CJCH History Month: Wales’ oldest law firm, Gaskell and Walker, joins CJCH

By Myles Thomas

As Wales’ oldest law firm, the acquisition of Gaskell & Walker is a matter of pride for those working at CJCH Solicitors. Given the continued growth and success of the tech-centric Consulting side of CJCH’s business, it is also apparent that the firm still holds true to the values and ethos of a community based high street practice.

E.W. Miles Solicitor on record for a probate matter, 1921

The origins of Gaskell and Walker go back to Ebenezer William Miles, who practiced as E W Miles & Co. in Cowbridge. Ebenezer was born on 8th June 1852 to Thomas Miles of Cowbridge, where he was later educated and admitted as a Solicitor in 1878. He practiced alone from 1878 until 1932 and was succeeded by Mr Morgan, who was admitted in 1900 and died in 1934.

At this point, the practice was taken over by Francis (Frank) Gerald Walker who was born in 1881, admitted as a Solicitor in November 1929, and practised in partnership with John Clare Gaskell. At the end of the Second World War, Frank handed the practice on to John Thornley Taylor, who acted as a sole practitioner until he was joined in partnership by Ian Jewell, Ray Nicholson and Anthony.

Following the unfortunate demise of Mr Jewell, Gwyn Davies joined Ray and Anthony in partnership in 1988 and upon Ray’s retirement in 1999 they were joined by Mel Butler. Up until the point where CJCH acquired Gaskell and Walker, astonishingly, that had only been a total of nine partners in over one hundred and thirty years.

John Gaskell record of Admission, 1902

When CJCH took over Gaskell and Walker in late 2014/early 2015, the two firms practiced from their offices in Caroline Street and Park street, respectively. Speaking with current members of CJCH Solicitors in Bridgend (the majority of whom worked for Gaskell and Walker previously) at their relatively new office in Dunraven Place, they indicate the new premises are just one of the many welcome changes they have seen since joining the CJCH family.

Rebecca May, Solicitor at CJCH, originally began her training with Gaskell and Walker under Gwyn Davies, who, despite his retirement remains a mentor to her. Originally, she had trepidations of CJCH’s takeover as she was only four months into her training contract and was worried for her future. Her fears were calmed by Nick Wootton, CJCH’s Chief Financial Officer who informed her she would remain a trainee with the practice. A few years on, Rebecca has flourished with CJCH and says that the takeover benefited her greatly, allowing her more opportunity.

Original Gaskell & Walker letter head on a conveyancing matter, 1946

The rest of the team who also worked for Gaskell and Walker collectively have almost one hundred years of service between them. Nigel Daniel, now Head of Employment at CJCH commented that the team is built on “good old-fashioned loyalty” and they are “incredibly tight-knit”. It is apparent that this is true, with stalwarts Hollie Wood, Louise Watts, Cathy Leyden and a more recent appointment, Caroline Jones regaling and laughing over their experiences in the office together. They insist that they are friends before anything else, there are no secrets between them and they love coming to work every morning.

One of Gaskell and Walker’s main focuses was their client-centric approach, aiming to provide full transparency with ‘friendly, professional and approachable advisers’. Their historic advertisements speak of not being just a ‘faceless law firm’ which they would be proud to see is still apparent today. The Bridgend Office oozes friendliness, charm and personality whilst remaining successful, efficient and professional.

CJCH History Month: Clarke & Hartland shaking up Cardiff

By Charlotte Bardet

In 1982, former prosecutor Brian Jones contacted Stephen (Steve) Clarke to ask him to form a new law firm under the name Brian Jones & Co. Steve, currently Senior Partner at CJCH, had completed his training contract under the supervision of Brian at the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). Steve qualified in 1980 and two years later joined forces with Brian to establish a mainly Criminal Defence law practice in Canton, Cardiff. Brian Jones & Co. then opened its second office by partially moving to Clifton Street in 1983 and then fully moved to Clifton Street in 1985, when the firm changed name to Brian Jones Clarke & Co. It was at this time that Tim Hartland, now CJCH Managing Partner, joined the practice as a trainee solicitor and would later go on to become Partner when Brian retired in 1988. The firm became Clarke & Hartland Solicitors in 1990, with a staff of 16, and made its final move to The Parade, in Cardiff, in 2001.

Brian, Steve and Tim all specialised in Criminal law. The firm delivered prosecution work for the British Transport Police in South Wales throughout the 1990s, as well as defence criminal work, and acted for the Police Federation of South Wales. In the mid-1990s, Steve was one of the first solicitors in Wales to be given Higher Rights of Audience owing to his extensive experience, and about 5 years later Tim acquired Higher Rights as well. Both Partners appeared regularly in the Magistrates Court and conducted Crown Court proceedings. When the opportunity to develop the CJCH licence compliance programme came about, the skills both Steve and Tim had developed in criminal practice at Clarke & Hartland were ideally suited for what the project would require.

As well as Criminal law, the firm had experts in Commercial, Conveyancing, Matrimonial and Family law. Clarke & Hartland classed themselves as a high street practice, “providing local services to local people” Steve remembers. They developed their client base upon recommendations from previous clients and acted for many local families. In contrast to the work CJCH now does, Clarke & Hartland acted for very few corporations or companies, even throughout their commercial cases. Their work ethic was very personal and the strength of their team was grounded in excellent people skills. Steve noted that, unfortunately, this aspect of legal work is not as relevant anymore, with an ever-growing reliance on technology and big corporations.

