Open Eye: Candyfloss, coal and e-commerce

Opening Up: Mike Pullen

A leading international lawyer advising governments, Brussels- based Mike Pullen, 38, began life selling candyfloss as the child of travelling show folk. With little formal education - and no experience of living in a house until the age of 26 - the Yorkshire fairground boy developed an ambition to study law, which he finally realised through an OU course. He remains a member of the Showman's Guild.

What was your family background?

I was born into generations of travelling showman. My father did everything from dodgems to candyfloss. My two younger brothers and I were brought up to do a bit of everything, too. It was an excellent upbringing - lacking in formal education, but you learned to deal with anybody.

How were your school years?

I went to school only three months of the year, when we were closed for the winter. I finished completely when I was 12. Some things, like foreign languages, I never learned, but in the things that came to me naturally, like history, I was near the top of the class.

What was your earliest ambition?

I didn't really have one. The assumption was I would carry on in the business. But when I was 16 there was a problem with using our usual site in Harrogate. I had to go down to the local council and argue it out. I was successful - and it made me think the law might be interesting.

What was your first job?

I was in charge of the candyfloss stall when I was 12. My first job outside the fairground was when I was 16. I lied about my age and got a job driving trucks at a coalmine - five 12 hour shifts, but I was earning pounds 200 a week back in 1976.

What made you start studying with the OU?

When the miners' strike came I couldn't do my job, because I wouldn't cross a picket line. I had been thinking about going back to school but the traditional night school classes started in September which is a peak time in our year. Then I saw an advertisement for the Open University in a newspaper.

What difference has the OU made?

I did the Social Sciences Foundation Course in about 1985 or 86, and passed with a Distinction. It was a steep learning curve, but I found it fascinating. I had never learned any formal grammar. One of the comments on my work was "a very good argument, but this is not a sentence". Then I applied to Lancaster to read Law. Lancaster was one of the few places to recognise the OU course in place of A-levels, and I was accepted. I graduated second in my year. From there I went on to do my LLM (the law's equivalent of an MBA) in European and International Law at Brussels. I passed cum laude.

What does your current job involve, and how did you get it?

I work for Dibb Lupton Alsop, one of the top ten British law firms. I got it by sending my CV to the boss, David Church, addressed to Mr Crunch. I had put `samba and salsa' down as my interests. He thought it was a bit different and gave me a job for a week - I've been there three and a half years. One part of my work, which is EU-funded, is advising Central and Eastern European countries about bringing their law into line with the EU in anticipation of their EU entry. I've been working in Lithuania, Romania, Bulgaria and now I'm starting work with the Latvian Parliament's Legal Secretariat. I'm also a specialist in EU law on electronic commerce - the Internet, e-mail and buying goods and services electronically. I'm the only non-American lawyer on the American Bar's research group on e- commerce. And I work pro bono (free of charge) for the charity Medecin Sans Frontieres. I also teach law at the university in Brussels. I think if you earn a very good salary, as I do, you have to give something back.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The international aspect of the work. And working at the cutting edge of law. I also like the intellectual challenge.

..and least?

The bureaucracy. Pompous lawyers - not all lawyers are pompous, but there are some.

Would you do more OU study?

Yes. If I was studying for pleasure I would do some of the history courses - like State and Society, which I was doing before I started at Lancaster. It was just excellent.

What are your goals for the future?

To become recognised as one of the top EU lawyers in the industry.

To what do you attribute your success?

Luck, focus and good support. I got a lot of support from institutions like the OU, and from people who, at no advantage to themselves, assisted me.

Suggested Topics
Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy as ECB finally wield the axe
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
film
News
news... you won't believe how bad their skills were
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

    £65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

    Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

    Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

    £50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

    The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

    £27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas