“This is, quite simply, the end of an era. It’s very special you have spent your entire career with one firm. Rather like John Terry with Chelsea. Not that I mean to compare you to a footballer.”
The email on Tim Gray’s desk sums it up. A print-out from one of the many well-wishers, lamenting Tim’s impending departure from the forefront of the region’s legal sector, sits proudly on top of one of many untidy piles of papers in his office.
When Tim, or ‘The Mighty TRG’ as he is affectionately known by many, retires in July it truly will be the end of an era. The boy from the council estate in Dunston, who has risen to become one of Newcastle’s leading lawyers, appearing twice before the House of Commons Select Committee to represent his taxi clients, is leaving his beloved Sintons after 42 years.
Although he will remain as a consultant at the firm until next year to enable a smooth transition for clients who have regarded Tim as their lawyer, expert advisor, friend and confidante for four decades, Tim’s official departure date from the Sintons’ Partnership has been confirmed as July 31.
While a career in law was something he had set his heart on even before sitting his A-levels a year early in 1969, as a 16-year-old Dame Allan’s student, the legal sector we have now is a very different world from the one he entered as a Cambridge graduate in 1974.
“I love working in the law, and of course I love Sintons, but the legal world is now a shadow of what it was, and that saddens me greatly,” says Tim, in his typically passionate and brutally honest way.
“Law has descended from being something regarded as an art and a science into just another industry.
“The legal system has gone to pot. How can Mr Joe Public afford it anymore? More often than not, he can’t. After the war, we had the introduction of major legislation like the Legal Aid Act, but now there is hardly any legal aid available. It is not right that people are being denied justice.
“The judges do their best but tasks they are set are often impossible.
“When I first came into the law, the first question a lawyer would ask would be: ‘What can I do to help you?’ Now, it seems that all too often many lawyers ask: ‘How quickly can you deposit X amount of pounds into our account?’ That really is diabolical.
“And then there is the influence from Europe. In the tenth edition of the book on the law of torts by Tony Weir, who was my greatest influence at university, he said in the preface that the English law, which has been built up over hundreds of years by the great judges of our land, has been destroyed by legislation and regulation from Europe. That is something I wholeheartedly agree with.
“Having said that, would I go into the law if I knew then what I know now? I most probably would. The law is something I care deeply about and always will.”
Throughout his time in the profession he loves, Tim has been inspired by several people he credits as being huge influences:
Ted Potts, from John H. Sinton & Co, who Tim saw in court before he even went to university and was hugely impressed by: “I knew there and then that was the firm I wanted to go to.”
Also, Peter May and John Cawood, partners at Sintons when Tim first joined the firm. He comments: “Peter May was a great man who I was articled to, and I owe him an awful lot, but John Cawood is my biggest influence during my time at Sintons. He was just the best all-round lawyer and person. I think the word ‘kind’ is the best word you can use about any human being, and John was just that. Kind.”
In addition, there’s Andrew Walker, Tim’s close friend and fellow partner at Sintons, who died in 2014 aged only 54 after a brief battle with cancer.
“It was an absolute tragedy when he died. We had such fun together and he will always be missed,” Tim reflects.
But the greatest influence for Tim will always be his mother, Anne. The woman who worked tirelessly, despite battling illness, to raise the money for Tim to attend Dame Allan’s – to which he feels he owes so much – and then Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge. Sadly, she did not see Tim graduate or embark on his career, and died as he was completing his second year exams.
“I was not from a wealthy background, and my mum kept working to keep me at school and to enable me to go to Cambridge. She was ill and she really shouldn’t have been working, but she did that for me. I was very driven by that,” says Tim.
“My mum died while I was at Cambridge – that broke my heart and it has never mended. But the one thing I feel I gave her back was on Christmas Eve 1969, when my Cambridge acceptance came back; I know it gave her great joy.”
In his retirement, Tim plans to continue in his role as secretary of the National Taxi Association, as well as with his charity work. He has long-standing roles as clerk to the St Thomas Chapel and St Mary the Virgin charities, as well as sitting on the development board of the Marie Curie Hospice, Newcastle.
“Thankfully I don’t think I’ll be bored as I’ve always had rather a good social life, but my charity work is very important to me and I can now devote more time to that,” he says.
At last he hopes his family will have the time they so deserve.
“It is a wrench to leave Sintons after so many years, and I have been lucky enough to work with some inspirational figures, but it is the right time for me to leave. I wish them the very best and am grateful for the support of some great people over the 42 years I have been there.”