Paul Nicholls was elected MASS Chairman in October 2018 so we thought it would be good to know a little more about Paul and what makes him ‘tick’!
Why MASS Chair?
I have been involved in MASS for many years, right from the early days, and have always liked MASS as a great representative organisation. I wanted to become Chair to get involved as a stakeholder with those who make laws, and make a difference. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the new role so far, though it does take a great deal of personal time and effort.
Why the law?
I actually wanted to work for GCHQ as a schoolboy! I fell into law during my A Levels. I was asked if I would like a job with a firm of solicitors and, the next thing I knew, I was working in the debt collection department at Pinsent & Co in Birmingham as a ‘Trainee Legal Executive’. I did learn a great deal about the court processes there, but eventually moved to Robin Thompson & Partners (now Thompsons) to learn PI litigation in the late eighties.
Even to date, I play in various bands and I was very nearly a session player but turned down an offer to tour with a band around the world at the same time I was offered the position in law. It was probably the right choice to be honest.
Best win in Court/most important win to date
There have been a number of highs and lows over the last 35 years! I would probably say a win at trial for my aunt 20 years ago with significant damages ranks alongside a case I settled during trial for a client in a vegetative state where we ran the action with no witnesses on expert evidence. I also handled a ten-day professional partnership trial 20 years back with huge sums of money at stake. All the trials were touch and go, and caused a great deal of sleepless nights, but all were great wins.
Thoughts on the implications of the Civil Liability Act
Quite simply an utter travesty built on the back of Daily Mail headlines. It seems preposterous that insurers shareholders should gain a significant windfall at the expense of an injured party, predicated on a promise to save £35.00 against an insurance premium that has doubled in recent years. The whole thing is nonsensical, depressing, and sadly indicative of the state of affairs with our broken judicial system. Wider concerns are the reduced access to justice in almost every conceivable area of law, the massive hike in court fees, and the sale of over half of court buildings across England and Wales.
What 3 items would you take to a desert island?
I’m a bit of an anorak and I am a licensed amateur and very proficient at morse code and radio electronics. Therefore a lorry battery, HF Ham Radio Transceiver with a morse key, and 160 metres of wire would turn my being stranded into a week’s holiday – I could also listen to Radio 4 while I waited!
Who inspires you to be better?
My family most likely. Probably my very young grandchildren who keep smiling, as they seem to know no better!
What’s your claim to fame?
I’ve been on national TV a few times. I was England’s first ‘Podcaster’ and quickly grew an audience of six figures. Others followed, and a meeting we were going to organise at a pub in Birmingham turned out to be a major international conference with people travelling from all over the world to an Oxford Street Hotel – with the BBC coming along to ‘learn’ what Podcasting was! For a few months I honestly thought I was going to be a journalist and leave law behind.
What’s the best and worst piece of advice you have ever received?
The best advice is probably to be the best I could be at whatever I was doing. I was also told by an old PI Principal, John McKeown at Rowley Ashworth in Birmingham, that ‘this isn’t work for a grown man….’
The worst advice was probably to invest as much money as I could muster into penny shares…. three weeks before the stock market crash in the eighties! Luckily it wasn’t too much.
If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time?
I hardly sleep, and when I do, I dream about cases! I often wake up and make notes on strategies to take in certain matters.
What would be your first question after waking up from being cryogenically frozen for 100 years
“Where’s the loo?”
The only superstition I like is by Stevie Wonder. Cracking tune, brilliant horns in the middle 8!
Best ever holiday or place you have visited?
Definitely Swaziland, I’ve been there twice on a trip for aid. My local church sponsors an AIDS orphanage. It’s incredible to see that the people who have the very least materially, have so much more socially than most in the West. An incredible place that changed my whole way of thinking… twice.
I suppose it was an old Morris Marina (yes I am that old) that you could open with any key/knife/bit of metal. It was so terrible no one would want to steal it, so it was usually left unlocked. I think any thief would have felt sorry for me and left money for it to be cleaned!
Possibly Stevie Wonder as the artist. I’m hugely into music and have a massive array of music I listen to, so possibly a choral piece by Sir John Rutter ‘The Lord Bless you and keep you’ for the song – one I’ve chosen for my funeral service. Yes, I’ve planned it, and even what I want to say!
King James’ Bible. An incredible work. I’m studying a Theology Masters part time ‘for fun’ and it astonishes me that a book so old still influences so many – love it or hate it.
Best TV boxset or movie?
The Pianist. If you haven’t seen it, do watch it. I’m fascinated by the Holocaust – not the evil of it, but the amazing resilience of those who went through it. It also reminds me to stop moaning when I remember how incredibly tough so many, just a few generations ago, had to tolerate.
Balti from my favourite curry house – it’s owned by some very good friends of mine, so it’s always a great time whenever I visit.
What is the first thing you like to do with your free time?
Spending time with my family – especially my grandchildren.
What annoys you?
I absolutely hate racism, or to see anyone being bullied. My pet hates.
Thoughts on Brexit?
Only our Government could unite an entire generation in feeling utter despair, no matter which side you voted. I can’t help but wonder who taught Theresa May and her advisors how to negotiate, they need locking up!
This article first appeared in MASS Insight Magazine, Winter 2018/19
Paul Nicholls is Senior Partner at Nicholls Brimble Bhol in Birmingham