‘My ac­coun­tant told me to buy a Bent­ley’

Nick Free­man, the lawyer nick­named ‘Mr Loop­hole’, tells An­gela Ep­stein about his ca­reer win­ning ac­quit­tals for celebrity clients

The Sunday Telegraph - Money & Business - - Fortune & Fame - Alma mater.

Nick Free­man, 61, is the lawyer nick­named “Mr Loop­hole” for his abil­ity to un­earth le­gal tech­ni­cal­i­ties that al­low A-list celebri­ties to hang on to their driv­ing li­cence. His stel­lar client base, which in­cludes Sir Alex Fer­gu­son, David Beck­ham and Jimmy Carr, shows no sign of di­min­ish­ing, thanks to an ever­bur­geon­ing caseload.

Did you be­come a lawyer to make lots of money?

Not en­tirely, but I wasn’t im­mune to the re­wards a suc­cess­ful ca­reer in law could yield.

My late fa­ther planted the idea in my head at the age of seven when he won­dered about my ca­reer plans. I asked him what would earn the most money and he told me that lawyers earned £4,000 a year (this was 1963). I was hooked. I thought, wow, I can earn piles of money and ar­gue for a liv­ing. Quite a com­bi­na­tion.

I did have aware­ness about money from an early age. My par­ents were very com­fort­able and I was brought up, with my two younger broth­ers, in a lovely large house in a smart area of Not­ting­ham. Even as a boy I used to think, how will I earn enough to have a life like this?

Were there other lawyers in the fam­ily?

No. My fa­ther went into the ladies’ fash­ion fam­ily busi­ness, es­tab­lished by his fa­ther, but he was never am­bi­tious. It gave him a com­fort­able life­style and left him plenty of time to play golf.

Be­cause of that, he told his three sons there would be no busi­ness to go into. We’d have to make our own way. But he put his money where his mouth was by in­vest­ing in our ed­u­ca­tion and sent us to Up­ping­ham public school, his

I was re­mark­ably av­er­age – I was in the same class as Stephen Fry, so how could I be a star pupil? In fact my par­ents were told I wasn’t bright enough to study law, though they never re­vealed that to me un­til years later when I’d en­joyed some suc­cess.

I used to look at the geeks in class and think, why are you clev­erer than me? I re­alised that if you’re not nat­u­rally gifted you have to work like a lu­natic to beat the com­pe­ti­tion. It’s where I first de­vel­oped my taste to win. Win­ning is my drug.

How did you be­come known as ‘Mr Loop­hole’?

Af­ter I’d qual­i­fied I got a job work­ing as a pros­e­cu­tor for Greater Manch­ester Po­lice. One day I was pros­e­cut­ing a straight­for­ward drink-drive case and thought I had it in the bag. But two min­utes later I lost on a tiny point. I was floored.

It was at that mo­ment I re­alised that it was an area of the law where know­ing an enor­mous amount of de­tail would be a great ad­van­tage. It’s rid­dled with loop­holes – you just have to know where to find them.

When I left the po­lice and joined a medium-sized firm of crim­i­nal lawyers, I de­vel­oped a spe­cial­ity in road traf­fic cases. When I started win­ning cases the press no­ticed and chris­tened me “Mr Loop­hole”.

Did that trans­late to earn­ings?

Within months of join­ing the firm

I was made an equity part­ner and earn­ing a six-fig­ure sum – which back in the Eight­ies was a lot of money. But money wasn’t what drove me. I fight to win ev­ery case I do, for the sake of my clients and to shake off the ghost of be­ing an “av­er­age” school­boy.

Al­though I de­vel­oped a rep­u­ta­tion of be­ing the road traf­fic lawyer with a per­fect score­card, I didn’t al­ways end up do­ing the most high-pro­file clients that came to the firm. On one oc­ca­sion a top TV per­son­al­ity wanted me to rep­re­sent him but I was told I wasn’t se­nior enough. So some­one else did it (and sug­gested the client plead guilty when it was a winnable case). I knew then I had to set up my own law firm.

It took me six years to make the move be­cause I live in fear of fail­ure. I also needed a £25,000 over­draft from the bank to set up – and I hate ow­ing money. I chase peo­ple to in­voice me.

My fi­nan­cial am­bi­tion was to match my ex­ist­ing salary. My pro­fes­sional am­bi­tion was to be the coun­try’s best lawyer in my field.

How did you get the big clients?

I was lucky. Shortly af­ter I set up on my own I was hired by Sir Alex Fer­gu­son, the Manch­ester United man­ager at the time, who was ac­cused of driv­ing on the hard shoul­der of a con­gested mo­tor­way. I suc­cess­fully ar­gued that he was suf­fer­ing from a stom­ach up­set and rush­ing to get to a lava­tory.

The press went nuts! I sim­ply couldn’t be­lieve my good for­tune at net­ting such a big fish at such an early stage of my new busi­ness.

Shortly af­ter that David Beck­ham was charged with speed­ing in his Fer­rari and came to me. I thought, wow, this is re­ally go­ing some­where.

Af­ter that the high-end work just seemed to roll in. It sounds glam­orous but I worked like a mad­man, trav­el­ling the length and breadth of the coun­try, do­ing four road traf­fic tri­als a week.

And though I was win­ning case af­ter case, it was like pre­par­ing for an exam ev­ery sin­gle day. I worked round the clock. My fam­ily never saw me.

What did you do with your tak­ings?

I had a fan­tas­tic piece of ad­vice from Tony Stephens, David Beck­ham’s agent. He told me that as soon as I earned any se­ri­ous money I should pay off my debts. So I got rid of my mort­gage and made mas­sive pro­vi­sion

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.