Woodfines’ Senior Employment Lawyer, Nick Sayer, who first qualified as a Solicitor in October 1987, looks back on his career.
I became a Solicitor almost by accident - I came from fairly humble beginnings and no one else in my family had been a member of the profession.
In my mid- teens I remember having a careers discussion with my form Tutor. It was a short and to the point discussion (it was the mid 1970’s, after all) in which I was asked what I wanted to do with my life. I said, “I would like to be a Doctor, Sir”. However, on hearing this, my Tutor persuaded me that, apart from in Biology, my performance in the other Science subjects meant that my aspirations for joining the medical profession were a trifle unrealistic. I was asked if I had any other thoughts. Thinking on my feet, I said something like, “we’ll, I’m no good at Maths, so I can’t be an Accountant. My results in English are good, though...so, I’d like to be a lawyer!”
Determined to follow my star, I went to Leicester University, read Law and graduated with a 2:1.
I returned to Cambridge to do my 2 years “Articles” (as training was called then) with one of the top firms in the City. At the time, and probably as a result of being a frustrated Doctor, I had it in mind that I wanted to specialize in medical negligence. Given that, and to begin with, I was a little disappointed to find out that my first seat as a trainee was with the Partner who specialised in Commercial Litigation. However, in 1985, when my training commenced, Private Practice wasn’t as specialised as it has now become and I soon found myself exposed to Employment Law and Intellectual Property disputes. I had had very little experience of either area of law at University or Law School.
I soon realised that Employment Law was really interesting...and for me. As I once put it, the subject matter was “every day”, but there were some good points of law to argue too!
I duly qualified, became an Employment Lawyer, grew a practice and have remained an Employment Lawyer ever since.
When I qualified in 1987, things were very different to what they are now.
Employment Law was in its infancy and the impact of EU-derived employment principles was yet to be felt to the full extent. This was particularly so in the field of discrimination, in its widest sense. Although there was protection from discrimination by way of the Equal Pay Act 1970, the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 and the Race Relations Act 1976, there was no legislation which prevented discrimination because of sexual orientation, religion or belief, disability or age or which protected workers who had “blown the whistle”, all of that was to come much later.
The regulatory landscape was very different too. While there were no Money Laundering Regulations to comply with, advertising was largely prohibited. A simple brass plaque and some plain headed notepaper were the order of the day-no logos, “corporate colours”, branding and all that we are now accustomed to as going with that.
Perhaps the biggest change though has to be in technology and communications. Imagine a world with no internet, no emails and not much in the way of computers!
Research was done “head down” - in a book. Letters, especially if long ones, could take an age to produce. This was because most typewriters only had limited memory capacity, the upshot of which tended to mean that, if there were amendments, the letters often had to be started again from scratch.
For really urgent commercial matters there was this strange device, called the Telex machine, which spewed out long chains of interconnected paper, rather like the contents of a paper towel dispenser in a lavatory. I once dealt with an injunction by Telex. When it came to transmitting the Affidavits the machine churned out so much paper that we had to hang it on a hook just below the ceiling and let it unfold, so we could read it!
And then there were the telephones! To begin with, there were no mobile telephones. I remember being given,for my trip to a Court hearing in London, use of one of the two or so mobiles that my then firm had. It was about the size and weight of a house brick. Most of the bulk was taken up by the battery which, despite its size, had very limited life. Nonetheless, I felt very proud and “cutting edge” to be one of the select few who had been given temporary custody of this new age monster.
I joined Woodfines’ Cambridge office over 5 years ago. I am proud to be a senior member of the team. Working for the firm has introduced me to business sectors that I had had little to do with prior to joining. Road Transport is a case in point. The firm has an established reputation in that sector and I consider myself very privileged that, during the last 5 years, I have had the opportunity to be a regular speaker at our annual Transport Conference at Duxford Imperial War Museum and at other Transport events. Indeed, I can now say that some of my best corporate clients come from within that sector.
Apart from gaining invaluable experience within the Transport sector, while at Woodfines, I have been able to continue, and develop, my trade secret and restrictive covenant practice and am a member of our firmwide Business Protection group. While these types of cases arise in most business sectors (especially in recruitment and professional services) they are also prevalent in technology based companies. This fits well with our Cambridge presence.
Thirty years has been a long time, but it has passed very quickly. Over the years I have been very lucky to meet, and to work with and for, some truly talented people. Some of them are still alive today, others, sadly are no longer with us. They have had an enormous influence on me and I am very grateful for the advice, support and opportunities they have given me. I only hope I can now pass some of that on to others.
When not being an Employment Lawyer, Nick enjoys cricket, skiing, F1, photography and gardening.
Nick can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 01223 411421