Nick Gould – A Lawyer’s Legal Life
Nick Gould “The common sense lawyer with mismatched shoes” is a Partner at the law firm of Gunnercooke in London. He advises companies from local start-ups to multinational trading groups on a wide range of business law issues. For many years he has specialised in advising family or privately owned and managed businesses, from the small to the very large. Business sectors include media and fashion, and he regularly mentors and advises start-up fashion brands working with Fashion Enter. Ahead of his next ‘Legal Eagle’ masterclass, to be held 8th October 2019, Nick discusses his legal career spanning 35+ years and his wealth of experience built along the way.
‘For most of my legal life I have been a deal-doing transactional lawyer. In the early days I was involved with many companies some of which don’t exist anymore – high street clients and brands such as Etam , Woolworths and Burtons (now Arcadia), banks such as Warburgs and Morgan Grenfell and extraordinary entrepreneurial stockbrokers such as Simon and Coates. I was a junior lawyer at Clifford-Turner working on a wide range of corporate finance work, IPOs, Rights Issues, Take-Overs and lots of buying and selling of lots of companies / their businesses and their assets.
‘Then I went to work in Toronto for a leading corporate law firm and when I got back a year later, Big Bang had taken place and the City would be different for ever. I spent about 18 months working for a very acquisitive media related company (as their external lawyer), which seemed to do a deal a month. In the process it went public and carried out a couple of rights issues.
‘I went on to do a lot of corporate deals for companies, some in the UK but many overseas involved particularly in shipping and international trade. And as a side line for two years, so many deals for what would now be called a family office. Much easier then, a day or so of due diligence and if the parties liked each other and the numbers seemed OK, the deals tended to get done and fast. The client bought everything from media companies to companies involved in buildings’ safety.
‘Owner-managed companies here and across the world from the USA to Israel to Norway were my thing – problem-solving, working with smaller companies and trying to use some common sense in doing so. I had a great time buying, for example a dockyard and selling, for example, an energy company and defending a hostile take-over bid for a football club (long before the days of the Premier League). I’ve advised aerospace companies and shipping, outside broadcasting and media companies and companies doing everything in between.
‘I have spent quite a lot of time more recently writing and lecturing here and abroad about aspects of corporate law and now particularly corporate governance.
‘Probably because of the international nature of my practice and my clients, I have an extensive network of contacts across the world …and then…Someone told me about Twitter and with 20 or so other people (I’m still not sure why me) we formed SME Alliance, a group to support those whose businesses and lives had been destroyed (in some cases for ever) by the actions of various corrupt and arrogant bankers egged on by certain of their professional advisors.
‘So continued my descent into the world of litigation and mediation of which I have done more in the last few years than in the previous 35. I now reckon mediation is just another variation of doing deals – everyone should come out fairly happy. In litigation there is always going to be a big-time loser.
‘Very soon, I’ll be out of it and I can go back full time to doing deals and corporate law, advisory work.’
On Tuesday 8th October 2019 Nick gave another of his informative Legal Eagle Masterclasses at FashionCapital’s HQ in North London:
‘The seminar yesterday was excellent because we had a group of new SMEs and we had learners from the Fashion Technology Academy (FTA) too. There were students from the Stitching and Pattern courses and also there were apprentices – all wanted to learn about the realities of contract law and how to start their own business.
‘I went through the fundamentals of the different legal entities of a company from ordinary private companies to not-for-profit concerns and charities. We discussed the strengths and weaknesses of each and I was rather surprised how many students didn’t understand the importance of being a legal identity – this safeguards an individual from risk and loss and the last thing any person should ever do is put up their home as collateral for a business.
‘The law of contract was then discussed in considerable details; the three constituent parts of offer, acceptance and consideration. Without doubt the attendees left the room much more knowledgeable about how to protect themselves with Terms and Conditions and ensuring that they knew the importance of writing down and signing agreements and dating of course.
‘Finally we touched on employment law and the importance of Right to Work documentation especially for the migrant workforce of today within the fashion industry.
‘Whilst I am well aware that areas of business are covered within the FTA it’s important that the realities of business formations and contract law are clearly known before ever opening a company. There were a few people in the room that want to start partnership agreements but even this, with your best friend or partner, can be fraught with difficulties and at the absolute minimum people must have Heads of Agreement.’
Chantelle commented: “Thank-you Nick for an inspiring session today. The feedback from both the new designers and learners from the FTA and apprentices was absolutely awesome!”