Just a Small 50 years in law

David Small, a Solicitor and Partner in the Professional Support Department of Express Solicitors

David Small, a Solicitor and Partner in the Professional Support Department of Express Solicitors, has had an impressive 50-year legal career. His principal role at Express is in training, but he also has a small caseload of personal injury cases.

Given this impressive milestone, you might think he was always destined to have a legal career, but he didn’t start out in a conventional way.

Originally from Middlesbrough, he left home at 18 and studied for a chemistry degree at the University of Manchester’s Institute of Science and Technology. When he graduated, he had no intention of moving into law, instead he went into research and then sales.

However, an article in the Daily Telegraph, which he spotted while in a café in Blackpool, triggered a new career path.

The article discussed careers in law. It asked the question, ‘Do you want to be a solicitor?’ and, having always been interested in the law, he decided to look into it.

He discovered he could train to be a solicitor with his chemistry degree, so he joined Goldstone Casket and Eva in Manchester as a 5-year articled clerk in 1974. While there he undertook by private study, Part 1 Solicitor’s Qualifying Examinations.

After six years at Goldstone Casket and Eva, he went to another Manchester firm, Glickman and Co. He was offered a Partnership there which he accepted, and after 7 years he moved to Cohen’s, also in Manchester.

He started his own firm in 1989, Mulderrig Small, which he later sold and it became Mellor Hargreaves. David eventually joined Express Solicitors in 2018.

David Small was presented with a trophy that says ‘Congratulations on 50 years in law – Another 50 to go…’

How the law has changed

Working in law has become much more complex in the last 50 years but his tenacity and dedication has never wavered.

Technology has paved the way for major changes and, but access to justice, much like access to healthcare, is increasingly difficult. Individuals face more challenges to get help without exposing themselves to financial risk.

Procedurally, the law has also become more complicated. For example, before the Civil Procedure rules came in, the courts weren’t that interested in what was going on between the parties until the parties had come to a situation where they could not agree. It was only then that the courts would intervene. The courts didn’t manage the case; the case was managed between the lawyers on both sides.

Challenges and achievements

Some of David’s greatest achievements come from winning particularly difficult cases, some of which had been rejected by other law firms as they were deemed to be too challenging.

However, he argues that anybody can win every case if they only cherry-pick the ‘winners’. He finds that the most rewarding cases are not necessarily those where he’s won significant damages, but the cases where he has won against the odds.

David’s most noteworthy cases came with unique details that would identify the client so it’s difficult to go into detail without breaching confidentiality, but one challenge he can cite is in regards to the professional negligence work he was part of.

He describes it as “a bit cannibalistic” because it involves suing other solicitors. However, it is worthwhile work because it allows lawyers to give the proper advice and obtain damages that clients should have received in the first place.

He explains that his challenges are ongoing but thinks the way to overcome them is by realising that you’re never going to know it all. He believes that to be successful in the law, you must have enthusiasm and a commitment to keep learning. Open-mindedness is a key tenet of being a good lawyer and this is what he tries to instil in those he trains and mentors.

Ultimately, David’s work is motivated by a strong sense of justice, a genuine desire to help, and a lifelong devotion to learning. He recently represented a client who said to him: “This is going to change my life” and it’s that kind of comment that makes his job worthwhile.

Advice to law graduates

David describes his first boss at Goldstone Casket and Eva as a leading light in his legal career and has been grateful that he gave him that chance as a non-law graduate.

His boss gave him two important pieces of advice:

  1. See the wood for the trees.
  2. Think like a lawyer.

At the time, David understood the ‘wood for the trees’ philosophy, but he couldn’t understand how he could start to think like a lawyer. His boss simply said: “You’ll know when you start to think like a lawyer.”

It was true, as ‘thinking like a lawyer’ crept up on David and he suddenly realised when he was analysing things in a legal way.

Today, at the age of 75, David enjoys his rewarding job at Express Solicitors and still plays an active role in the firm’s fundraising activities.

He keeps on working, training and fighting for compensation for his clients because, as the Express strapline states, he loves ‘helping injured people’. He’s a fantastic inspiration to all those he trains and works with and he’s not stopping any time soon; as he puts it, ‘I just get up each day and go to work’.


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