In this brand new video, Stowe Family Law Senior Partner Marilyn Stowe takes a trip back in time. She recalls her parents and the many ways in which her family influenced her very successful legal career. She revisits the very earliest days of Stowe Family Law in Halton, Leeds, and remembers a heady period in which the booming firm quickly outgrew two successive office buildings. But her attention remains firmly focused throughout on the present and future of the UK’s largest specialist family law firm.
I’m Marilyn Stowe and I am the Senior Partner of the largest specialist family law firm in the country.
I started off as somebody who was very interested in European law and commercial law and then gradually moved in to family law as I became a mum. The intention was that it would be something for me to do as a housewife and a mum and a part-time lawyer. What actually happened was the practice grew and it’s quite something to come back and see where it all began. The office began as a converted cobblers shop. It was painted pillar-box red. It had two little rooms downstairs and I remember we had to go to the council to get planning consent to be able to use the upstairs. Eventually we grew to such a point where there was just no room left in that tiny, little office. It has enormous memories for me because it was a time that was very happy, it was very frenetic. They were great people in Halton, they were salt of the earth, the shop keepers, all of them became clients, the people that lived round and about became clients, not all of them were on the right side of the law but even those that weren’t were actually local scallies. In a way I was sorry to leave but I had no choice because we had completely outgrown it. A building became available along the parade and we moved in. I remember when we moved in we were never ever going to fill it because it was so big and within a very short period of time we were bursting out of that as well. So we moved, and we moved to Harrogate.
A lot of people ask me why I wanted to be a solicitor and I have to say that I was guided in that direction by my parents who made the suggestion when I was about five. I have at home a little book, a little booklet that I wrote where there is a picture of me wearing a wig and gown, it says “my daddy wants me to be a barrister…” and I have spelt the word barrister wrong because I didn’t know what that was and “…if I become a barrister he will stand on the highest church in Leeds and say my Marilyn is a barrister”. Well I decided actually to be a solicitor because I thought that I would prefer people contact and that’s what I did and I certainly owe it to them and the sacrifices they made to send me to an expensive school that they couldn’t really afford so that I would get a very good education. My father and mother were great people people, they like meeting people and I think I have inherited that, I have also inherited it from my grandfather and grandmother. My grandfather ran a sweet stall in Leeds market and I used to go and work there. My grandmother was a journalist and she was a great writer and she also used to meet lots of people. So I think the emphasis on client care, client contact, being at ease with clients which is something I am very hot on in the firm, I think came from everything that I’d seen in my family.
I have faced a lot of challenges in my career. I have had some very difficult cases to deal with but I think the greatest challenge that I took on was one that I took on voluntarily and that was to see if I could help Sally Clark who was a fellow solicitor who went to prison for the murder of her two infant babies. When I read about the case, I didn’t believe she had done it and it didn’t add up, it didn’t make sense and so I wrote to Steve Clark after her appeal to the Court of Appeal was dismissed and said “if I could possibly help at all, I would be delighted to do so”. I obtained from the hospital a report, a microbiology report which showed that the second child had died from a virus and this completely altered the whole of the case. The second appeal was eventually before the Court of Appeal and she was released. She was in prison for three years and it must have been horrific.
The business is growing, client satisfaction rates are very high, we are opening offices all over the country and it is a very exciting time. It’s fantastic. I’ve been doing this a lot longer than you might think and I don’t think you can acquire the experience that I’ve got overnight. I want to use my experience to grow the firm and I’d like to see it still there long after I’ve ultimately decided to retire but I am not retiring yet.