CJCH History Month: The Story of Patchell Davies Solicitors

By Amy Palin

In April 2017 CJCH Solicitors welcomed its newest addition to the firm, with the incorporation of, Blackwood based, Patchell Davies Solicitors.

The story of Patchell Davies begins in 1977, when a new face arrived on the legal scene in Blackwood, Howard Patchell. After working less than a year as an Assistant Solicitor in a local firm, he became a partner, but it would only be four years before Howard decided to go it alone and open his own practice. Howard Patchell & Co opened its doors on Pentwyn Road, Blackwood in January 1982.

The firm grew from strength to strength, and in 1985 was joined by Graeme Davies. This marked the beginnings of the team that, despite changes over the years, would remain at the core of the firm throughout.

Graeme’s arrival at the firm allowed for the expansion of its expertise, in family law and litigation, areas in which he specialises.

With an expanding team and growing demand, the firm moved to bigger offices at its current location on Blackwood High Street in 1987.

It was in 1992 the firm officially became established as Patchell Davies, the name by which it has been known for nearly three decades, and under which it became a well-known and respected face on the High Street, offering clients a wide range of services.

Howard Patchell specialises in Wills, Probate, Conveyancing, and Commercial work. Graeme Davies is accredited as a Senior Litigator by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers and is a member of the Family association Resolution. David James, who has been with the firm for eight years, and the firm’s newest addition, Joanne Lerwill, specialise in Conveyancing.

The firm today takes pride in its reputation and loyalty from clients. This can be attributed to the quality of service, and also to the relationships developed with longstanding members of staff, who give clients the confidence that they will always receive a professional service with a personal touch.

Now an integrated part of CJCH Solicitors, the team from Patchell Davies continues to deliver their impeccable work ethic and client service standards.

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.

Mental Health law: Support, resources, and insights.

We have come a long way in terms of awareness and support, but Mental Health matters continue to have a stigma and an air of uncertainty overshadowing them. For example, a 2016 survey by Time to Change Wales revealed that 1 in 10 people believe that people with mental health illnesses can never fully recover, and 1 in 7 believed that people with mental health problems should not be allowed to hold public office. People still have reservations about speaking openly and honestly about their personal mental health experiences and challenges.

In a bid to raise awareness, the CJCH Solicitors mental health department have shared insight into some of the information we believe people should be aware of when it comes to mental health law.

We asked Craig Mills, a solicitor in the mental health law department to answer a few important questions:

What the aim of mental health law is?

The Mental Health Act protects the rights of people with mental health challenges, not only when someone is detained in hospital but also when someone is being treated for their ailments within the community under the Act. People should only be admitted to hospital against their wishes when it is essential to their health and safety or the protection of others.

What should people be aware of when it comes to matters relating to mental health?

Personal rights are an important thing for people to be aware of. There has been a lot of mental health advocacy recently and people need to be aware that it can affect individuals in a number of different ways  (Read a recent article in BBC News on South Wales Police wanting mental health lessons for youths). It can sometimes be difficult to identify when/if people are suffering from mental health problems, but it is important that everyone is aware that help is available. There are a number of mental health charities that can provide support.

Here are some links to assist with finding the right support for you or your loved ones:

For an example of how these matters are impacting people in Wales, you can read this recent article about three people’s personal struggle with mental illness which was shared for World Mental Health day.

For more information or assistance with a mental health legal issue, contact our team via email: mentalhealth@cjch.co.uk ; to telephone: 0333 231 6405.

Fire Safety in Commercial Premises

Article by Sam Pearson

With the tragedy at Grenfell Tower still fresh in our memories, fire safety understandably has become something of a pressing issue. Our commercial property specialist Sam Pearson looks at the importance of getting it right when it comes to fire safety in commercial premises.

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (“The Order”) covers fire safety in England and Wales with the aim of protecting buildings and people from the dangers of fire by setting out steps which should be taken to reduce the risk. Responsibility for complying with The Order rests with the “responsible person[s]” which includes the employer in the workplace, owners and/or persons in control of premises.

Although The Order is aimed at commercial premises (including external areas and vacant premises) it is important to mention that it also applies to communal parts of residential properties.

The responsible person[s] must determine what general fire precautions are necessary and carry out a risk assessment which must be documented, recorded and kept under review. Other responsibilities include (but are not limited to) taking measures for the provision of firefighting and fire detection equipment; ensuring fire safety equipment and exit routes are properly maintained; the appointment of a competent person to implement the fire safety measures including evacuation procedures and safety drills; and providing training and information for employees and other persons who may be affected.

A breach of your obligations under The Order creates criminal offences and a person found guilty of an offence is liable to a fine and in the most serious cases imprisonment. The responsible person[s] could also face civil liability for breach of a statutory duty.

There have been numerous cases where businesses and Landlords have been convicted for failing to comply with their obligations under The Order:

  • Most recently in June 2017, a company responsible for the running of a care home in Doncaster was fined £3,500 and ordered to pay £13,325 prosecution costs for failing to have a suitable fire risk assessment in place;
  • Locally, a Welsh construction company was fined £100,000 after admitting to fire safety breaches at a construction site and a Cardiff landlord was fined nearly £2,000 for failing to install smoke alarms;
  • A number of major retailers have also been caught out including New Look who following a fire that gutted their Oxford Street store were fined £400,000 after pleading guilty to failing to provide sufficient staff training and admitting to storage blocking escape routes.

