John Green is a founding partner of Green David Conway and Co, the firm that would become GSC Solicitors LLP. In this, the latest in our series of GSC Stories celebrating 50 years of GSC, he discusses his journey into the law, and the decision to leave his full time role with the firm some 40 years later.
I went to a local grammar school but didn’t get on with my headmaster. He refused to give me a recommendation for university because he said I was unsuitable so I left school in 1963 and went to Israel.
After around three months I was running low on funds. I phoned my father asking him to send me some money. He refused, telling me I could either stay where I was (broke) or come back and get a job. I chose the latter but needed to make a decision about which job.
If I went into the law, I thought, I could be independent, could have some status and I could probably earn some money. So I did five years as an articled clerk (I was at law school with David Conway, with whom I would later go into partnership) and qualified in 1970.
I spent a year at Nabarro Nathanson post-qualification but I didn’t want to work my way up in a big firm, spending 20 years in lockstep climbing the partnership ladder. I didn’t want to be told what to do. I wanted to do the work I wanted to do, and I wanted to be free to do things outside of the practice. At the time I didn’t want to form a partnership either!
But I did want to start my own firm. Although you can’t do that now as a newly qualified solicitor, you could then. So I started my own company: John Green and Co.
It was 2000 and a chap who was working with us at the time came to me and asked if he could have a word.
He sat down, got straight to the point, and said he wanted to leave. I said I was sorry to hear that and asked why. It seemed there was barely room in his life for the law. His wife’s family had a farm in Provence and they spent time there. He had two young children. He coached the local cricket team and was into amateur dramatics. It occurred to me that, on a relatively low salary, he was having a considerably better life than I was.
“Can I ask you a question?” he said.
I said he could.
“You come in at eight o’clock in the morning. You take work home with you every evening. You’re in on Saturdays and Sundays, aren’t you?”
I nodded, wondering where this was going.
“Can I ask you why?”
I awkwardly gave him some guff about people and families and mortgages and all the rest of it. He thought about this for a moment before asking if he could pose one last question. Regretting ever agreeing to the conversation I said yes while fearing I should probably have said no.
“I think you’re mad.”
The conversation stayed with me. Six months later I walked into Saleem’s office and said I’d be leaving in a year.
I’ve remained a consultant with GSC Solicitors LLP in the years since I retired, but now I run a private property company. I’m also involved in a restaurant group with my sons and we have restaurants in Japan, Europe and in the UK, so that occupies my time.
I had a wonderful time in the law. I enjoyed doing interesting work for clients I liked. But I don’t miss it!