Nick Freeman: Solicitor to the stars ‘Mr Loophole’ reveals his tips for success…
Surround yourself with a good team
I never scrimp on staff – I employ only the best and pay them well. Although I’m most well known for road traffic work, I’ve been a criminal lawyer since 1981 and I have a crack team of fraud and general crime lawyers. Employ the best and you’ll get the best results. When you’re the boss you have to have a strong support team around you because there’s only so much you can do yourself. I delegate massive amounts.
It’s true for every businessman. In the legal profession, no matter how good you are, you’ll perform better if you’re completely on top of your case. No lawyer ever lost a case through being over-prepared. I know some people say they’re too busy and get bogged down with things like e-mail, but you don’t have to: I’ve never sent an e-mail in my life and I’ve never even turned a computer on.
Try not to let work consume your life. I walk my dogs for miles every day and try to watch Coronation Street. In my view, a rested lawyer is a better lawyer. The NHS is currently giving people who suffer from depression £1,000 to buy a dog, get out and get some exercise. It’s scientifically proven to help.
Stand your ground
Many of the defences I run are not popular with opponents or judges, but if I think I’m in the right I refuse to take a backward step. My duty is to my clients and I always fight their corner fearlessly. I went into court on Monday this week and as soon as the prosecutor saw me he said, “I think I’m going to discontinue this.” He knew he had problems with his case, but with a lesser opponent he might have had a go.
Don’t cheat on your wife, don’t cheat on the golf course and don’t cheat in court. In my opinion, the best reputation anyone can have is a reputation for honesty and integrity. That way, when you say something there’s no question of anyone mistrusting you. People sometimes think that lawyers are dishonest, but you certainly don’t need to be to do this job properly. In any profession, when you’re around for a long time people get to know who they can and can’t trust. People talk.
I love cars, sport, Staffordshire bull terriers – and my job. Passion gives life perspective and focus. If you’re bored, you’re in the wrong job and need to change it. I’ve just cancelled a whole weekend of things for a case that starts on Monday, and I’m not even being paid for it. I just enjoy what I do. Do your best and don’t worry about the results, I lose very few cases, but when I do I accept it with grace – and then lodge my appeal! And when I win I never gloat over it. But no one actually likes losing: one time I was defending [gangly ex-England footballer] Carlton Palmer for drink driving and the prosecution solicitor got so frustrated he threw down his papers. He lost the plot and lost the case.
Be brave and face your fears
Don’t be complacent and remain in your comfort zone – push the boundaries, but always evaluate the consequences. I once represented David Beckham in front of magistrates and lost, and then had a top barrister prepared for our Crown Court appeal. David’s agent said, “No, we want you to do it,” even though I’d never done a Crown Court case before. I thought, “Well, here’s an opportunity: get on with it.” And I won.
Keep yourself fit and healthy
A fit body means a fit brain. As well as walking my dogs and playing golf, I perform a self-imposed daily exercise ritual: I exercise every day, even if I have to get up early just to do it. I also have a healthy diet, and I recommend a daily hot tub and steam.
Put your family first
As busy as I am, I always take time out to go out to dinner or to the theatre with my wife. When my children are playing sport at school or appearing in a play I try and structure my life so I can watch them as often as possible. I’m proud of my achievements as a lawyer, but I’m more proud of my achievements as a husband and father. If you operate out of a happy home you can achieve so much more in life.