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 tights 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 – though two other ancient pubs in Nottingham also make this claim.
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 Nottinghamshire spent an estimated £1.8 billion here in 2016. 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 2017, 329,200 people call Nottingham home, 37,000 of them university 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. That soon became part of Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs, and, as part of a ten-year transformation programme, Nottingham was chosen as one of HMRC's 13 regional centres, meaning it will retain a substantial presence in the city.
There've been a series of big investments promoting local economic growth recently. According to a study by law firm Irwin Mitchell, the first quarter of 2018 saw the city growing faster than Manchester, Glasgow and inner London (though it was only the 28th fastest growing city). One boon to the area comes by way of a £554 million investment secured in the D2N2 Growth deal. D2N2 is a Local Enterprise Partnership (D2N2 stands for Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire) which has taken its funding partly from the government's Local Growth Fund, and partly from local partners and the private sector. It aims to create 55,000 new private sector jobs between 2014 and 2023. The money made available will also go towards creating a new Nottingham Skills Hub (to provide vocational training), redeveloping the Broadmarsh shopping centre, a new Bioscience building, and improving infrastructure around the Rolls Royce collection in Hucknall.
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 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 Sutherland, Gateley and Shoosmiths and Midlands firm Geldards.
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. Yum!
For those who want to let their hair down when not surrounded by work contacts there's plenty on offer. Football fans can revel in the fact that Nottingham is home to the world's oldest pro football club, Notts County (though Forest tend to do rather better in the league these day). But, if footie's not your thing, then there's always the thriving business and cultural centre in the 'creative quarter', the Lace Market. This is home to the UK's biggest bioscience incubation centre, a contemporary art museum, The National Videogame Arcade, and countless bars and restaurants like the Boilermaker (a bar disguised as a boiler shop – very cool) and Annie’s Burger Shack (32 very unique burgers – crab, briskett, scotch bonnet and toffee apple on the same menu. We recommend the PB&J burger). Nottingham summers aren't bad either – there's Nottingham Caribbean Carnival, a street art festival, a videogame festival and still-young Splendour Festival. Previous acts include Paloma Faith, Scissor Sisters, Blondie, Kaiser Chiefs and – get this – Busted. Mark Hughes of Browne Jacobson told us: “It's a thriving City. You have pretty much everything you might need on your doorstep.”