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Tony Roe: Keelite of the Month March 2017
1986 French & Law
What am I doing now?
I am a solicitor and family arbitrator. I have a niche divorce and family law solicitors practice based in Theale, Berkshire, which I set up in 2008. I employ two other solicitors, several support staff and we are growing our team. My experience in my field has led me to sit on a couple of Law Society national committees, the Small Firms’ Division and the Family Section.
On the domestic side, my partner, our two young sons and I have just moved into something of a house project. The listed property, dating back to the fifteenth century had been occupied for seventy years by the same family. Complete with vintage turquoise bathroom, to say it needs updating is an understatement.
How did you get to where you are now?
I had been interested in law well before university. Loving the outdoors, though, I wanted a career that got me out into nature. I was accepted at Keele to study Geography and Geology. Foundation year (FY) of my four year course worked for me. As well as core subjects, I learnt Russian for a year, studied French and did evening classes in German as a guinea pig for trainee teachers. My attempt at Arabic got me no further than the phrase, “The boy eats the cheese”.
My FY law studies made me realise that I did want to pursue law, and indeed become a solicitor. I combined it with French on a joint honours basis, something which is no longer offered on that basis, as I understand. I don’t wonder, with hindsight it was rather demanding.
It sounds extraordinary now but, following graduation, my then local authority funded my postgraduate law course and I obtained articles, my training contract, in West Yorkshire. Frightening for both partners and clients alike, I had to run the family team when my boss became ill and, upon qualification became a solicitor in the team. I spent five years in the Leeds law firm before moving to London, where I loved the almost daily advocacy, to the extent that I considered transferring to the Bar.
Perhaps hankering for a better quality of life, and even some outdoor living, I moved to rural Berkshire and took a job in a commercial law firm. My job was to change the profile of the work from legal aid to higher net worth individuals. I did. They closed the team. So I took the work I had built up over ten years and set up on my own. I love it.
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
My children, boys aged four and two and a half.
And your biggest mistake?
Would you expect a lawyer to admit to a mistake?
What are your ambitions now?
I’d like to continue to grow the firm steadily. We have no ambitions to have multiple offices. That just makes a practice more costly and difficult to manage. Nor do we need a London office as clients based in the capital come to us. As we grow we want to ensure that we invest in our team as much as we can.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to work in a similar field?
Work hard - really hard. Few practices would consider you for a training contract without a very good degree. Read around law as much as you can. Get work experience in a law firm or barristers’ chambers – it is very difficult to get into a legal career without.
What made you choose Keele University?
The joint honours approach, not to mention FY, meant it really catered for my broad range of interests. I enjoyed my campus visit and the atmosphere. It suited me.
What kind of a student were you?
I had a fully rounded education at Keele. Whilst I applied myself I also was heavily involved in Ents, the social committee. I worked on, and ultimately managed stage crew. Bands were like lectures, there weren’t many I missed. As a member of stage crew I occasionally played for its five-a-side team which sported hand-dyed team shirts. Class.
How has Keele influenced your life?
I found a university that suited me and fostered the range of interests that I had, and have even more so now. As a city boy I have always loved nature. I walked a lot around Keele’s grounds and many miles beyond. Its setting was a tonic and had a calming effect on me at times of exam stress. I was a member of the then face-to-face Nightline service, which was a great resource for Keele to offer. The difficulties that some Nightline attendees presented with probably helped me become a better listener and to deal with my clients today.
What is your favourite memory of Keele?
The good times I had with friends there, many of whom remain friends now.
What is your impression of Keele now?
A few years ago I was nearby and drove onto campus for old-times’ sake. I was taken aback by the scale of development since I left, including Keele getting its own medical school. I am a little sad that FY is no longer available as there really was nothing like it. Studying in Law and French and still having a qualifying law degree is not something that is possible now, perhaps due to timetabling.
I was delighted to be invited to a Keele Law Society dinner recently. I was very impressed by the calibre of students I met. Similarly, in 2016, I was asked to present law graduates with their prizes, along with my own firm’s family law prize and this confirmed my view.
Anything else you would like to add?
I could go on...