TSP’s Head of Employment Richard Porter looks back on what, in hindsight, he might have done differently.

How would you describe yourself at 18? Both my father and my grandfather were solicitors and I was brought up with stories of helping people whether it be by making their Wills or rescuing them from police stations. One of my earliest quasi-legal experiences was at school when I accompanied a boy who was destined for “the whack”. I put forward reasons why he should not be beaten, and finally the head was persuaded. I was not academic, but by the age of 18 I had found a place to do a law degree and had grown my hair to fit in with the 1970’s student crowd. Like most young people of that age I had no real idea of the outside world, but I knew that I wanted to do something to help.

Is there anything you would do differently? I wish I had spent some time working in London. It’s such a vibrant exciting place to be, and what a great place to pick up experience. I am not sure whether these thoughts have influenced me, but we tend to recruit lawyers with London experience, and there is no doubt that our practice has benefited as a result.

Can you point to a turning point, a landmark, which told you that your business would be a success? We don’t take anything for granted at TSP. You are only as good as your last case or transaction so we give it 100% all the time. We were immensely proud to achieve the Lexcel award, which is the legal service industry’s kitemark for excellence and we consistently get very high rankings in the Legal 500, all of which indicate that we must be getting something right. Personally I am very proud that my employment law team is reckoned by the Legal 500 to be one of the top 4 employment law teams in Essex.

What three tips would you give your younger self? 

  1. Enjoy your work – you spend longer in the office than you do at home, so make sure you do what you enjoy, have good people around you and at the end of the day feel that the effort was all worthwhile. I am very lucky that in my firm I am surrounded by passionate and happy people who make going to work a pleasure.
  2. Value your friends and keep in touch. I have spent too much time working very long hours as a result of which I have lost contact with too many people. Friends not only keep you sane, but can support you in business as well. Friendships should be cherished.
  3. Keep calm and carry on. When things get difficult, keep your head down and keep going. Don’t give up – it will be alright in the end.

Why is Essex a good place to do business? It’s the people. Essex has a rich variety of people from market traders to landed gentry and every point in between. Many of my most successful clients don’t have an “O” level or GCSE to their name. They’ve got where they are by sheer force of personality and by taking opportunities as and when they arise – Essex breeds entrepreneurs. But whoever they are and whatever their backgrounds it is the people who make working in the law a pleasure. Thompson Smith and Puxon has the most fantastic client base, from farmers to industrialists and from private clients to plc’s. They are all a delight to work with – colourful and interesting – and make every day different.

If you could relive one day again, what would it be? I am surrounded by talented lawyers and a “win”, whether it be a win in court or closing a deal, creates a very special feeling in the office. We have specialists in every area of the law whether it be clinical negligence, personal injury, landlord and tenant, family law, mergers and acquisitions, commercial law, agricultural law, commercial property, conveyancing, wills and estates and my own areas of employment law and licensing. Every success is built on hard work and teamwork. The harder the work and the more challenging the case, the greater the satisfaction at the end. I have had some extremely satisfying discrimination cases where we have successfully recovered figures in excess of £250,000 for the injured parties, and last month we successfully defended a company director who was being sued for £258,000 for alleged racial discrimination. There is no single day I would relive again, but there are lots of moments that make it all worthwhile.

If you were to choose one motto, what would it be? Service above self