It’s that time again for the annual review as commentators across the world look at the good, the bad and the unforgettable moments of 2018.
This year brought us a heatwave, a World Cup, political chaos over Brexit by the bucket load and Donald Trump gaslighting America with his fake news and lies. (You can read more in my article here.)
For Stowe, 2018 has been a pivotal year in the growth and development of our business. I have shared the best bits with you below.
We started the new year with a new solicitor Cheryl Grace our Harrogate team.
In February we opened our 14th office in Bristol, welcoming Jemma Slavin, Rachel Fisher and the team to the business. They have certainly hit the ground running, building an impressive reputation in a stunning office (it definitely wins the prize for most beautiful building), developing community ties and Rachel was recognised with her nomination for Junior Lawyer of the Year at the Bristol Legal Awards.
In March and April, we expanded our team in London with solicitor Roz Lidder and in Winchester, with Senior Solicitor Paul Linsdell joining us. We also promoted seven staff internally at the end of another successful financial year.
In May, Emma Newman, the Managing Partner in our Esher office was recognised for her exceptional work with a nomination for the Lawyer of the Year at the SLS Awards.
As the heatwave continued in June, we moved our Wilmslow team into larger premises to accommodate the growing team. It is now in a much more convenient location opposite the station with free parking available to clients. In the capital, we opened our second London office at the prestigious address of 128 Buckingham Palace Road, just a 3-minute walk from Victoria Station and headed up by Phoebe Turner. Back up north, a new solicitor, Camilla Burton-Baddeley joined the team in Altrincham.
In July, our team expansion continued with a new Senior Solicitor, Sarah Hodges joining the team in Esher whilst in Reading, we opened our 15th office and welcomed Naheed Taj who was joined by Mark Chapman, a Partner from our Winchester office. The office is located at One Valpy and overlooks the beautiful Forbury Gardens.
In Leeds, the Stowe team moved offices to the Minerva buildings in the heart of the city due to a growing team. It now has ten lawyers (including myself) and is the largest family team in the city. Down in St Albans, Senior Solicitor Bindu Bansal joined the team whilst over in the new London Victoria office, Solicitor Jonathan Day joined the team.
I also had the pleasure of participating in the Ride London 100-mile bike ride for Beating Bowel cancer. Despite several months of training in glorious sunshine, the big day itself experienced rainfall of biblical proportions. I guess that added to the fun!
At the beginning of August and peak holiday time, we had the great news we had been shortlisted for three Yorkshire Legal Awards (we went on to win two but more about that later. This month also saw two new appointments at the Manchester office with Michelle Ashworth joining us as Senior Solicitor and Gareth Curtis, promoted to Managing Partner.
As the schools went back in September, it was a month of new starters across the firm. Solicitor Rebecca Coates joined our Tunbridge Wells office, Surrogacy specialist and Solicitor Bethan Cleal joined Winchester and Solicitor Rachel Darrell, joined the Manchester office. At the end of the month, Solicitor Hannah Ross joined the team in Leeds.
Not to be outdone, Charles, our Chief Executive entered an endurance event, a mountain marathon, running some 40 miles up, down and all over the Lake District in baking heat.
October brought autumn and some slightly cooler weather. It also saw Matthew Miles; a new Senior Solicitor join the Harrogate team and Senior Solicitor Kaleel Anwar join the Manchester office. In Nottingham, we opened our first office in The Midlands. Headed up by Sushma Kotecha, the office became our 17th office in the UK.
This month also saw us meet in Birmingham for the Stowe annual conference. With a year-on-year increase in the company’s lawyer team of 40%, there were lots of new faces to meet. At the conference, we launched our mental health awareness initiative which will see a Mental Health First Aider or Champion trained and in place in each of our offices. We were also joined by four good friends and highly esteemed barristers from 1 Kings Bench Walk who presented on a wide variety of topical family law subjects including Philip Marshall QC talking about his involvement in the Owens case and James Turner QC talking about the Waggott case. Our afternoon team building event was great fun though somehow, I ended up wrapped like a mummy in loo roll. Though my team also won!
In the middle of October, we celebrated winning two awards at the Yorkshire Legal Awards: Family Law Firm of the Year and The Rising Star Award for Solicitor Charlotte Newman. It was a great pleasure to receive this recognition for the Yorkshire teams and shows the great progress we have made in enhancing our reputation as a team to be reckoned with that delivers excellent service and results for our clients.
I also took great pride in watching Charlotte receive her award having trained her through her training contract. Having been a trainee in the firm myself and seeing so many of our former trainees become managing partners or partners in the firm it’s fantastic that we are building a strong foundation for the future.
And finally, at the end of October, we launched our specialist domestic and international surrogacy law service whilst attending the National Fertility Show. Family law has so many facets to it. Divorce and relationship breakdown is upsetting and disruptive though we try our best to help people look towards a brighter future, however our adoption and surrogacy work are also incredibly rewarding for our lawyers as well as life-changing for our clients.
November brought another award win as we successfully won the Law Firm of the Year at the Elite Business Awards in Leeds. We welcomed Solicitor Maria Coster to the new team in Nottingham and in Birmingham, we opened our 18th office, our second in The Midlands this year. Headed up by Rebecca Calden-Storr and joined by Shelley De’Worringham shortly afterwards, the team is already making inroads into the market and establishing a name for itself.
And now, before we know it, we are nearing the end of December. Having the time to sit back and take stock makes us all realise what we have achieved and what a remarkable year it has been for us.
What I am particularly proud of is that we have a strong team spirit with no egos. Everybody in the firm is valued for the role they play and contributes to the success of the business. We are all committed to helping our clients and each other.
As the largest family law firm in the UK, we will continue to push the boundaries of excellent service and results for our clients across the whole country. As we continue to grow in 2019, we will be supported by the significant resources of a national firm but delivered at a local level.
But it is not just about us. Throughout the year we have worked hard to give something back to the communities where we have offices. We have sponsored youth cricket clubs, the Ilkley Literary Festival, Wetherby Stage Stars, The Winchester Hat Festival, St Albans Film Festival and the Reading Santa walk.
Our people have run half-marathons, walked 10K’s, ridden 100 miles, collected Christmas gifts, baby clothes and travelled to Kenya, all to raise money for charities including St Michael’s Hospice, The Sick Children’s Trust, make a Will month, Little Bundles, Save the Children and the Alzheimer’s Society.
So, what will 2019 bring us, well that would be telling so keep watching this space.
Lastly, may I thank you as readers of this blog for your loyal following and wishing you all a peaceful, healthy and prosperous New Year.