Peter Garsden - Principal and Managing Partner of QualitySolicitors Abney Garsden - Legal Aid and Small Firm of the Year Winner
Firstly, where do you work and what is your role?
I am the principal and managing partner of QualitySolicitors Abney Garsden
Why did you choose a career in law?
I witnessed my father struggling in the retail trade against mass market influences to give a personal quality service, so chose a profession where it was still possible to give that service some 32 years ago. Sadly the commoditisation of the legal profession is now seeing a decrease in the importance of quality of service and a rise in the importance of price marketing.
What attracted you to your particular specialism?
I was always by trade a personal injury lawyer, having done my training at Berrymans Lace Mawer in Manchester. I moved away from acting for large corporate bodies to representing an individual, who would be able to say thank you for a good job well done. I have always been fascinated with human behaviour, so when I was first instructed by a victim of abuse back in 1994, the type of work ticked all the boxes for me. It was, however, a difficult journey in those days because it was a new and developing area of law. It is also very nice to be able to tell socialites that you are not an “ambulance chaser”, and to receive appreciation for what you do.
What is the most enjoyable part of your job?
Attending abuse conferences and witnessing at first hand the energy and enthusiasm that goes into the support of victims of abuse by those who work tirelessly and energetically without pay. It is very humbling, and does you good to keep one’s feet on the floor.
What particular challenges are you or have you faced in these tougher times?
The Jackson reforms, the slaughtering of legal aid by the government, the demolition of the Personal Injury Claimant market, and the bias of a government, who listens to big business rather than the rights of the poor and vulnerable.
What do you think will be growth opportunities for the legal profession over the next couple of years?
Getting big not small, or niche specialism for those that can survive in a small format.
What’s been your most enjoyable or high profile recent piece of work?
The Manchester Children’s Homes Group Action which has settled at a discount, thus giving over 600 victims a right to compensation, a recent Court of Appeal case which gives rights to victims of abuse to obtain unredacted copies of their records, and my part in forcing the government to scrap the Supplementary Legal Aid Scheme, which would have deprived abuse victims of 25% of their compensation even if they won.
What inspires you when it comes to your work?
The thought that we are adopting the moral high ground and helping some of the most vulnerable members of society achieve some sort of justice.
Do you work by a particular mantra or motto in your business life?
Always respect your peers, be nice to them because you never know when you may come up against them in the future. Be firm but not aggressive; Appreciate your staff, and thank them for helping you achieve success. Lead by example, and surround yourself with like minded people.
Can you give one piece of professional advice to your peers?
Use your gut instinct to decide what is fair and what is not. Although you will sometimes be let down, in the end, good always triumphs over evil.