A starling leaving a deposit on the then much wider tie of a fledgling lawyer en route to his first job interview was perhaps a good luck sign for Hewitsons partner Tim Richards, who retires in April after a quarter of a century with the firm.
After roles in Birmingham and London, Tim (61), head of the Milton Keynes construction team, joined Hewitsons in 1996 and went on to lead many heavyweight cases.
Most recently, his practice area has been construction and procurement law, advising clients on both the contentious and non-contentious aspects of building and engineering projects for both public and private sector clients. Tim has been a member of the firm's charity and education and banking and finance groups.
He is recognised in the 9th edition of The Best Lawyers in the United Kingdom 2021, ranked in Chambers & Partners UK Guide to the Legal Profession 2019 and is a recommended lawyer in Legal 500 Client’s Guide to the Legal Profession 2021.
Born in Colchester, raised in Surrey and now living in Abbotseley, near St Neots, Tim and wife Katrina have two sons, aged 28 and 26.
Looking back, the former head boy said: “My academic achievements were mostly classified as ‘could do better’ or ‘satisfactory’ at school, mainly due to the fact that I enjoyed most other things, especially playing sport, more than school work!”
Tim represented Caterham School at hockey, cricket and rugby and got the gold Duke of Edinburgh Award. After school, he took part in a five-week rugby tour to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji, playing at international grounds in Brisbane and Suva.
He started his ‘articles’ at a Birmingham firm in 1983, naming technology being one of the greatest changes he has seen in his career – when fax machines and manual typewriters were the norm.
He added: “I was still playing for the Law Society rugby team and got to know fellow team member and Hewitsons former partner Niel Ackermann. After that meeting, I started looking for a suitable position elsewhere and responded to an advert to join Hewitsons as head of construction in its Cambridge office.
“Foresight by Lewis Isaacs and Charles Hewitson, among others, dictated that Hewitsons needed a specialist team dealing exclusively with both contentious and non-contentious construction law. It wasn’t long before we got approval to recruit a further solicitor into the team and a young Colin Jones joined us. We both had very much more hair in those days!”
It was a chance meeting after delivering a talk at a meeting a construction industry forum which led to Tim leading the country’s first street lighting Private Finance Initiative project and only the second PFI project where the procuring authority was a local council.
Tim added: “This matter, a lighting project in Brent, would completely takeover my working life for the next 18 months. Overnight, I had to become an expert in PFI negotiating the project agreement.
“There is no way I could have done it without the combined forces of many other very good lawyers across Hewitsons, including some that are still at the firm today, such as James Lawrence and Bill Thatcher.
“There were many late nights and the night before financial close I spent in the office in Cambridge drafting the subcontract and speaking to counsel on the telephone.
“Without going home, I took an early train to London to attend the completion meeting. Little did I know when I was negotiating that transaction that, 18 years later, when the contract was coming to the end of its 20-year term, that the client would re-instruct us to advice on the provisions we had drafted all those years earlier dealing with warranties and transfers of rights.
“That is perhaps a lesson for those starting out on their careers that things can, and often do, come back to haunt you!”
By 2008, Tim became responsible for the firm’s new Milton Keynes office and moved the focus of his practice more exclusively to cover both that area and Northampton.
Tim said: “We have put Hewitsons on the map in Milton Keynes, largely due to the fact that we always punch above our weight in terms of delivery and client service.
Reflecting on his career, he said: “It is very satisfying to be able to walk around Milton Keynes, Northampton and Cambridge and see the tangible results of projects you have worked on and think ‘I worked on that’.”
Outside of work, Tim has been board member of Stonecheck plc, board of governors of Hertfordshire Regional College (check) and director of Sports and Play Construction Association.
During retirement, Tim intends to spend his time doing DIY and trying to catch up on his golf handicap.
Colin Jones, Managing Partners said: "It is with an extremely fond farewell that we say goodbye to Tim as he begins his retirement after 25 years with Hewitsons. A more dedicated, determined and hardworking colleague it is not possible to identify.
From founding the Construction Team, taking me on as an Assistant in the Team (an extremely sensible move), setting up and running our new office in Milton Keynes, heading the Real Estate Team, his involvement in the firm's fundraising initiatives and events and with a period on our Management Board, Tim has always given 100% and played a considerable part in the development of our firm. I know I will not be the only member of the firm who will miss Tim on both a personal and professional level.
Looking to the future, Hewitsons has a strong and solid team of absolute professionals and we know that Tim's successor, Simon Wain, will excel in his new role, in which we wish him much success."