Experience: 18 years PQE
Firm: Cycle Legal
Role: Principal solicitor, personal injury
'My cycle helmet is a key piece of my every day kit when I cycle and symbolises the work I do, offering legal protection to cyclists.'
I was always told I was quite bright at school, but I came very close to throwing all that away by landing in trouble both in and out of the classroom. My elder brother was a bit wild and I took that path for a while but happily caught myself in time. I had a couple of inspirational teachers and began to actually enjoy what was being taught, in particular English literature. As a result, I eventually studied hard at school.
My parents were part of the post-war Irish generation that came to London in the 1950s. Coming from rural Ireland meant having very little education themselves, they worked on the family farm before coming here. With my parents, and many from the same background, this meant fairly low expectations of their kids. I don’t mean no expectations, not working was never an option, but aspiring to be a lawyer was like going to the moon. School was therefore important to me in raising my aspirations. My teachers talked about going to university, which never came up at home. My parents didn’t know what university was and I was the first in my family to go, studying English in Manchester.
This love of literature carried on when I studied law. I think there is a link between the magic of literature and the magic in court judgements. When I was studying the CPE, it was fascinating reading finely balanced judgments written by the most amazing minds of the legal profession, working out and seeing which way a decision would fall. It felt similar to reading great literature. Judgements from Lord Denning were particularly memorable.
I secured a job in a high street law firm after university, although I had an English degree and no legal ambitions at that time. I was a security guard and the senior partner was looking for non-law graduates as they were cheaper. I took that chance. Before that job, I’d never seriously contemplated the law, teaching was the highest profession I aspired to.
After 2 years of the CPE (by correspondence), which is now the GDL, I had to work full time. I then had to self-fund the LPC, due to not having financial support from my family and it was a struggle to find the money.
I'm now a personal injury lawyer and run my own law firm, specialising in representing cyclists. I love working with cyclists and we have a lot in common, predominantly a love of cycling and keeping fit. I also really enjoy the thrill of the fight in litigation. There are often challenges and big battles within my specialism as many of the people I represent have suffered head injuries through collisions with vehicles. This means they suffer memory loss so I encounter challenges around the events that led them to their accidents and finding witnesses. I have found that one of my real strengths is speaking up for other people.
Being a white heterosexual male, it’s harder for me to claim marginalisation but I wanted to become an Ambassador because I believe the profession could be far more inclusive from a social class perspective. I’ve had to change my accent to progress and I stayed at the same firm for over 20 years before setting up on my own. Coming from a tougher background could be one of your biggest assets, not a drawback. You'll have skills and knowledge that many people around you won't and you shouldn't forget that.
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