Here’s 16 questions we asked our founder of Truth Legal Solicitors, Andrew Gray.
1. In a nutshell, what does your company do and how did it start?
Did you hear the one about the lawyer who, on his first day at work as a lawyer in Manchester, was arrested (and assaulted) by the police, on suspicion of armed robbery? That lawyer was me! Of course, it was a case of mistaken identity! This was 2005 – fast forward seven years and I founded a law firm, on my own, specialising in…. assaults. It’s funny how such a negative experience can be used to a positive effect.
Nearly six years after I founded the firm, there are now 12 of us and we specialise in employment law, personal injury, clinical negligence and professional negligence. We represent around 500 clients – both individuals and businesses – all around the country.
2. What’s the most surprising thing about it?
The variety of the people and businesses which we represent. We represent City executives, SMEs, individuals and a trade union. One-third of our team are Polish speakers, which reflects the fact that one-third of our clients are Polish. I’d like to think that we offer more free legal advice than most other law firms.
3. What do you do?
Depends on who you ask! I would say that I set the firm’s culture, oversee the work and deal with marketing, such as our new Harrogate Podcast (check it out here). In 2018 I was the President of the Harrogate and District Law Society, which was a really interesting (but time-consuming!) role. For those who knew me at Law School, they can’t believe that I became President of a Law Society, given how many times I tried quitting Law School.
4. How did you end up here? (i.e. what’s your career background?)
The story goes – I went to Law School in York, meeting my now-wife on day one. A few years later, when we had both qualified as solicitors, we wanted to move back to York, because we adored North Yorkshire. As luck would have it, my wife got a great job with Hempsons Solicitors in Harrogate, so we went for a look around Harrogate (because we hadn’t been before) and fell in love with the town. Also, I now realise that getting beaten up on my first day at work in Manchester certainly influenced the way that I felt about my beloved Manchester: I needed to live somewhere safer. Harrogate is certainly more tranquil.
5. If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing? (i.e. in your career)
Either: stay at home dad (if I could cook), writer (if I could write), Judge (if I was smarter), newsreader (if my voice was clearer), entrepreneur?
6. What motivates you?
Providing access to justice. It is a total scandal that access to a lawyer has been so severely restricted of late, due to the reduction in Legal Aid and reduced budgets for advice centres. I don’t want to live in a country in which access to lawyers is the preserve of the wealthy. There are further changes on the horizon which will restrict access to justice to even further. I don’t know anyone who wants this or who would benefit from it.
7. What one thing do you wish you had known when you started out in business?
Much more about management accounts!
8. What excites you about business?
Growing the firm – so that we can help more people and more businesses. When I started the firm, it was just me. When it was just me, I could only help a small number of people and that was frustrating. Now that we have grown quite a lot, we can run group claims, and help larger businesses. It is very satisfying. I have been lucky.
9. What is your pet hate in business?
The cost of recruitment agency fees – sorry recruiters!
10. What advice would you give to people just starting their careers?
In today’s world, thankfully it’s more likely that people can have multiple careers, multiple mini-retirements, and multiple jobs at the same time. I recommend that people do not seek out a career for life early on. Instead, try enough vocations so that when you do happen upon something that resonates with you (and pays the bills too), work will not feel like work. Whilst I appreciate that not everyone will be so fortunate, I do believe it is true that if you find work that you enjoy, you will never work again. And keep yourself sharp with continued personal and professional development.
11. Who in business do you most admire, and why?
Total cliché, I know: Richard Branson, because his philosophy is that it is his job to look after his colleagues, as it is his colleagues who look after the clients.
12. What moments of your career so far stand out?
Many moments stand out, for good and bad reasons. As a litigator, we win (and frankly) sometimes lose cases. I used to work for a fearless litigator at a national law firm in Leeds. She instilled in all her litigators that if they were not losing, then they weren’t trying hard enough for their clients. I hate losing, but I would hate it even more if clients thought that we didn’t fight hard for them. The wins are delicious. The losses are awful. This is my world of work: highs and lows.
13. What sets your company apart from the competition?
A few things, hopefully. First, we give away more of our time and knowledge than any other firm that I know – just check out our website for tonnes of free content and free legal documents. Second, although people often (erroneously) assume that cheaper means a substandard service, we do want to be known for being more affordable than other firms (though lawyers are expensive, I appreciate). Third, particularly in the personal injury world, there are many firms relying upon unqualified paralegals to run hundreds of claims. Our team are qualified solicitors or a legal executive and they run far fewer cases per lawyer. We do things properly.
14. What is the most difficult challenge your company has faced? And what challenges are you experiencing at the moment?
I don’t imagine that any reader will get out their violins for the lawyers but, candidly, I would say that growing pains are our biggest challenge. In much of our work we are paid at the end of a case and then only if we win. It can therefore take years to be paid for our work, which has slowed our growth. Sadly, I have not enjoyed my dealings with banks, as they tend to only be interested in businesses with turnovers of more than £1m.
15. Have you got a five-year goal for the company?
16. Why is it good to do business in Harrogate?
Multiple reasons. It’s a gorgeous place, where most people know each other, and with so many independent establishments. And because we tend to know each other – and talk to each other! – any bad egg are quickly found out. Conversely, if you treat people well, your good reputation will quickly spread. Good and bad news travels quickly here! And our clients are lovely, so too our suppliers and so too are the other lawyers in the town. It is a privilege to live and work here.