Popular Ipswich law expert retires almost 50 years after first day

Richard smiling and wearing his white short-sleeved shirt with a black tie

Robert has worn the same white shirt with short sleeves every day and describes it as "a uniform." - Credit: Birketts LLP

A popular member of staff at an Ipswich law firm is set to retire almost 50 years after his first day at the company.

Robert Howard, born and raised in Ipswich, joined Birketts as an office junior on his 16th birthday on August 2 1972. 

He began making tea and coffee for a salary of £7 a week before working his way up to debt recovering manager.

He has worked in that field ever since.

"At the end of the day, I still feel like an unqualified law clerk", he said.

"I started from school, got to work the old-fashioned way and learned everything through experience."

In his time at the firm, Robert witnessed a lot of changes.

Most Read

When he started, the company had just five partners in Ipswich and a handful of clerks and secretaries. 

It has now expanded to more than 800 employees, including more than 90 partners across East Anglia and London.

"I was told on my first day: always wear a white shirt and never take off your jacket. Things have changed a lot now but I still wear the white shirt with short sleeves every day. 

"It's like a uniform."

Nicknamed 'Baby Birkett' by Ipswich County Court after took the place of a sick partner at a young age, Robert was a popular figure at the company and within the wider industry. 

James Austin, senior partner at Birketts, wished Robert well in retirement and said: "Robert has always been excellent at his job and he'll be remembered most fondly as someone you could always share a joke with. 

"We are grateful to have had him as a part of Birketts for so long. Have a wonderful retirement."

Robert is now looking forward to "spending more time with his four grandchildren" and "playing the organ" - a talent he said was nearly his career when finishing school.

Looking back over his career, Robert concluded: "Someone once told me I had a complete lack of ambition, staying in the same job all these years. 

"I had a job I enjoyed, that I was good at, that I was well known in. 

"I've really enjoyed it and I couldn't disagree with them more."