‘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
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