A FIRM of solicitors in Chalfont St Peter is spreading its wings to become a multi-disciplinary legal practice – a change driven by a new recruit who was once told by a careers advisor he would never make it in the profession because of his background.
Colin McEwen, 50, originally from Newcastle, joined SVS Solicitors in June and is working the focus of the practice from criminal law to one that can accommodate and assist across a variety of legal fields.
From wage clerk to baker, via a stint in the army and even as a night school teacher, Colin has not been one to rest on his laurels. And he says managing director of SVS, Sasha Sidhu has been keen for him to bring some of this diversity to the firm.
He said: “A big motivation for me is that I can’t stand people who said I would never make it as a solicitor on the basis of the way I speak or where I went to school.
“I can’t stand anyone who tells me something can’t be achieved.
“Never allow anyone to take your dream away from you. If you want something get out there and work.”
Colin said his childhood was not a particularly aspirational one, and that he received little encouragement from his parents. He left school with six CSEs, then found work as a bonus clerk at a building firm but was made redundant when it went out of business.
After a few more jobs he got a nightshift position at a bakery and yet again found himself on the sharp end of redundancy – this time because he was not a qualified baker. On the same day he discovered his wife was pregnant. Determined not to face such a situation again, he said, he went to college to become a certified baker with a City & Guilds qualification.
Colin then studied various aspects business and finance, getting a BTEC diploma, and then trained as a business studies teacher at Sunderland University. But, on concluding the course he found that a restructuring of the lecturing framework meant the demand for business studies lecturers had dried up. So instead, he worked for two and a half years for free at a law firm to gain experience and then set about studying to qualify as a solicitor.
During his training year of a legal practice course he worked in the Territorial Army, as a night-school teacher and even as a baker to keep himself, his wife and their four children in the house.
He specialised in the area of criminal defence and has worked in the legal profession since.
Colin had been living in Newcastle, but he moved south in summer 2012 to take up a post in London – his appointment immediately prior to joining SVS.
Colin says he has got to where he wanted to be by asking himself three key questions at various stages of his life and career: “Where am I? Where do I want to be? How am I going to get there?”
And he says the latest move has been one that helped him fulfil a long-held ambition.
He said: “I always dreamed of driving a Merc. It only came about through joining SVS and having the support of Sasha.
“There are a million people who put you down – but not so many who will encourage you.”
Now at the firm for five months, Colin says as well as driving the widening of services it offers, he has also spearheaded a revamp of the SVS website.
And he says the firm, founded in 2008, is becoming busier with expansion and recruitment hopefully on the cards.