Clearly then the costs of getting it wrong can be high!

Whether you have any doubts about the adequacy of fire safety measures in existing premises, you are in process of acquiring new premises or in the unfortunate event you suffer a fire or face enforcement action,  our experts here at CJCH Solicitors will be able to provide you with the expert legal advice and practical commercial considerations to assist you and your business.

Need to recover debt from an individual or sole trader? New protocol in place from October 2017.

By Nerys Thomas – Solicitor (Head of Litigation and Dispute Resolution)

From 1st October 2017 a new Pre-Action Protocol will be introduced which sets out the steps needed to be taken when looking to pursue a debt claim (The Pre-Action Protocol for Debt Claims). 

All businesses (including public bodies and sole traders) seeking to recover a debt from an individual will need to comply with the Protocol.   

The Protocol will not apply to business-to-business debts unless the Potential Defendant/debtor is a sole trader. 

As is the case with all Protocols, the intention is for the procedure to provide a way of filtering through potential claims, possibly facilitating a resolution where possible, or if the matter could not be resolved the parties will hopefully be in a position where the issues have been narrowed and/or a clearer understanding of the issues in dispute will be known.    

It is the intention that the Protocol will complement any regulatory regime to which the Potential Claimant/creditor is subject and should any conflict arise between the regulatory obligation and the Protocol, the former will take precedence.   

The likely impact upon the Potential Claimant/creditor in complying with the Protocol is the cost of preparing the required correspondence and responding to queries, should any be raised. 

Furthermore, the Protocol specifies deadlines, of mostly 30 days, which become relevant at various stages of the procedure, hindering the Potential Claimant/creditor from being able to issue the claim at their own discretion.

From a Potential Defendant/debtor’s perspective, a Letter of Claim requires a Reply Form being completed and possibly, depending upon the response being given in the Reply Form, a Standard Financial Statement which requests a great deal of personal information surrounding the person’s/sole trader’s finances, something a great deal of people/sole traders are likely to be uncomfortable with due to the imbalance this presents between parties.  

As with all Protocols, unless there is a justified reason for not using it, there may be cost consequences for failing to comply with the process.

Should you have any queries in relation to the above or any other dispute matters, please contact Nerys Thomas and the rest of the Commercial Law team on commercial@cjch.co.uk

CJCH Solicitors acquires Blackwood based, Patchell Davis

Cardiff based CJCH Solicitors has attained considerable media and industry coverage recently due to our rapid expansion strategy, dedication to client services, thought leadership in global anti-piracy, and commitment to supporting the Welsh community. We continue that trend for service excellence and geographical reach with the recent acquisition of Blackwood based solicitor firm, Patchell Davies.

Patchell Davies Solicitors opened its doors in Blackwood over 30 years ago and has been dedicated to supporting the legal services needs of the local and neighbouring communities ever since.

As of May 2017, Patchell Davies Solicitors was officially incorporated into CJCH Solicitors expanding the practice, already servicing clients around the globe, to six offices across the United Kingdom.

“CJCH is constantly looking to see how it can make the Welsh legal industry a more integrated and customer-centric one. We have achieved levels of working efficiencies and client service excellence that allow us to complete in local markets where pricing is under pressure. Growth has always been our strategy and we are delighted to acquire Patchell Davies who complement our teams of advisors” Nick Wootton, CJCH Chief Financial Officer and Merger & Acquisition Specialist.

 

 

 “We pride ourselves in offering dedicated, personalised and results-orientated legal services to the Welsh community, and now we are proud to have become part of a practice which aligns to our core values and strives for excellence and innovation on a global scale.” Howard Patchell, Director of Patchell Davies Solicitors.  

CJCH has a global Intellectual Property and Technology with a Global Anti-Piracy and Cyber Protection development program, these skills are being rolled out across the firm in pursuit of our goals of establishing Wales and a central hub for Cyber Security thought leadership. The acquisition of Patchell Davies Solicitors will further promote our rollout plan, as we will be identifying and up-skills selected team members within the new Blackwood office to ensure the capability is present in all CJCH offices, and for all CJCH clients.

“The acquisition of Patchell Davies sees us broaden our services into a new geographical area. Our journey to a true customer focused legal practice, with local Welsh values and International capabilities is a continuous and evolutionary one. We see the incorporation of Patchell Davis into the CJCH Group as a step in the right direction towards achieving this goal, and bringing world-class legal support to Wales.” Tim Hartland, Managing Partner – CJCH Solicitors.

CJCH Solicitors contact information: admin@cjch.co.uk; 0333 231 6405

For further information on CJCH Solicitors please visit our website at www.cjchsolicitors.co.uk.

 

Reflection on Mental Health Awareness Week with a look to the future.

