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THE SECRET TO LONGEVITY? A LOYAL TEAM, SAYS WILLANS
Not many Gloucestershire law firms can boast over 150 years’ worth of combined service from the seven longest-standing members of their team, but Willans LLP credits reaching its 70-year milestone to the dedication of its lawyers, management and support staff.
Two lawyers have been with the firm for almost 30 years, one for 22 years and an additional four people are celebrating 20 years of service this year.
Steve Diamond, an associate conveyancer, began his legal career 28 years ago from a background in hotel management. The firm’s then partners saw potential in him, his inner drive and the ability to build up strong and lasting client relationships. 28 years later, Steve is one of the county’s best-known residential property lawyers, acting for many repeat clients year-on-year. He is also one of Willans’ many ambassadors of home-grown talent.
So why has Willans stood the test of time while so many other firms have failed to make the cut? Steve says: “I think it is down to the quality of service we provide. If a client comes back to us again and again, it shows we’re doing a good job. We are renowned for our can-do attitude – we take the job by the scruff of the neck and we strive to make sure that it goes through.
“Firms have needed to adapt to compete in a changing market, without losing sight of their core values. During my time at Willans, there have been many changes – technological, practical, the ways in which we liaise with other law firms, the advent of email and the internet; all of these have drastically changed the way in which we work, but fundamentally we still focus on our relationship with our clients – that hasn’t changed.
“Every time we complete a transaction you get that sense of achievement that we’ve got exactly what the client wanted”.
Jonathan Mills was brought in to head up the commercial property team at Willans in 1989, joining two months after Steve. A figurehead of the firm’s commercial arm, he is well-known in his field, having acted in many multi-million pound transactions for a diverse range of clients.
Jonathan, who began his legal career after ten years in the Far East with the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank, is rated by Chambers as an “outstandingly responsive practitioner”. After 24 years as a partner at Willans, he became a part-time consultant in 2013.
Magic circle City-trained corporate & commercial partner Paul Symes-Thompson, described as a “tour de force in the Cheltenham market”, is another of the firm’s stalwarts, racking up 22 years of service.
Charity law consultant and former managing partner Margaret Austen celebrates 20 years at Willans this year, as do senior partner and lead litigation partner Nick Cox, and secretaries Anne Richards and Jinny Elgey.
Alongside Paul Symes-Thompson and Margaret Austen, Jonathan has overseen the firm’s commercial arm, which continues to rank strongly for the South West year-on-year in national legal guides, and is described as “able to compete with larger regional players’”.
He commented: “Long-standing clients are dear to my heart. I particularly enjoy working with these sorts of people as there is a very strong personal relationship. I find that they know what you’re thinking, and more particularly, you know what they’re thinking, and working with clients I get on with gives me a real buzz. It’s been a joy to watch the firm grow as it has over the years”.
Of the firm’s working culture, managing partner Bridget Redmond commented: “It has continued to develop in recent years and is a very important part of why we are successful. For us it is about helping the really talented people we already have in the business achieve their full potential, and about continuing to bring in, and retain, the high calibre of staff we have been able to attract from other firms.
“We choose our lawyers not just for their excellent technical skills – they have to have outstanding people skills too. Clients tell us that they really appreciate the blend of both.”