Gary has practised UK-inbound immigration, nationality and refugee law for nearly 30 years. Since forming Latitude Law in 2007, the firm has grown to become one of the UK’s largest regional suppliers of immigration advice to corporate and private clients. As well as managing a 12-strong legal team, Gary is a regular trainer, conference panellist and media commentator, and is a visiting lecturer in international and domestic human rights at the University of Law.
Describe your career to date.
It’s been a blast, actually. I’ve been privileged to work with so many brilliant colleagues and amazing clients. Helping people to realise their dreams of relocating to the UK, whether refugees or business owners, is incredibly rewarding.
What inspired you to specialise in immigration law?
I sort of fell into it – aged 18 I dropped out of my first year at university (I was studying modern languages, so well before I discovered the joys of law) and applied for a civil service job. I got it, and ended up at the Home Office working on policies for British passport holders and the handover of Hong Kong to China. When you realise we’re a small island that holds a deep attraction for many around the globe, UK immigration practice is the perfect field of specialism.
What do you predict will be the long-term impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on corporate immigration in the UK?
While the pandemic has forced firms to adapt to remote meetings, conferences and communications, dampening the need for physical relocations, I believe a pent-up demand for business travel, international movement of staff and actual human interaction is just waiting to be released. I for one am no fan of an all-day Zoom conference or Teams meeting, but I love the buzz of meeting delegates and colleagues for real.
We certainly need more clarity on permitted activities for visitors; I can see no good policy reason for restricting remote working so long as the job remains abroad.
What developments in immigration in the UK should foreign practitioners be following and why?
Our sparkling new (in fact, more a reboot that a launch) points-based system for relocating skilled workers. A significant amount of streamlining has been required by the UK’s departure from the EU, and the commensurate increase in demand that will bring. From 2021 the new sponsor licensing regime will become a fact of life for many more employers.
In your opinion, where does the future of the practice area lie?
Over the years we’ve become compliance lawyers rather than transactional advisers; I can only see this continuing.
What advice would you give to those who are looking to start their own firm?
If you are good with people, love what you do and you’re reasonably good at it, then go for it. I was forced into making the leap when my old firm closed its immigration department, but it’s the best career move I’ve ever made.
Looking back over your career, what is the most interesting case you have been a part of and why?
I’ve been involved in some very protracted fights for status on behalf of some exceptional individuals, targeted in their own country because they spoke out, or even just expressed a particular aspect of their character. These are the cases that stick in the memory.
What is the best piece of career advice you have ever received?
Don’t let the fact you’re a working-class boy from north Manchester hold you back.
“Gary is very helpful and efficient”
"He is excellent and has a great way with clients"
“He really understood the process, guiding us where necessary”
Gary has practised UK-inbound immigration, nationality and refugee law for more than 25 years. His first taste of work in his field was at the Home Office, where his role included policy work on the return of Hong Kong to Chinese control in 1997.
He founded Latitude Law in 2007, with the aim of bringing levels of professionalism and expertise associated with City practice to the English regions. The firm has grown steadily since then and currently has an 11-strong legal team undertaking a full range of immigration work. It has recognised expertise in guiding businesses and educational institutions including several northern universities through sponsor licensing and related regulatory processes.
It is also noted for its work with high-net-worth individuals, with particular focus on the sole representative of overseas business, innovator and start-up visa categories.
Gary and his team have also developed strong links with exceptionally talented individuals in a burgeoning regional tech sector. Latitude also continues to take on complex asylum work. The firm has satellite offices in Liverpool and London, and in 2020 opened a Belgian subsidiary based in Brussels. Gary is registered as a foreign lawyer with the Brussels Bar.
Gary has been a high-profile commentator on the UK’s Brexit negotiations, speaking at business events and writing numerous articles for publication. He is an AILA international associate and has contributed to panels at the organisation’s global and European conferences in recent years. He is chair of trustees of electronic immigration network, a charity providing information services in the sector, and a patron of Middle Eastern human rights charity Salam DHR.