My Journey Between the Rs

As a child growing up in an overcrowded house in an inner city suburb of Birmingham in the 1950s and 60s, my parents were keen that my 6 siblings and I did the best we could. We were repeatedly reminded of the importance of the 3 Rs: “reading, writing and arithmetic”.

I was lucky enough to pass my 11plus examination and to go to a good senior school but I found that the thing that interested me the most was playing in the Brass band. It was a good band and we enjoyed lots of achievements which included me playing solo in a packed out Birmingham Town Hall. For a while I even thought about joining a military band after leaving school.

My father started to run a pub when I was a young teenager and from the age of 13 I helped out at weekends and got extra pocket money. Then I also got a job on Friday evenings and Saturdays at Tesco’s.

My enthusiasm for school had gone and I left in 1971 at age 16 following my exams. The very same day I went to Tesco’s, told them I had left school and they took me on full time the same day. I have never been out of work and I know how lucky that makes me.

One evening in the October of that year my mother passed me pen and paper and told me to apply for a job that was advertised in the Birmingham Evening Mail. I did as I was told.

It was a job as an office boy in a Solicitor’s office in Birmingham.

I went for an interview and got the job but the senior partner who interviewed me told me that the salary would be £4 per week. I told him that wasn’t enough as I was earning £15 per week in my two part time jobs. He revised his offer to £6.00 per week with the promise of a review after a few months and I accepted the post and started work there on the 15th November 1971.

Hence the start of my career in law .

Within 6 months I was promoted to be a junior Clerk (now known as a paralegal) and I was back at school. Night school that was and day release doing the legal executive courses.

In due course I qualified as what was then called a Fellow of the Institute of Legal Executives and was very proud of myself and satisfied. However, as I got older I found young qualified Solicitors (and some not so young) asking me for advice, yet they were being paid more than me!

This made me think so I started doing more part time courses at technical colleges and Polytechnics before doing Articles and then a correspondence course and eventually qualifying as a Solicitor Birmingham. I did all of that whilst working full time and bringing up a young family with my wife and running a home. It was hard work and long hours. I had a caravan at the bottom of my garden which was my study and I would go there each evening at about 9.00pm and study until the early hours. Weekends too.

I have never not worked. I have never been to University (given its old meaning) and I didn’t take a degree. I just worked hard and long hours.

I set up my own firm, took over a bigger one and then merged with an even bigger one and became senior partner but I was also always the office boy when needed.

A few years back at age 60 I decided to step down a bit and now work part time at Greens.

I have trained and continue to train and advise many new recruits at all levels as well as advising and representing clients.

So, why do I write all this? I hope to convince all those staff and Clients who read it that from very simple beginnings you can achieve a lot as long as you have the determination to do it. That goes for careers, bringing up children, dealing with your own problems and challenges etc. Be strong, be committed and determined. Listen to advice and you will get to where you want to be.

Well, this blog is called “Between the Rs”. What does that mean? It started with “reading writing and arithmetic” and now I frequently think about “retirement, rest and relaxation”.

I think about it but then something happens. Like a recent afternoon, my last afternoon in the office before going on leave, precious time as all lawyers know. The phone rang, the call went out “can anybody go to Court immediately to represent a father who is at Court before a High Court Judge in respect of an emergency Interim care Order application”

My arm shot into the air due to the gush of adrenalin, and off I went happy as a pig in clover.

I’m clearly not ready for the long grass just yet. I’m still somewhere “between the Rs”.

David Sheldon

Greens Solicitors Birmingham