New face at Freshfields

A Manchester law firm welcomes a Big Issue North vendor into its office

Hero image

Since June, a global law firm has opened the doors of its Manchester office to Nicolaus, a Big Issue North vendor.

Once a week, the staff at Freshfields get the chance to buy the magazine at their office while Nicolaus, who for the rest of the week sells outside Booths supermarket in Hale Barns, experiences working in a new environment.

“I’ve been selling here at the Freshfields office for a few weeks now,” says Nicolaus. “I come in on a Thursday lunchtime and sell the magazine in the canteen. I love it – everyone is really friendly.

“Big Issue North sorted everything out for me to work here. They’ve helped me to get a contactless card reader, because a lot of the staff here use cards instead of cash.

“It’s good, because I get different people buying the magazine each week. I’m getting to know people and starting to sell well. When I started, a lot of people hadn’t heard of Big Issue North, but now they’re getting to know about it.”

“Working at Freshfields is amazing. It’s teaching me so many new things.” 

Originally from Romania, Nicolaus, 27, has lived in the UK for more than 10 years, having come to the UK to make a better life for himself and his family. He started selling Big Issue North around eight years ago because at the time there were few other ways for him, as a Romanian citizen, to earn an income.

“My English has improved a lot since selling the magazine. I love talking to people and I have found that people find it really easy to talk to me. It’s one aspect of the job that I really enjoy – just chatting about all kinds of things. Selling the magazine has also made me a salesman. I’ve learnt so many skills.”

As well as selling the magazine at Freshfields, Nicolaus will have the chance to shadow staff in departments that he is interested in working in, which it is hoped will then help him find other work. Nicolaus has two daughters and he and his partner are expecting another baby, due any day. He wants to get a steady job so he can take care of his family and he’s keen to do anything that will help him achieve this goal.

“Working at Freshfields is amazing,” adds Nicolaus. “It’s teaching me so many new things.”

He’s hopeful about the future, but is concerned what will happen when the UK leaves the EU, as the current government has promised to do on 31 October.

“I just don’t know what to believe,” he says. “Brexit has caused so much confusion. I don’t know if I should be worried or not. I’ve had my British citizenship through but we are waiting for my partner’s to come and what about our children? They were born here in the UK. I just do not know what happens next.”

Freshfields, which provides a range of legal services to corporate businesses and governments across the world, has for some time been running a similar scheme in its London office, hosting vendors who sell The Big Issue. When it opened in Manchester, it kindly extended the offer to Big Issue North, recognising that homelessness is a prominent problem in the cities it is based in.

Olivia Balson, Freshfields’ global centre director says: “It is important businesses are actively involved in improving the lives of those most in need in their communities.

“We’re really proud and pleased to host a Big Issue North vendor in our Manchester office. Nicolaus has quickly become a part of our firm and we are looking forward to continuing to support him and others in the future.”

The partnership with Freshfields is one Big Issue North director Simon Kweeday values and hopes can be replicated.

“We’re really pleased to be working with Freshfields like this,” he says. “For many of our vendors, selling the magazine is a doorway to more mainstream employment, and we’re always looking at ways that we can support them to do that.

“Giving Nicolaus the opportunity to experience an office environment will hopefully give him a good sense of the kind of work he’d like to go in to. At the same time, we think it’s really valuable for the staff at Freshfields to have the chance to meet Nicolaus, find out more about the people who sell the magazine, and of course, buy a copy.”

Interact: Responses to New face at Freshfields

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.