Nick Evans – 29 years at Griffith Smith
‘In my office there is an indenture in two parts (each cut in half to match the other) dealing with the sale and purchase of 47 Old Steyne and dated 13th November 1895. The seller was the Reverend Henry Wagner who was the vicar of Brighton. The buyer was Henry Griffith . Henry Griffith established the firm a few years earlier in 1881. It became the firm’s main office for the next 140 years. There were also offices in London, Henfield, Woodingdean, Southwick (briefly) and latterly Hassocks.
When I joined the firm was a very different place. Accounts (known as “cash room”) was in the basement which was affectionately referred to as “the pit”. The office was very formal with great lunches for clients in the boardroom and partners meetings with wine and beer. Many still smoked! Secretaries still took shorthand. Nobody ever came to work on a bike and long lunches were common. The office had resident caretakers who lived in a cottage at the rear. The partners had new cars which were professionally cleaned at least once a month.
We also had sprawling offices in East Street above what was then a department store called Hanningtons. There will still be a few staff who remember those offices. We closed those offices in 2006 and moved into our current office in Barts, which we had fitted out for us and which we still occupy today.
Looking back I much prefer the more relaxed atmosphere of modern day law firms to the rather stuffy hierarchical firm I originally joined. Many of the partners then wanted no change to anything. They liked the formality and hierarchy. Many would have struggled with modern business practice and the pace of change to everything, from client expectations to increasing regulation and price pressure.
The firm has changed enormously since then and it will continue to change. It will need to evolve and adapt. I for one think this is both good and commercially sound. We shouldn’t be scared of change. It is necessary in business and in life.
I have very much enjoyed my career with the firm but now is the right time for me to move on. I don’t regard it as retiring at all. Quite the opposite – a new freedom and a new chapter in life’s journey’.