By Keith James, Solicitor/Partner

Last week, 8 to 14 May 2017, marked UK Mental Health Awareness week for 2017. The purpose of this annual event is to ‘prompt a national conversation about what we can do as communities, schools, families and individuals ‘to move from surviving to thriving’ (The Mental health foundation).

There is little doubt that in recent months awareness of the wide variety of mental health conditions and of the impact of mental health problems has grown and now appears to be rising up the political agenda.

High profile individuals who have experienced the impact of issues such as depression, including prominent figures in the football world, have helped to shine a light on how mental health problems can impact on the lives of everyday people – Mental Health issues do not discriminate.

Also in the news have been many stories from prominent individuals of how bereavement can impact on families and how help can be provided to families to talk through these issues.

Of particular current interest is how the result of the general election will impact on Mental Health Law and the provision of Mental Health Services. Already suggestions have been made of manifesto commitments to increase provision of community mental health staff and services but also a suggestion that the Mental Health Act should be replaced. This perhaps is the most intriguing suggestion.

The Mental Health Charity, Mind, has called for a review of the Mental health Act but there is a suggestion this could go further to avoid ‘unnecessary detentions’. It will certainly be interesting, during the General Election campaign, to see if this forms part of a manifesto commitment. Of particular interest will be what alternative proposals are suggested.

There is little doubt that Mental Health issues have risen up the political agenda, and for CJCH will continue to be an important part of our focus and drive to support our community.

For any questions or queries, please do not hesitate to contact our Mental Health and Mental Capacity Law team at mentalhealth@cjch.co.uk or call on +44 333 231 6405 (24 hour emergency line: +44 7967 305949)

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Industry update – SRA announces confirmation of the Solicitors Qualifying Examinations

The days of legal qualifying programs such as the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) and the Legal Practice Course (LPC) are numbered as the Solicitors Regulatory Authority this week announced the confirmation of the long debated centralised qualifying exam for would-be lawyers – the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE).

The merits of the new independent assessment are generating extensive discussion with the SRA positioning the SQE as an opportunity to offer a more inclusive and accessible route into the Legal Profession, while popular online legal commentators at Legal Cheek raise points for consideration concerning the reality of the cost and access benefits.

With aspiring lawyers in 2017 facing LPC fees of over £15,000 in some cases, the need to review the accessibility and inclusive nature of legal training is welcome, but only time will tell if this new assessment meets the needs of the market once it is rolled out, currently planned for 2020.

Paul Philips, CEO of the SRA, was quoted in their press release saying that the SQE will allow for assurance that new entrants to the legal profession consistently meet the high standard required for the profession. He further mentioned that it could help with recruitment of talent for law firms.

At CJCH Solicitors, we are constantly assessing ways to diversify and innovate within the legal profession. We welcome the opportunity to consider a new approach to legal training, and we look forward to seeing how this initiative will roll-out and how we can support young aspiring solicitors in entering the marketplace and developing their skills.

We asked a selection of CJCH Solicitors’ team members for their opinions on the new developments and encouraged consideration for both sides of the debate. Here are some of the thoughts they shared:

Rosa Fernandez – CJCH Head of Employment and HR Services

Having completed the LPC in 1998-1999, I would have welcomed combining practical experience with theory; whilst called the Legal Practice Course, most of it is not practical at all. I also think it is right to make all entrants to the profession sit the same finals to ensure standards and consistency.

If these changes serve to improve public trust and confidence, then they can only be positive for the profession.”

Gareth Thompson – CJCH Head of Commercial Law

“In my view anything has to be welcomed which:
mitigates the “training contract lottery” risk and exorbitant GDL & LPC course fees; 
makes it easier for aspiring lawyers to qualify as they grow in technical competence and experience and also get paid sensibly for their services; 
encourages firms with substantial paralegal workforces to reciprocate their investment of time, loyalty, and effort by facilitating qualification; and
maximise the prospects for lawyers hitting the ground running both professionally and in revenue contribution by the time they qualify.

Nerys Thomas – CJCH Head of Litigation and Dispute Resolution

Ensuring excellence within the profession will be favoured by all involved, but the concern with the new proposed procedure is that exams are not necessarily the best method of filtering “excellence” and may deter some students of high calibre who struggle with time-pressured assessments, especially ones which may determine their future career.  No information has been received in relation to what the costs will be for the new procedure.  Current fees for the LPC are eye watering, especially when this has followed a standard three-year degree.  It will be interesting to see whether the fees will be set at a more reasonable rate and how funding will be made available to pay for the new process.”

Stephen Clarke – CEO and Senior Partner

“We are facing an exciting time in the legal profession. Change is inevitable and it is the way in which we embrace change that defines our growth. There are strong arguments on both sides of this topic but as a firm CJCH supports equality, diversity and development. We are excited by the possibility of a dynamic industry which removes barriers to entry and allows for all to get involved. There are teething issues with all new initiatives, but we look forward to embracing the SRA’s SQE and including it in our planning for future employee development programs.”

There is much food for thought as the introduction of the SQE unfolds. As can be seen from the discussion above, many factors need to be considered, including balancing the ability to standardise assessment while also considering individuals learning and assessment styles. For now, you can review the documents relating to the consultation and discussions held by the SRA on the matter, here.