Solicitor and Law Firm Owner
Based in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, England
Hi Andrew, can you describe Truth Legal?
A small, but growing, new(ish) litigation law firm. We have circa 11 people, including employees and consultants.
What work do you perform in your organisation?
I set the culture of the firm, oversee the legal work and drive the marketing. My main job is to look after the team, so that they can look after the clients.
What is your educational background?
I have a degree from the University of Manchester, England in Economics, Government and Political Philosophy. I went to law school in York, England.
When did you qualify?
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Setting the values and culture of the firm. Also, the randomness of the tasks and the autonomy.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I wake up at 7am and deal with my two children, taking them to school. I eat breakfast at home and walk to work for around 9:30am. I go to bed around 11:30pm.
The view from Andrew’s office window.
What is the hardest part of your job?
Dealing with financial information. I am more literate than numerate!
What is the most memorable case you have worked on?
At my firm? It would have to be a gun licensing case for a farmer who shot at burglars and as a result he had his gun licence revoked. The case crossed the civil/criminal legal divide.
What is the most embarrassing thing to have happened to you as a lawyer?
Getting a rough time by a Judge in front of a client.
What would your clients say about you?
Gosh. Transparent. Friendly. Energetic. Informal.
And what would your competitors say about you?
Vain. Too modern.
What have you found to be the greatest myth about being a lawyer?
That lawyers are the wealthiest of the professions.
What advice would you give to your pre-law school self? Why is that?
Work in a pro-bono advice clinic: it will open your eyes to what the world is really like. You’ll quickly know whether you want to spend your career helping individuals or helping corporations.
Do you have any tips for handling difficult clients?
In our sectors – PI, employment, professional negligence – the clients have usually had a pretty torrid time. Add to that the fact that all individuals are fighting internal battles which aren’t obvious to the outsider. Judging clients (or anyone really) is pointless. Just listen to your clients – let them do the talking. Assume that your difficult clients aren’t sleeping properly, aren’t eating properly, may have mental health problems AND they have just been mistreated. It’s impossible to imagine how I would react if these were the cards I had been dealt. Cut them some slack.
What’s the longest day you’ve ever done?
19 hours: 9am-4am, in the first few years of setting up my own firm.
What case do you find most memorable in your jurisdiction? Why do you think that is?
Most English lawyers remember an amusing criminal case about consent. It involved someone’s desire for a tattoo and a hot knife. I won’t say any more.
Do you have any advice for lawyers just starting out?
Yes. Most would-be lawyers start law school wanting to fight injustice. For multifarious reasons, many lose that instinct soon after starting law school. My recommendation is not to lose sight of your moral compass. Let your principles – not the cash – direct you.
Do you do any volunteering/pro bono work etc?
Yes, some. I’m a charity trustee for a church-based advice centre in my town. I used to run a debating organisation. I help to run a church building – a Quaker meeting house.
What has been your worst day in the job?
Speaking to some defendants whom I was evicting from a building. They begged me to call off the bailiffs. Of course I couldn’t. They hadn’t paid their rent for months, but it was still tough.
What has been your best?
I have enjoyed some of the commercial mediations, particularly one involving a computer hacking case when the claimant and defendant started the mediation as enemies, and finished the day embracing, having settled their acrimonious dispute.
What do you consider to be the secret to your success?
Luck, lots of it. Most of what happens to us in pure chance. Once we accept the randomness of life, then we can be more gentle on ourselves and on others.
Have you always wanted to be a lawyer?
Nope. And I’m still not sure!
What would you say is the best tool you have at your disposal?
PLC – Practical Law Company online legal tool. If you want to know everything about a particular area of law, it provides very clear and up-to-date information. Reading their stuff reminds me of the scene in The Matrix when Keanu Reeves downloads knowledge of Kung Fu.
Which key skill is most essential for your success as a lawyer?
Skill: knowing how little I know, as it means that I read new case law and developments frequently. Therefore, I should incrementally improve.
Which experiences have been most significant in forming you as a lawyer?
Hating being a commercial property litigator at a large commercial firm. I didn’t like the area of the law and I had no affinity to where I was working. Although, I was impressed by the professionalism and speed of the lawyers.
Who is the lawyer you most admire and why?
Barack Obama. He leveraged his lawyer skills to become a politician. The most capable orator that I have heard.
What makes a brilliant lawyer?
They can simplify the complex.
What’s the most amusing anecdote you have about the law?
Walking into reception one day to find a monkey sat there! I’m not sure if it was technically a monkey – identifying different primate/simian species hasn’t been part of my legal training – but it was something like one. A rather tough-looking client had brought it in on a lead!
What would you say is your greatest achievement?
Taking the kids to school most days.
Andrew and his family
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Running a larger law firm than I do now, helping more people.
What is your morning routine?
It varies! I might get some press ups in. Breakfast with the family, walking the kids to school. I don’t wake early.
What is your bedtime routine?
Most nights I will do an Americanised Yoga video called Romwod. I cannot recommend this enough. https://romwod.com/.
What do you do to keep healthy? What are your habits regarding exercise and nutrition?
Lots of walking. I run marathons. I play lots of football. I do weights, go to the gym and do the Romwods. Essentially, I try and do some exercise everyday so that I can eat what I want.
If you weren’t a lawyer what would you be?
Newsreader, if I had a decent voice.
Is there a quote which defines you?
“If you tell the truth, then you don’t need to remember anything.” Mark Twain
Which law would you change and why?
I would impose a higher burden of responsibilities on occupiers of premises, so that they have to keep visitors more than just “reasonably safe”. So I would amend the English and Welsh Occupiers’ Liability Act 1957.
Which book have you found most influential?
Letters to a Young Contrarian, by Christopher Hitchens.
Do you have any political aspirations?
Hell yes. I’ve stood for election a few times already, though I am no longer in a political party.
Who do you admire most and why?
A bit obvious, but my folks.
What 3 things would you take with you on a desert island?
Chocolate, lots of it.
How do you think practising law has changed you as a person?
I believe practising law, more so than academic legal training, disciplines the mind.
If money was no object, how would you spend your time? And would you still be a lawyer?
I would do the same thing, though I would travel more.
What is the step/change you are most glad you’ve taken in life?
Setting up my own law firm.
What does a lawyer represent to you as a concept?
An enforcer of legal rights.
What is the best lawyer joke you’ve heard?
Where there’s a will, there’s a lawyer.
How do you balance home and family life with your job?
With difficulty, although working for yourself offers flexibility. I have a brilliant wife.
Thank you very much for your time, Andrew.
To find out more about Andrew and his work at Truth Legal, visit the Truth Legal website.