Personal profiles, professional insights: Meet Rob Thomas, Tax Partner

23rd April 2024

Now settled in the idyllic Welsh coastal township of Laugharne, famous for its connection to the poet Dylan Thomas, Rob Thomas’ daily routine is a far cry from bustling London, where he honed his skills as a corporate tax lawyer for over a decade. “I always joke that if I can negotiate the rugged coastal path and heavy rain here or survive a night in the pub with the locals, corporate tax structuring is a walk in the park,” he laughs.

Rob’s journey into law came about thanks to curiosity and opportunity. Growing up in a Welsh-speaking family in rural Carmarthenshire, Rob was initially drawn to the profession through his father’s work as a financial adviser at high-street solicitors. But he never imagined ending up in London or specialising in corporate tax.

“I remember being picked up from school and spending hours at my dad’s office. That early exposure to the legal world piqued my interest,” Rob recalls. His talent for drama—honed at countless Eisteddfods—and knack for public speaking hinted at a future in the courtroom, but life had other plans.

Choosing to study law at Bristol University, Rob embarked on a career that took him to the heart of London’s legal district. The move offered Rob a broad canvas to develop his experience as a lawyer and his expertise in the intricacies of tax law.

Training in London allowed me an opportunity I never expected to immerse myself fully in its diverse and international culture. It also allowed me to work on some of the market's largest, cutting-edge corporate transactions. Yet I always longed for home and knew my heart belonged in Wales.

His return to Wales, a decision spurred by a desire to balance professional achievement and family life, has made him a sought-after adviser at Blake Morgan for a diverse client base, from multinational corporations to budding entrepreneurs.

Now, as a young partner, Rob is passionate about fostering the next generation of legal talent. His approach to mentorship is much like his approach to tax law: clear, pragmatic, and always with an eye on the future.

One of the things I enjoy most about tax law is that it's an ever-evolving area, which means continuous learning and development. Having been fortunate enough to have had some fantastic mentors throughout my career, who were always generous with their time, I also see it as a key part of my role to mentor and inspire the next generation.

We caught up with Rob to learn more about his career, motivations and his advice for aspiring lawyers.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

The dynamic nature of tax law keeps me on my toes; it’s constantly evolving and presenting new challenges and opportunities to understand and navigate. What I find most rewarding is the challenge of breaking down complex issues into manageable, understandable advice for my clients. It’s about adding real value to their ventures and seeing the tangible impact on their success.

Rob Thomas, Tax Partner

Can you share a career highlight with us?

One of the defining moments of my career was passing the chartered tax adviser exams and winning the LexisNexis prize for achieving the highest marks on two papers. The exams are notoriously difficult, and it was a particularly challenging time for me, balancing the work demands of an international law firm with countless study hours. I poured everything into my studies, but I didn’t imagine for a second that I would win an award – my focus was always simply on passing with the best mark I could. I didn’t realise it then, but it marked a pivotal point in my professional journey, enhancing my reputation as a tax adviser and, more importantly, providing me with a deeper self-confidence in my abilities.

At the other end of the spectrum, a particularly surreal moment was having to join a conference call while dressed as a reindeer at a rugby sevens event! It was one of those moments that put everything into perspective — balancing professionalism and dedication to your work whilst remembering the importance of not taking yourself too seriously!

What is your approach to building strong client relationships?

For me, it's all about empathy and understanding each client's unique needs and goals. I strive to look beyond the tax and understand a client's business and the wider sector in which they operate. That way, I can ensure my tax advice is easy to understand and tailored to their business environment.

By putting myself in my clients’ shoes, I can better appreciate their perspectives, challenges, and the outcomes they’re aiming for. I take a genuine interest in the success and growth of my clients’ ventures, celebrating their achievements and seeking to be a steady presence in times of challenge.

What keeps you motivated?

What keeps me motivated is the challenge of keeping up with the constant evolution of the tax landscape and the opportunity to solve new and complex problems for my clients. It’s fair to say that as a tax adviser, no two days are ever the same, and the satisfaction of deciphering intricate tax laws to provide clear, actionable advice fuels my passion for my work.

I’m also passionate about mentoring the next generation of tax professionals. I’m always more than happy to share my knowledge and experience, and watching them grow and succeed in their careers, whether in tax or any other area of the law, provides as much satisfaction as any of my professional achievements.

What makes you tick outside of work, and how do you balance work life with your interests?

I’m driven by my love for the outdoors and spending time with my family. Family is a big part of my life, and for me, a healthy balance between work and home life is vitally important in ensuring personal happiness and that I’m my best professional self at work. Living in Laugharne means I’m close to family and childhood friends and part of a close-knit community. I like to stay active, whether going to the gym, running along the estuary in Laugharne or walking the Pembrokeshire coastal path. For my sins, I also have a season ticket to watch the Scarlets.

What advice would you share with aspiring lawyers?

Firstly, embrace the diverse opportunities that the legal field offers. I never imagined ending up in tax law, but I took the opportunities that came my way and have never looked back.

Secondly, never underestimate the importance of soft skills alongside your technical legal expertise. The ability to communicate effectively, to empathise with clients, and to build strong relationships is invaluable.

Mentorship is another crucial element. Seek mentors who can guide you, share their insights, and help you navigate your career path. But remember, mentorship is a two-way street. Be proactive in your learning, ask questions, and take every opportunity to absorb knowledge from those around you. In summary, be open to learning, stay curious, and don’t be afraid to carve your own path. The law is vast and varied, and there’s room for many different kinds of success.

For more information on Rob Thomas, click here.

Read the Welsh language version here.

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