require more, but we’re sort of, you know, it’s our pleasure to serve the demand and as the industry keeps growing, we will inevitably get busier. In that way, and many others we’re inextricably linked to the fortunes of the leasing and finance industry and that’s kind of how we like it.”