Last month, TBE visited Thrings’ offices in Drakes Meadow, Swindon, to interview Client Partner, John Davies. Originally from Mountain Ash in the Cynon Valley, South Wales, John has been with Thrings for 17 years. He joined the firm (then Townsends) in 1997 as a paralegal and completed all of his legal training before climbing the ranks to the position of partner in 2003.
John is a very approachable and down-to-earth character and perhaps this is where his success lies. Not one to tie you up in legal jargon, John is straight talking and makes law sound remarkably uncomplicated.
We chatted to John about his time at Thrings, his greatest achievements and the firm’s plans for the coming years.
What sectors of law do you specialise in?
“Thrings, as a firm, specialises in a number of sectors. We don’t have too many though, as we want to be true specialists in our field. The core areas of our expertise are agriculture and food, defence and aerospace, energy and waste, financial services and technology.”
What areas of law are you particularly passionate about?
“I particularly enjoy mergers and acquisitions, downstream oil, defence and engineering and FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods).
“However, the real passion for me is the client and the people I work with. I deal with all kinds of organisations – from owner managed businesses to global PLCs – and each comes with different emotions and pressures that require different support and guidance.”
What would you class as your biggest career achievement?
“My long-term client relationships. Some of my clients have been with me since they started and I’ve been fortunate to support them in their growth – the likes of Elcome, infinite and Excalibur Communications are great local successes. I think you know you’ve been successful when a client becomes a friend. I’m happy to say my clients see me as a trusted advisor and sensible sounding board.”
How did it feel to be recognised as ‘Client Partner of the Year’ by the UK’s leading legal journal, The Lawyer?
“Lovely! Fantastic on a personal level. It was pretty humbling being recognised for something I love doing. The real highlight was that it was great for Thrings to receive a national industry award.”
“I was also really proud of my team when they won ‘Deal of the Year’ and ‘Corporate Law Firm of the Year’ at the recent South West Dealmakers Awards. The latter award was based on the volume and quality of deals we have completed recently, including Intrinsic, Coty, Sentaca, American Fujikara, Crocus, IMG Group and of course Watson Petroleum. They also acknowledged the hard work and dedication shown by our teams across the firm’s offices in Swindon, Bath and Bristol.”
What advice would you give a trainee lawyer or someone looking to become a lawyer?
“If you’re not a people person, then law is probably not for you. What we do is help people and you’ve got to be passionate about them and their business.
“Being a lawyer is a way of life. It involves constantly thinking about your clients and their issues. The hours are long and starting out in the industry can be expensive, with trainee lawyers often in debt by up to £40K by the time they leave university – so you really have to want to do it.
“Competition for training contracts is also fierce. There are usually more than 500 applications for eight trainee positions at Thrings. It’s not just about the academics either; you need to think about how you can prove to a law firm that you really want it. Work experience is highly important; it evidences drive and passion and adds a really good dimension to a CV.”
What’s next for Thrings?
“The last financial year has seen an 18% growth across the firm, which has been driven by the success of our Company Commercial, Commercial Property and Agriculture teams. This is excellent news for Thrings and hopefully a reflection of what’s going on in our economic patch.
“When the recession happened in 2008/09, we took a long-term view: we resolved to look after our clients, and now we’re delighted to say those relationships are even stronger.
“We’re currently ahead of our five-year plan in terms of staff, budgets and clients. Rather than merge, which is what a lot of law firms are doing at the moment, we have employed a strategy for organic growth.”
What do you enjoy doing out of the office?
“I’m a family man and live in Hullavington with my wife, two children and dog. I enjoy making the most of the beautiful countryside around us and have a rather unusual hobby.
“I think I had a bit of a mid-life crisis at 40 and invested in a bespoke 7 ply, Canadian Maple Longboard! I love skateboarding with the kids, it’s great fun.
“I’m also really passionate about rugby, and played at school, university and for Glamorgan Wanderers RFC. Music is a passion too – live music is great. I try to see as many bands as possible.”
If there was one character in history you would like to meet, who would it be?
“Sir Tasker Watkins VC, GBE (18 November 1918 – 9 September 2007). Little known outside Wales, this man was incredible – as well as a distinguished career as a lawyer (he was a Lord Justice of Appeal and deputy Lord Chief Justice), he played first class rugby for Cardiff and Glamorgan Wanderers and was President of the Welsh Rugby Union from 1993 to 2004.
“But Sir Tasker was also a hero. In World War II he singlehandedly took out an enemy machine gun post, saving the lives of over 30 of his men. He was awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest British award for gallantry in the face of the enemy. Quite a life and quite a man.
“If I can be cheeky, I’d also like to add something a little more personal. I had wonderful grandparents, but my grandfather, Jack Davies, passed away when I was a baby. Whenever anyone spoke about him, the stories always involved generosity and kindness – I’d love to have had the chance to experience it myself. Apparently he’s the man who introduced me to whiskey – medicinal for my gums!”