PROFILE: Sandy Henderson, Fishburn Hedges - An unconventional move for Henderson. Former solicitor Sandy Henderson gets a taste for PR at Fishburn Hedges

In less than 12 months, Sandy Henderson has been through bigger changes than most - switching profession, getting married, moving house and reportedly bleaching his hair.

In less than 12 months, Sandy Henderson has been through bigger changes than most - switching profession, getting married, moving house and reportedly bleaching his hair.

Last April, he made the dramatic break from Top 10 City firm CMS Cameron McKenna, giving up ten years' of work, his partner title and a substantial wage to start again in PR from scratch. When asked why he made the somewhat surprising move, he says: 'I wanted to lead an interesting life and sometimes you have to shock yourself out of the comfort zone.'

Founding partner of Quiller Consultants and former political secretary to then Prime Minister John Major, Jonathan Hill was Henderson's first port of call for advice on breaking into the PR industry.

'I find it fascinating that he was prepared to give up what must have been an extremely well-paid job and follow PR, working for free if he had to,' said Hill who lists Henderson's PR qualities as 'a good brain, discipline, hard-working and the ability to understand complex issues'.

His first foray into PR last year saw him taking an unpaid work placement at Shandwick International. An initial week's work experience turned into three-and-a-half months, where Henderson was tasked with launching the agency's dispute communication practice.

Seeking the chance to broaden his PR skills across sectors, including litigation support but not solely focussing on it, Henderson made the move to corporate PR and public affairs specialist Fishburn Hedges.

At FH's modern Kingsway offices in London, the environment is a lot more 'creative', says Henderson, than his previous profession where the ethos was 'to conform to expectations'.

'Part of being a lawyer was all about looking like a lawyer,' he says, even down to the right shirt, handkerchief and cuff-links - a part of the profession he least liked and admittedly 'found a bit restrictive'.

'If I hadn't left I could see myself being a lawyer until I was 60,' he says.

Law was, he admits, not a passion he had followed since childhood, more a career that he stumbled into after studying Classics at Nottingham University - he says it was a solid choice that would 'make the parents very happy'.

Despite specialising in employment law at McKenna, Henderson always kept his options open. Having harboured a desire to write for many years, he decided in 1993 to apply for a sabbatical and was awarded the first in the law firm's history.

After six months travelling the world and sleeping on friends' floors, he produced his first novel - The Equality of Sacrifice - a story about conflict in relationships. Henderson decided against publishing Sacrifice of Quality, as he now jokingly recalls it.

However, Fishburn Hedges chairman Ron Finlay says after seeing an example of Henderson's writing in the agency's entrance exam, the job was as good as his: 'It was certainly among the best we've seen. It was a pretty good reflection of his capability with the written word - his communication skills are clearly very high.'

For a natural communicator, PR seems a perfect match, and a profession that, according to Henderson, is surprisingly similar to law.

'Both PR and law are client focussed, they're about problem solving and reputation management - there's a lot of overlap. But as a lawyer my focus was on quantity and not quality - you're expected to get the law right, so the emphasis was on profits and timesheets,' he says.

Henderson knows he has a slog ahead of him to get to know the PR industry, which when he practised law was a mystery. 'I didn't understand it - it was Max Clifford on one end and Alistair Campbell on the other.'

But he is looking forward to the challenge: 'There's a danger when you're a lawyer that your focus narrows - the point was I wanted to do something different and learn new skills.'

Post marriage and house move last September, Henderson's life outside of work mainly revolves around home improvement and reading through the mountains of books he was given as wedding presents.

'I'm a cricket nut in the summer,' he says. 'For six hours every Saturday you don't think about anything but cricket - it's a great stress buster.'

His former colleague Dick Tyler, CMS Cameron McKenna managing partner, says Henderson is known for his competitiveness in the sporting field, as well as his dramatic image changes.

'Henderson always challenged the conventions of the firm,' says Tyler, referring to the time he grew a beard after his sabbatical and then bleached his hair. 'Perhaps this explains why he made the move and why he's suited to PR,' he adds.


1987: Trainee solicitor, Norton Rose

1989: Solicitor, CMS Cameron McKenna

1998: Employment Law partner, CMS Cameron McKenna

2000: Consultant, Fishburn Hedges.

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