Robert Holland: point of difference (pic: Terry Murden)
Head of employment Law, Aberdein Considine
As a seasoned centre-half used to tackling the rough and tumble of the football pitch, Robert Holland is well used to defending his corner in the legal arena. He has litigated more than 50 tribunals, from redundancy to unfair dismissal, as well as discrimination and whistleblowing issues. He has also carved out a specialism in sports law, representing players, coaches and managers, and he’s now preparing to raise his game further in his new job.
Holland was head-hunted to lead the employment law team at Aberdein Considine, arriving from Balfour+Manson where, among his roles, was advising footballers, rugby players and athletes on off-field matters such as contracts and disciplinary situations.
The solicitor-advocate has plans to target young sports stars now that the UK’s withdrawal from the EU has changed the visa status of senior players and made the home market for football’s rising stars a more attractive one for British clubs.
Aberdein Considine is about to announce the signing of a top sports agent with whom the firm will work on matters relating to a player’s career. Holland said Aberdein Considine’s range of other specialisms, such as tax and mortgages, means he can offer a more rounded service.
“We see it as a unique point of difference in the legal sector,” he says, though the post-Brexit environment presents an even bigger market that is likely to keep him and his growing team very busy for the rest of this year at least.
The Retained EU Law Bill aims to scrap all Brussels legislation and replace it with UK law. It will sweep aside thousands of pieces of legislation in areas of law such as health & safety, flexible working and holiday pay. The bill is due to be ratified in the coming weeks and civil servants are expected to complete the switch to UK law by the end of the year.
“It’s an ambitious target,” says Holland, who believes the public, businesses and the media are not paying enough attention to the changes in order to fully understand the implications for employers and employees across the economy.
“These EU laws have evolved over 40 years and the UK Government wants to sweep them away in nine months. I don’t see how they can do it,” he says.
“Once the law is passed there is going to be a huge vacuum in employment law. Suddenly there will be no protection for holiday pay, or rest breaks.
“Of course, some argue that it is a good thing to cut red tape, but de-regulation on this scale risks seeing unscrupulous employers rolling back on employees’ rights.”
‘There is going to be a huge vacuum in employment law’ (pic: Terry Murden)
He remains sceptical about the government’s timetable, noting that a report on the gig economy produced for the government by Matthew Taylor in 2017 has yet to be acted upon.
Holland studied law in Glasgow, played semi-professional football for Edinburgh City, and had flirted with a career in politics, which ended with an unsuccessful attempt at securing a seat for the SNP in the Scottish parliament.
His employer, Miller Hendry in Perth, had given him time off from his role as an associate in the employment law team.
“It was my one and only attempt to get elected, but it gave me an appreciation of the huge amount of work that politicians do that is not seen by the public,” he says. “It is a vocation and for those six weeks it took over my life.”
He had initially worked for George More as a criminal defence lawyer in the high court in Edinburgh, but he was drawn to the employment arena “because I liked solving clients’ problems”.
Combining his time in the football dressing room with his day job meant he made contacts and learned about players’ circumstances that helped his desire to develop a sports law specialism.
At Aberdein Considine he’ll head up a team of six, with the prospect of it rising to 10 in the medium term.
“My plan is to build the team up and develop a range of services for clients,” he says. “In terms of resources and the size of the company I saw the potential to do that here.”
Birthplace: Macclesfield, Cheshire
Educated: Glasgow University (politics, law)
Career highlights: Miller and Hendry, George More, Balfour+Manson, Aberdein Considine
I played semi-professionally for Edinburgh City, briefly for Spartans and also for the Scotland over-35s alongside players such as Marvin Andrews, Gary Holt, David Bingham and Kenny Miller.
Matches against East Stirling and Dunfermline was as good as it got but I enjoyed it and did have ambitions to be a professional.
What annoys you?
Pomposity, bad behaviour on trains
What do you do in your leisure time?
Walk, collect sports memorabilia. I have a jersey worn by David Millar in the Tour De France and Craig Gordon’s gloves from his Sunderland debut.
If you could invite three people, past or present, to a fantasy dinner party who would you choose?
Mohammed Ali, John F Kennedy and David Bowie