For this month’s Agenda we met with Advocate Paul Nicholls, the founder of Nicholls Law, one of Jersey’s newest law firms. Here we discover a little about his career path and what makes him tick.
Paul has practised law for over 25 years and specialises in complex international financial litigation including contentious trust and commercial disputes, fraud, asset recovery, insolvency, compliance and regulatory disputes. He also undertakes criminal defence work. Paul is an experienced courtroom lawyer, representing clients in proceedings before the Magistrates Court, the Royal Court, the Court of Appeal and the Privy Council.
Describe your typical day?
I usually start the day by checking my emails over breakfast. Weather permitting (I am very much a fair-weather cyclist), I will ride to work and begin by attacking the many administrative tasks which go with running a new business. I spend my day working on cases and meeting with clients. I try to leave the office by 6 pm but invariably this proves more of an aspiration than a reality.
What do you enjoy about your job?
I’ve always enjoyed litigation (and particularly, the tactics of litigation) and never more so than here in Jersey. Because Jersey is a leading offshore financial centre we get some of the very best quality of work. In the same day I can be working on a multi-million-pound trust dispute whilst dealing with an individual who wants me to get him released from custody. My job also frequently requires me to travel and I have worked in places as diverse as Brazil, Nigeria, Kenya, Hong Kong and the US.
What do you dislike most about your job?
I profoundly dislike business jargon or “management speak”. I particularly hate the use of terms such as “touch base offline”, “blue sky thinking”, “circle back”, “squaring the circle” and “reach out”.
What has been your best experience as a lawyer?
As a trainee solicitor I once worked on a large matrimonial dispute where a spouse was convinced that her husband had been secretly ciphering away money. After going through years of bank and credit card statements, ringing up companies appearing on his statements to try to ascertain exactly what had he had been buying, I managed to track one entry which related to a bed manufacturing company. They were able to tell me that he had bought a bed and where it had been delivered to and this led me to an undisclosed property which had been acquired by the husband and his new girlfriend using the secretly siphoned money.
More recently I defended a man charged with attempted murder. The drama of awaiting the jury to return the not-guilty verdict is something I will never forget.
And your worst?
Whilst working in a very remote part of the world on a large corruption case I was once “escorted” at gunpoint to a secret location to meet a key witness. That experience was nothing short of terrifying.
What do you do in your spare time?
At present my spare time is limited as I am building a new business. I like to spend time with my family, walk our dogs, cycle and “play” the guitar (I have sadly learnt that notwithstanding my very considerable endeavours, I am never going to be the next Eric Clapton!).
What’s your favourite business destination?
New York; I have even taken in places as diverse as a gospel church in Harlem and a downtown “rap” club (albeit I suspect that I am one of the few people to have ever attended that club in a suit sporting a conference delegate name badge!).
What changes have you witnessed over your career?
When I started out we communicated with clients through a phone with a round dial that sat on our desks. If we needed to research something we would head to the library. One of the pressing questions I was asked on my first day in legal practice was whether I wanted to share a smoking or non-smoking office!