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Alumni Profile: Nick Connor, Managing Director, Volvo Car UK

We caught up with alumnus Nick Connor who graduated from Guildford centre in 1987.  Here he shares his experience of studying with us, explains how a qualification in law has helped him achieve his ambitions and offers advice to those just starting out. 

By Editorial Team. Published 17 August 2015. Last updated 21 February 2023.

From an early age I had a keen interest in law and I also realised that whatever career route I later decided to follow a law degree would be well respected and stand me in good stead. I found during my undergraduate degree that it was the law element I was most interested in rather than politics. I particularly enjoyed the practical side and knew I wanted to go into practise. 

After studying an undergraduate degree in Law & Politics at Cardiff University, I studied the LPC at the Guildford campus graduating in 1987. I chose ULaw for being the specialist leading institution. I genuinely enjoyed my time there and unlike regular universities, felt a certain sense of belonging. Everyone was there for the same thing, in the same boat and I made lifelong friendships. 

The teaching and learning was very different to my undergraduate degree. The quality of the teaching at ULaw was outstanding and very highly structured. It was far less theoretical and much more practical – you really felt like you were being prepared for a career in law. As a student, you were being taught by people who had and still were actually practicing in law, both in the UK and internationally. That level of insight was priceless. Even though the courses were very highly structured there was somewhat of a relaxed vibe to the campus. The tutors treated us as equals and there was far more interaction and support from what I had previously experienced. 

I seem to remember when I was very young, I wanted to be a tractor driver…but my first real job was as what used to be called an Articled Clerk (now a trainee solicitor) at Moore & Blatch Solicitors. I got the training contract in my last year at Cardiff University and started there the summer after completing my LPC. I remember in the 70’s watching a US TV series called ‘Petrocelli’ about an American/Italian lawyer. It was pretty cheesy but also very idealistic watching him in each episode taking unremarkable facts and building a fantastic case.

I am now Managing Director of Volvo Car UK responsible for the overall sales, marketing and distribution of our cars, parts and accessories. I’ve been here for 19 years in total and joined as Group Solicitor and Company Secretary.  Previous to this I had been working in a private practice in London and could feel that I was being channelled into a specialist area which was not the direction I wanted to take. I wanted greater variety. I ended up moving into the automotive industry at Hartwell PLC. I really enjoyed my 2 years there and particularly gaining experience in a different industry and commercial environment. With that automotive experience under my belt, I was then approached by Volvo which I thought I would maybe do for a couple of years. I had planned to go back into practice but 19 years on I am still here and this is purely because I love the commercial role and love what the brand stands for. 

A law qualification has given me access to a commercial role within a well-respected global brand. My legal role at Volvo put me in a very unique position. It enabled me to dig deep into all aspects of the business and to have a broad overview of all operational functions. Not many other roles give you this rich experience and exposure. This ultimately led into my transition from a legal role to MD. A qualification in law, I believe gave me the tools I needed to do this and end up in a job I love.

A career in law provides you with many transferable skills - mainly analytical. Formulating a position or case and presenting that back and those skills are extremely desirable and actually necessary in today’s commercial world. Advocacy skills are absolutely invaluable and will certainly set you in good stead in a business environment – 70% of my job is speaking and selling a concept/idea to people.

Without a doubt my biggest professional high point was being made MD of Volvo. After years of hard work and investment in the legal commercial industry moving into a role I love and for a brand I am so passionate about. Currently our most important objective is Vision 2020 – that by 2020 no one will be killed or seriously in a Volvo car. We will deliver this through our state of the art technology and world leading safety features.

The best advice I have ever been given is make sure you do something you love. If you don’t like it and your heart isn’t in it, then don’t do it. The worst advice was when I was at Cardiff University. I took a computer careers test and it said I should become an airline pilot – not sure how they quite came to that conclusion!

I have two teenage daughters who are studying hard and I really encourage them and other young females to pursue careers in commerce. I actually work with a school in Oxford, Headington Girls School and speak to their students about exactly this. If you look at the automotive industry for example, it is very heavily dominated especially in the more senior positions by white, middle aged men. I am very passionate about bringing more females into these more senior roles.

I’d say to current students studying law to firstly look for a role in a private practice firm where you will gain broad commercial experience. Don’t pigeon hole yourself. Then move in-house to a company where the role is flexible, you can learn a broad skill set, be exposed to the business operations and can make an impact. General Counsel roles are great for this. Gaining broad experience will make you very attractive to a commercial business.

If you want to find out where a career in law could take you why not come along to one of our open days to find out more.