Founder and director of AltraLaw in Caerphilly
From a very young age I was attracted to a career in law. It is difficult to pinpoint where this may have come from, as I was brought up in a working-class family and had no ‘legal idol’ to imitate. I am attracted to difficult challenges and enjoy explaining highly technical issues in a simple and practical way. At its core I have a compulsion to help people and I derive energy from fighting a good cause.
I trained with Morgan Cole (now Blake Morgan) and received excellent training across a diversity of legal disciplines. Even before starting my training contract I had a passion for employment law. Upon qualification I worked in a niche commercial firm where I undertook a mixed caseload of commercial litigation and employment law.
An opportunity arose in Eversheds specialising in employment law. I learnt much in the short time I was there, including the fact I did not enjoy representing employers in disputes. I was fortunate to assist the head of department in representing several senior executives while at Eversheds (which is rare as they almost exclusively represent employers and employees). He encouraged and supported me in exploring opportunities to become a specialist in advising individuals.
A fantastic opportunity arose to work with Barry Clarke (now president of the Employment Tribunals in England and Wales). He was a leading employment lawyer at the time. While at what was then Russell Jones and Walker, I asked to work in the London office so I could learn from other market leaders and hone my skills.
I specialise in advising a full range of employees, from blue-collar workers to senior executives and CEOs. My work comes via personal referral from previous clients and other lawyers. I regularly deal with clients who have experienced traumatic events or life-changing challenges that have a detrimental impact on mental health. These people are fragile, vulnerable and need a gentle but expert hand to guide them through what is often the most difficult time of their life. Many are suicidal due to discrimination, bullying or other problems they have experienced at work, and this poses unique challenges.
There were tears when we won at the employment tribunal and the family rewarded me by naming their new son after me!
Occasionally you encounter a case that is heartbreaking and are compelled to help. I have had the pleasure of assisting a large number of families, who would otherwise not be able to afford legal fees, achieve justice and hope for the future in circumstances that at first seemed hopeless.
One such family met the definition of modern-day slaves because of the atrocious conditions they were forced to live and work in for no pay. A colleague and I helped the family to win at the employment tribunal. There were tears (some from me) and they rewarded me by naming their new son after me!
I got into law to help people and quickly found a niche representing individuals experiencing difficulties in work. However, I was uncomfortable at the wealth in the legal industry, especially among the upper echelons, and the drive for greater and greater profits. There was a path set out before me, eventually expected to lead to equity partnership, that I simply did not desire.
I live frugally and did not pursue a legal career to become rich. I have always tried in some way to help everyone in need that I encounter. My Christian beliefs are important to me and I recall one day the seed of an idea for a ‘not-for-profit’ law firm found its root. I was working for a large global firm at the time that had shareholders, rather than equity partners, and was sickened by the greed of some who only wanted greater profits each year at the expense of the hard work and mental health of the employees.
I wanted to create something different. My vision is for the wealth of the legal industry to be used as a force for good. Speaking bluntly, the world does not need more super-rich lawyers. With so much poverty and need in the world, I want to be a part of a much wider movement that is addressing this issue in a practical way.
However, AltraLaw is much more than this – I wanted to create a law firm that puts purpose over profits. Yes, we will make profit, as most law firms do. Those profits are distributed to charities chosen by the firm’s clients to serve a wider purpose of fighting poverty and assisting those in need.