Legend has it that when Vikings invaded a new land, they would burn their boats on the beach, so that a retreat wasn’t an option. Their rationale: this would increase the prospects of a successful invasion.

Deploying similar logic, this week I applied to the Solicitors Regulation Authority to remove myself from the roll of solicitors. Career Mark Two, in the education and mentoring world, has more formally commenced.

Law was never a natural fit for me. I studied PPE at university – not law – flirting with joining the army and then toying with the idea of becoming a teacher, before opting for law school. The academic side of law school – i.e. the real reason I was there – I hated, though I did enjoy the social side, meeting my wife and dozens of good friends.

Back then, what drove me into the clutches of law was a sense that I needed to organise my jumbled thoughts, in the hope that a career in politics would be my path. After all, Ghandi, Mandela, Clinton and Blair had all been lawyers. Law was to be a stepping stone, until I worked out what I really wanted to do.

Into the second year of law school, I was so bored that on a number of occasions I tried quitting, only for the dean of the law school to deny my repeated requests for a reimbursement. And as a trainee solicitor, again, I was so very bored that I commenced a Postgraduate Degree in Security Studies at Salford University, but that was simply too much.

It is said that when war criminal Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize that it was the day that satire died. Similarly, when I became President of my local Law Society, my law school friends, who knew of my dissatisfaction with law school, thought they had seen a glitch in the matrix. Back then, had there been a poll as to which law student was least likely to become a Law Society President, I would have hoovered up every vote.

york minster legal procession annual legal services procession york

(The first photograph is of me, as Law Society President in my gowns and chain, leaving York Minister following the annual commencement of the legal year for the Northern Circuit, crowds line the street. The second is taken by me as I join a procession of the Yorkshire legal luminaries through the streets of York. How very silly, but it was good fun!)

Looking back, these are my lowest three points.

The Metamorphosis of Some Law School Students

If you ask most lawyers why they became lawyers, if they are being candid (and lawyers should be candid), most would tell you about a human rights case, or a death row case, an international legal point, or a family member’s brush with the law, which inspired them to right some wrongs. Like many of my peers, I entered law school fuelled by similar ambitions and a desire to carve out a meaningful career. In essence, most lawyers, like me, started out wanting to make the world a better place.

However, as news of big city law firms and their salaries spread through law school, I was horrified to see once ethically-driven lawyers become consumed by salary and status. None of these big city firms ever seemed to be interested in doing the right thing. I am proud to say that my analysis back then has stood the test of time.

The “M” Word

My unhappiest time in law was when I worked – you guessed it – for a big city law firm. Of course, the pay and the status (within law firm circles) was high. This firm mostly acted for PLCs. One day, I was asked to advise on a case in which some tenants wanted to cancel their lease, because they had received death threats. According to the lease, the tenants had no way out – and that was my advice. But I did say, to my supervising lawyer, rather than to the client directly, that in the event that the tenants were killed, or injured, morally our client might be shown in poor light, and that their brand might be damaged by being seen to have done the wrong thing. Sensible advice, I thought then, and I still think now.

Several weeks later, the most senior lawyer at the firm stopped by in my office, supposedly for a catch-up. As he left, he warned me: “I never want you to use the ‘M’ word ever again in this firm.” Caught unawares, I asked him what he meant, and he explained that he had heard about my use of the word ‘moral’. Just wow, I thought. I lasted there less than one year.

Meeting an Old Friend

When I qualified as a solicitor, I bumped into an old friend of mine, who I hadn’t seen in many years. As you do, we exchanged updates about life. When I told him what I did for a living, he said the most cutting thing that anyone has ever said to me: “I thought you were really going to do something important, like join the United Nations.” That really stung, because I thought I would, too.

It’s been a good run, while it lasted.


If you know someone who might benefit from my help, or help from my academies in Spain and England, then please share my details.