The Competitor

The Competitor

David Bradley became a partner at Ramsdens in May of this year to lead its business legal services division. He is also non-executive chairman of the firm. He is the former European managing director of DLA Piper and was also the firm’s global head of employment, pensions and benefits

 

I became a solicitor because…

The most direct influence was that I was not allowed to go to university unless I did a “proper” degree, which meant one that would lead to a job. People who did law degrees then invariably became solicitors or barristers, it wasn’t the general degree that’s it’s now viewed as. I got on a path and got lucky with job offers.

I would tell my 21-year-old self…

To relax. Looking back, if I could run the race again I’d probably pace it a little bit better. I felt that I got to certain milestones slightly too early and I think I would have enjoyed those a little bit more if I had been a little older and been around the block a few more times.

If I wasn’t a solicitor then…

Journalism would have appealed to me quite strongly. I’ve always been impressed when you meet quality journalists. They’re a bit like barristers, having the ability to assimilate information quickly, get to the point, to investigate or expose. And their ability to challenge abusers of power has always been attractive to me.

The best part of being a lawyer is…

I suppose I’ve had three broad parts to my career that I have really enjoyed. I was a very energetic, strident, ambitious fee-earning lawyer for quite a few years and the client work had the highest highs, but the most stress levels. Then I had my leadership roles at what became DLA Piper and helping to transform a provincial Sheffield practice to a global firm over 20-odd years was an exciting place to be. And now I’m in a different phase and using my experience to mentor others to develop a sense of crossbreed working in a very different legal environment, which is very rewarding.

The worst part is…

On the client side, I have sometimes had successes with clients not due to the strength of our position, but because of the weakness of the representation on the other side. And that’s a disappointment. On the leadership side, it’s witnessing inconsistent behaviour towards those who are perceived to be more important or valuable than others. Trying to get behind the value statements of firms, but knowing that they are not consistently applied to everyone within that operation, is disappointing. The relaxation of the values and principles for those with most leverage offends a sense of justice.

The highlight of my career to date is…

I used to do a lot of sports employment work, particularly within a football environment and acted for Newcastle United when Kenny Dalglish, the outgoing manager at the time brought a significant claim against them. That was the first case that went to the Premier League employment tribunal. I worked with some great barristers on that, it took a year of my life and more issues then you might expect that arose out of it. I was also dealing with some pretty complex and interesting personalities.

On the leadership side, leading a project at DLA Piper to overhaul some of the partnership arrangements, involving 750 partners across nearly 30 jurisdictions was a pretty big high.

The one thing I would do to improve the legal profession…

Is eliminate no win, no fee. I don’t want to sound too sanctimonious, but the removal of legal aid for civil issues generated what I think is the worst side of how law firms are now presented in terms of no win, no fee. It is a sham. It is misleading, as there is an inherent conflict in no win no fee, where lawyers have an interest in concluding a case and that sense that real justice is only there for those who can pay for it, because if you can’t afford it then you are always compromised somewhere along the line. Institutions like the NHS probably deserve a little bit more protection then they have had – individuals effectively being encouraged to sue themselves as taxpayers doesn’t sit well.

The best part of working in Yorkshire is…

It’s a fabulous county and a wonderful place to live and there’s also an entrepreneurial spirit and sense of business acumen which is impressive.

The person who has most influenced me is…

Paul Nicholls, who sadly died in his early fifties, very unexpectedly and tragically. He had a very interesting career. He had employment law in his bones, had been a barrister and then became a solicitor. He was a maverick thinker and always had an angle on an argument that was interesting and creative. He has a great sense of justice as well. At DLA he recognised some leadership talent in me and was a great sponsor for me. He was brilliant and infuriating in equal measure.

Away from the job I relax by…

 Playing golf or anything sports-related. If I’m truthful I’m drawn to competitive activities.

 

This article first appeared in Issue 148 of Leeds & Yorkshire Lawyer

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