7:26 p.m. May 29, 2022
A popular member of staff at an Ipswich law firm is set to retire almost 50 years after his first day in the business.
Robert Howard, born and raised in Ipswich, joined Birketts as an office junior on his 16th birthday on August 2, 1972.
He started making tea and coffee for a salary of £7 a week before becoming director of debt collection.
He has worked in this field ever since.
“At the end of the day, I still feel like an unqualified cleric,” he said.
“I started in school, started working the old-fashioned way and learned everything through experience.”
During his time at the firm, Robert witnessed many changes.
In its early days, the business had just five partners in Ipswich and a handful of clerks and secretaries.
It now has over 800 staff, including over 90 partners across East Anglia and London.
“I was told on day one: always wear a white shirt and never take your jacket off. Things have changed a lot now but I still wear the white short-sleeved shirt every day.
“It’s like a uniform.”
Nicknamed ‘Baby Birkett’ by Ipswich County Court after replacing an ailing partner at a young age, Robert was a popular figure in business and industry at large.
James Austin, Senior Partner at Birketts, wished Robert well in retirement and said: “Robert has always been excellent at his job and will be remembered as someone you could always share a joke with.
“We are grateful to have had him with 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 says was almost his career when he finished school.
Reflecting on his career, Robert concluded: “Someone once told me that I had a total lack of ambition, staying in the same job all these years.
“I had a job that I liked, that I was good at, that I was well known for.
“I really enjoyed it and couldn’t disagree with them more.”