Stephen Clarke & Tim Hartland

Around 2010, Clarke & Hartland recognised that the days of small high street practices were numbered. When the government threatened to introduce changes to the way legal aid would be administered in England and Wales, the firm decided to anticipate any future problems this would create by expanding its volume of work to ensure a criminal contract and merging with Colin Jones Solicitors, in 2013.  CJCH become one of eight firms appointed to do criminal work in South Wales and one of five in Gwent, where there had previously been a total of 65 and 25 respectively.  The changes to legal aid never ended up taking place and therefore the newly establish CJCH had to consider what new opportunities were available to them as a bigger firm.

Clarke and Hartland had been built upon Brian and Steve’s close working relationship at the CPS, as well as Brian and Tim’s regular tennis matches at Penarth Lawn Tennis Club. This theme of forging a working relationship based upon knowing someone for a long time would continue with the Colin Jones merger. Although Steve and Tim knew Colin Jones professionally as a criminal solicitor, they also knew him socially. Steve had also played rugby with Nick Wootton, CJCH Chief Financial Officer, for years and knew Jacqui Seal, CJCH Senior Partner, through the CPS, and had previously worked with her brother. This work ethic mixed in with a comfortable environment gave them the incentive to grow and gain more experience as a firm.

In moving from a well-respected, experienced high street practice to a global business providing legal and corporate services, Steve and Tim have tried to carry across one element of Clarke & Hartland in particular to the new business. “Clarke & Hartland was very much in our images and our personalities” claims Steve. They wanted a happy working environment and were able to have one for 30 years thanks to having a staff of no more than 20 people. With a staff of over 130, CJCH have tried to maintain this convivial, hard-working and conscientious atmosphere, all within a welcoming environment.

Tim admits that it is very difficult to say exactly where the firm is headed in the future, especially given its extraordinary expansion in the last 4 years. They are confident that CJCH has only just started its growth pattern and in the next five years it could be three times the size it is now. CJCH Consulting has already established itself as brand leader in a niche market, and nobody else is currently replicating what we’re doing, nor the way we do it.

CJCH History Month: The Story of Colin Jones Solicitors (CJS)

By Danny McNeill

Colin Jones

In 1992, the fabric of Barry society was changed forever with the opening of a new law firm by local boy, Colin Jones. After studying law at Aberystywth University, Colin Jones joined Mallia and Co., another Barry institution, where he qualified as a solicitor after completing his articles alongside current CJCH Senior Partner Jacqui Seal (in 1982). Jacqui would go on to join the CPS, while later Colin left Mallia in 1992 to found his own Criminal Defence practice in the heart of Barry. Despite the firm’s humble beginnings in Colin’s back garden, his charisma and reputation for intelligence, integrity and honesty allowed him to begin growing the practice, which soon opened its first office on Barry’s Holton Road, before later relocating to where we still have offices today on Thompson Street.

Colin’s first hire was Traci Doyle as a Legal Secretary, who along with subsequent hires, John Moyle (Criminal Law), Chris Lacey (Criminal Law) and Tracy Higgins (Legal Secretary) are all still with CJCH to this day. The secret to this longevity, according to both Traci and John Moyle, was the trust, mutual respect and loyalty that Colin fostered. As the firm grew, so did its practice areas and by the early 2000s the firm was one of the largest Criminal Law practices in the Vale of Glamorgan, having established a reputation for high quality work and expanding into Family/Child Care law.

In 2010, Colin welcomed Jacqui Seal into the practice as a consultant once she retired from the CPS. Sadly, in that same year, Colin lost his life in a tragic accident. This was a loss, not only to the firm both professionally and personally with Colin described as the heart of the practice, but to the greater community and profession as well.

However, the respect and loyalty Colin had shown those he had encountered and brought together over the years laid the foundations for the firm’s continuation.

CJS Office 17 Thompson Street, Barry

Colin’s fiancé, and now CJCH Partner, Jodi Winter believes it was in part this dedication and loyalty that he showed, not only to his staff but the wider local community, of which he was an integral part, that has allowed his legacy to carry on to this day.

It was during this difficult time when the firm was dealing with the personal loss of Colin and changes to the distribution of legal aid contracts, that Jacqui, in collaboration with her husband Nick stepped in to lead the firm. Both Jodi and John Moyle agree that it was the hard work and leadership shown by both Jacqui and Nick that helped get the firm through this difficult time. John was surprised by the staggering amount of time and energy Nick, previously a Director at Deloitte, was able to put into the firm. Jodi also noted that for Jacqui this was a labour of love and that neither Jacqui nor Nick would allow the firm to close.

It was under their stewardship that, as Tracy Higgins said, the firm began to ‘’explode’’. With Nick’s background in financial strategy, mergers and acquisitions, he brought a different perspective to the legal market and began growing the firm over the following years. In May 2011, the firm acquired Garth James Solicitors, followed shortly by the recruitment of Garry Newberry to establish a foothold in Bridgend. Later, in September, the firm acquired Jeff Lloyd Solicitors expanding the expertise of the practice into Private Client work, into which Colin Jones Solicitors had not previously ventured. In March 2012, the Criminal Defence practice of Hurlows led by Lydia Harper in Cardiff was acquired, giving the firm a presence in the Capital.

Mallia & Co Office

Coming full circle, in July 2013 Mallia and Co., where both Colin and Jacqui had trained, was acquired bringing with it a fantastic mental health department led by CJCH Partner Amy Roberts-Rees and Keith James. Finally, in September 2013 Colin Jones merged with Clarke and Hartland and CJCH Solicitors emerged as it is known today – a thriving and dynamic South Wales based law firm with client service delivery at heart and a global reach of services and customers. Though the size, practice areas, and number of office has changed over the years, the core principles of loyalty and hard work have remained coded into the firm’s DNA, and John Moyle sincerely believes Colin would be proud to have his name attached to the firm it has become.