Nottingham: what's Not to love? A look at life and work for lawyers in Nottingham and what makes the city tick.
A bit of history
Steeped in the legend of Robin Hood (part of the central ringroad is even called Maid Marian Way), Nottingham has so much more to offer than forests and bows and arrows – all things you might want to know about if you're considering living and working in the city. The city has a long history as a significant political and economic centre stretching back 1,000 years. It has its own castle on a hill (though the present building is a 17th century mansion so sorry if you were expecting a medieval pile) and the Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, a charming 11th century tavern hewn into Castle Rock, which claims to be the oldest pub in England.
The city was known for its lace making during the industrial revolution, as well as for the production of tobacco and (later) the manufacture of Raleigh bikes. Tourists and visitors flocking to the city spent an estimated £1.5 billion here in 2011. They were drawn no doubt by the legend of Robin Hood or perhaps by the fact that figure skating superstars Torville and Dean first met working at Pearl Assurance on Old Market Square.
As of 2013, 311,000 people call Nottingham home, 60,000 of them students. The city's two universities are both significant from a lawyerly perspective. The University of Nottingham is one of the best performing unis in our survey of Law firms' preferred universities, coming fourth and outranking all six of the traditional Redbricks (though the size of Notts' graduate population will have something to do with this). Secondly, Nottingham Trent University – whose graduates are a notable presence at Midlands firms – offers the GDL, LPC and a pretty good and selective BPTC.
Nottingham is the headquarters of several major UK companies including Vision Express and Boots, which was founded in the city by John Boot 150 years ago. For a long time it was also the home of the Inland Revenue, which moved here from London in the 1990s. Since becoming part of Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs, the taxman's presence in the city has been downsized, but HMRC still retains a presence in the city which is set to expand from 2021.
There've been a series of big investments promoting local economic growth recently. First up is a £172 million investment for a period of six years secured by Local Enterprise Partnership D2N2 from the government's Local Growth Fund (confusingly, D2N2 stands for Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire). Of the money made available £30 million will go towards creating a new Nottingham Skills Hub (to provide vocational training), £10 million will go to improving public transport around Broadmarsh shopping centre, £6.5 million to a new Bioscience building, and £5.8 million to improving infrastructure around the Rolls Royce collection in Hucknall. D2N2 is currently bidding for a further £426 million from the government to invest in projects aiming to create 12,910 new jobs.
Nottingham's law firms
Such projects and investments create work for construction, real estate, employment and public procurement lawyers. Another area worth noting is tech start-ups, or more specifically 'fintech' (financial technology) start-ups. Nottingham-headquartered credit card company Capital One, has set up a new accelerator programme to help innovative new businesses develop their products at the Capital One head office on Station Street. The programme is aimed at promoting local talent and progressing the tech focus within the city. This means more IP and finance work for lawyers.
Nottingham-centred law firms Freeths and Browne Jacobson have both picked up on these trends and practise in many of the sectors mentioned above. Both firms – and Browne Jacobson especially – also have a significant number of public sector clients including local authorities and NHS Trusts. This reflects the continuing importance of the public sector as an actor and employer in the region; even the commercial developments mentioned above are partly dependent on public money. Another thing worth noting is that while Freeths and Browne Jacobson are jointly the city's most important commercial firms they also retain practices in areas focused on individuals like personal injury, clinical negligence and private client, which are more traditionally associated with regional firms. Other commercial firms with a significant presence in the city include national outfits Eversheds, Gateley and Shoosmiths and Midlands firms Geldards and Shakespeare Martineau.
What do Nottingham firms and lawyers have to say for themselves about the attractions of working in the city? Browne Jacobson training partner Mark Hughes believed that “the quality of work is always very attractive. There's always the chance to get involved with top-notch work, that can also make the headlines.” We'd add that his firm also offers the unusual opportunity to work on matters related to businesses, public sector bodies and individuals. Meanwhile, Freeths HR director Carole Wigley tells us that it's about more than just the work: “We look after our people. Yes, there’s great work to get involved in, but here that's balanced with knowing everyone by name too.” Nottingham newbies are also helped along by the Nottinghamshire Junior Lawyers Division, which puts on lots of networking events – think cheese and wine tasting drinks. Yum!
For those who want to let their hair down when not surrounded by work contacts there's plenty on offer. Sports fans will be happy to hear that in 2014 Nottingham was officially crowned 'the UK's first city of football', as it's home to the world's oldest pro football club, Notts County (though Forest tend to do rather better in the league these day). If footie's not your thing, then other good activities include a visit to the thriving business and cultural centre in the 'creative quarter'. This is home to the UK's biggest bioscience incubation centre, a contemporary art museum (opened in 2009), and is also a great place to eat, drink and be merry in the bars, restaurants and cafés dotted around the Lace Market area. Mark Hughes of Browne Jacobson told us: “It's a thriving City. You have pretty much everything you might need on your doorstep.”