Senior partner, McCormicks, Harrogate
My mother believed I was destined for a legal life very early on because, when I was just six years old, she wrote to the Law Society to ask what O- and A-levels I should take to become a solicitor. After some years of resistance, I, too, realised it was what I really wanted to do. I had a love of public speaking, which drew me towards advocacy.
My legal training was a great preparation. I was articled to high-profile Leeds legend Jack Levi who was the complete lawyer – brilliant mind, great advocate and a superb businessman. He and managing partner Michael Lawrence taught me how to develop, be effective and run a business.
I have tried to get some really bright lawyers to live up to their promise but not everyone can achieve that. Nothing disappoints me more than unfulfilled promise. In addition, we have lived through three major recessions. I am very proud of the fact that in the 34-year-history of McCormicks, we have never made a single person redundant.
As well as running McCormicks, my legal career has brought me success in one of my other great passions – football. I am an executive of the Premier League and a vice- chairman and board member of the FA. Those positions are business roles but my legal career opened the doors in the first place. My legal skills are regarded as a primary asset, especially in developing what clients tell me is sound judgement when handling a crisis.
I have been so lucky to have a number of highlights in my career. Founding and developing two practices with Kathryn, my wife, and valued colleagues such as my equity partner in Harrogate, Geoff Rogers; working with some great lawyers; and representing and becoming friends with some super clients. Being voted the inaugural Yorkshire Lawyer of the Year in 2000 and receiving the OBE for services to charity stand out as well.
I have seen many changes during my legal life but one that stands out is that I am sorry at the way government has attacked legal aid. Every citizen should have a fair chance and proper representation before the law, instead of legally aided clients running the risk of having a second-class service.
In sport, not much has been lost because it is a growing area of law with opportunities to develop the niche and to get paid for doing something one enjoys. In the practice of the law, some of the camaraderie between lawyers has been lost and there are not as many characters in the profession, partly because of the competition between firms and lawyers.
I hope the profession is allowed to flourish and not become bogged down in bureaucracy and unnecessary regulation. Lawyers, in the main, are intelligent and caring people who want to do the right thing and work hard for their clients. They need to be able to get on with their jobs.