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.
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.