By: 21 February 2024
Meet James Richardson, managing partner of Lupton Fawcett

James Richardson is the managing partner of Lupton Fawcett. He will be joining us for the first ever Yorkshire Legal Webinar on 6 March, discussing how to attract and retain legal talent in Yorkshire. 

Could you share a brief overview of your legal career journey and the key milestones that have shaped your path? 

I started out at Leeds University doing law, although I originally wanted to be a medic and go into the army. I started my articles of clerkship, as they were known then, at Dibb Lupton and Co (now DLA) and moved through the ranks, becoming a partner in 1997. I must admit I wasn’t really switched on to the law until I joined insolvency, and then suddenly my eyes opened. I think it was due to the people in the department, the type of work and the clients. I just loved it. I left Dibbs around 2004, joined Lee and Priestley in the insolvency department and became managing partner in 2011.  

In 2012 we merged with Lupton Fawcett and then through a combination of accident and design, I became a managing partner here about three and a half years ago.  

The key milestone in my legal career was becoming a partner at DLA and developing from there. In those days there was only one path, one ambition: how to reach the top. Nowadays, of course, people join the law for all kinds of reasons. But back then, it was ‘get to the top or nothing’. 

So, I think becoming a partner was the defining moment for me because I thought to myself ‘I do actually like this, and I want to do more’. It was that simple.  

 

The drive to get to the top that you’ve discussed, do you encourage that drive in the people you manage? 

I want people to succeed to the best of their ability, whatever level they are at in the firm. What I’ve been doing at Lupton Fawcett is creating a platform where everyone can perform to the best of their ability. It doesn’t matter if our people want to become a solicitor, a senior solicitor, associate or partner. It doesn’t matter where you land or where you want to land, as long as you’re happy performing to your best. 

I fully accept that these days, people work in the law with completely different expectations. You can see that in the next generation. The up-and-coming legal professionals, be it those we’re bringing in at apprentice or paralegal level and are heading for training contracts, or those who are a few years qualified, are very grounded, driven, unpretentious, intelligent and straightforward individuals. They’re also a pleasure to manage because they make it very clear what they want, but they also make it evident that they want to be trained to a high level and everyone engages with that attitude.  I am more than happy to oblige – that’s what I’m all about and what keeps me excited about my role. 

 

What advantages or challenges do you find practicing in Yorkshire? 

I’ve spent my whole legal career in Leeds, and I think one of the huge advantages is the people. Generally, you get very down-to-earth people. I don’t like show ponies. I don’t like divas. I think from my experience, the Yorkshire culture is rooted in just getting on with it. 

Many of the people I started out with in the insolvency world have been and/or are still around in law firm management. We’re all the same kind of down to earth straight-talking people, very focused and not overly lawyerly. You don’t have to be over lawyerly to be successful, what you do have to be is fiercely commercial and you must know your clients. You also must have complete empathy for and understanding of them. 

Yorkshire’s legal market is extremely competitive. There are so many long-established firms and many new entrants have opened offices here in recent years. Yes, that is a challenge. But it is also a fine testament to Yorkshire itself: there is great business to be had and great people to do it with. 

 

What motivates you as a legal professional? 

Overwhelmingly, it’s the people. The first thing I do every morning in whichever of our offices I am in is walk around, and I spend some time talking to everyone, seeing what they’re doing and how they are. Thats how you learn about your people and get to know and understand them. 

Engagement with people in the business is fundamental. I would not want to be perceived as someone who is untouchable. That’s not the way I manage things and that’s certainly not how to manage. 

People are the main pillar of any firm. So, if you get the people right, the rest follows. 

 

Don’t forget to register for the Yorkshire Legal Webinar to hear insights from the region’s legal experts on 6 March!

 

Image: James Richardson, Lupton Fawcett.
Emma Cockings
Emma is the content editor for Yorkshire Legal News.