Last month was the 33rd anniversary of my starting work in the Sheffield Legal Profession, so I thought I’d let you know about just a few of the changes I’ve seen during the last 1/3 century.
Much has changed since I nervously turned up for work at a two-Partner city centre for my first day as what was then known as an Articled Clerk. Fresh from four years of studying and a decent overdraft to show for it, I relied heavily on my parents who bought me my first suit and paid my bus fare. In those days Articled Clerks were lucky to earn as much as £60.00 a week. Nowadays Trainee Solicitors have starting salaries of around £350 per week and mostly drive cars.
The city’s legal landscape has undergone many changes since then. Now, there are around 30% of the number of firms in the city that there used to be. Many firms have merged and some have disappeared. What were established solicitors’ practices such as Rogers and Howe, Bingley Dyson and Furey, Ashtons, David Law, Kershaw Tudor and Boyers, Howson and Shuker have disappeared. Some nationwide firms have moved into the city and there are many more Lawyers practising here than ever before.
The old Crown and County Court buildings have closed and the Courts have been situated in the Combined Court Centre in West Bar which opened in 1995.
Advertising by Solicitors used to be forbidden by professional rules and I am sure that many of you wish it still was as you can hardly turn on a TV and radio, browse the internet or read a newspaper without being bombarded with suggestions as to who or what you should call when you have an accident.
Talking of the internet, I remember the days before faxes, computers, emails and social media. When I started work, I had a telephone on my desk which was considered state of the art as it didn’t have a dial. When I needed to dictate a letter or document, my secretary had to come and sit in my room with her shorthand notebook and pen.
As fashions have changed we no longer see bowler hats, morning suits, rolled umbrellas, briefcases and watch chains on Campo Lane. Female Solicitors, once a rarity, are now outnumbering males.
Economic changes have ensured that we Solicitors work far harder than we used to. Up until the late 70’s I understand that it was very common for them to start work at 9.30am, go out for morning coffee with their pals at the Wig & Pen and then adjourn to the Gentleman’s Club on George Street for a long liquid lunch.
Nowadays, just after 1pm, you can see dozens of local Lawyers queuing anxiously in Marks & Spencer, sandwich in hand, at the self-serve tills mentally urging the queue to move faster so they can dash back to their desks. When I started, leaving the office at 5.30pm was considered late. Now it is thought to be early.
Happily, some things don’t change. The local Law Society still exists, the Magistrates’ Court building has not moved and Taylor & Emmet are still one of the very best local law firms with a reputation for providing a good, efficient service with a personal touch.
I don’t think I’ve changed much over the years either. Unlike some colleagues I still wear a tie to work, prefer beer to wine and spirits and still follow Sheffield United. My income is, happily, a bit more that £60 a week.
If you would like to talk to a very modern legal practice about any type of work, please call us on 0114 218 4000. I hope you enjoy the weekend more than Australian rugby fans