Solicitor, Excello Law

I moved to work in Maidenhead in the 1980s and the recession then forced me to rethink my career. I did a law degree because I thought I’d have some job security.

I trained at DLA and enjoyed every minute. I was a mature candidate and used a bit of Yorkshire nous to secure a training contract. I didn’t expect DLA to keep me on but proved my worth and stayed two years after qualification.

The hardest challenges I’ve faced include the increased amount of business administration in opening a file. On a macro level, the downturn of the last seven years.

I’m a director and owner of a micro-brewery, the Sheffield Brewery Company (which has been brewing fine cask ales and running tours of its Sheffield premises since January 2007). As a lawyer with Excello Law, I am able to choose where I work and my office is based in the complex above the brewery.

I’ve always been interested in real ale. Having another business interest outside the law has been invaluable in helping me to understand and advise clients who are directors and owners of businesses. Plus, there’s no better way of networking and meeting a new prospect or intermediary than at the Sheffield Brewery bar.

A good lawyer needs to be a critical listener and not over-complicate matters. As well as offering sound legal and business advice, the role of a lawyer should be to ensure that clients understand what is going to happen. Clients do not want to come away thinking ‘what was that all about?’

People sometimes have the wrong perception about the value a lawyer can add, or maybe they’ve had a bad experience, but clients who expect to be ripped off and start the relationship from a negative standpoint can be hard.

My least favourite law – with my brewery business hat on – last orders.

The profession has gained from lawyers waking up to client needs in the face of competition from other professions and flexible new working models.

Specialisation worked for me. I acted for the ‘dotcom’ wave of businesses during the 2000s and am recognised as a specialist in IT, new media and e-commerce. Through LinkedIn and other social media, new clients regularly check my profile and speak to referrers, so being a specialist provides some comfort and hopefully distinguishes me from other lawyers.

I hope lawyers compete more forcefully for the role of trusted independent adviser in the future.