Punch Robson Solicitors is one of the region’s longest-established law firms – but it’s adopting a more modern outlook to business.
Formed in 1877, a year after Middlesbrough FC, Punch Robson is a traditional mixed-practice high street law firm which now offers legal services in five core areas.
With offices in Stockton and Middlesbrough, the firm’s extensive services cover employment and corporate law, conveyancing, divorce and family law, mental health, disputes, wills and probate and personal injury.
Managing partner Elaine McLaine-Wood says that while the firm’s partners are rightly proud of its rich history, Punch Robson is now firmly looking to the future.
“A lot of changes were needed in recent years,” says McLaine-Wood, a well-known figure in the Tees business community who heads up Punch Robson’s corporate and commercial department.
“Our firm is 142-years-old, so we’ve been around a long, long time with our roots very much on Teesside.
“But we were quite an old-fashioned, traditional law firm. We needed to identify where we wanted to be and be more slick in our approach. Lawyers tend to be good at the legals, but not necessarily good at running a business.
“We’ve improved various sides to the business, our own efficiencies and making sure our services are better, and now we’re focusing on growth.”
Punch Robson, with its head office in Ingleby Barwick and another office in Coulby Newham, offers business services covering commercial property, corporate and commercial, disputes and employment law.
It also deals with start-ups, assisting with producing bespoke company articles of association and constitutions, shareholders’ agreements, and assisting with partnership protection and shareholders’ protection.
Punch Robson works closely with local developers, including Dodds Brown, and has been involved in the acquisition of Centre North East in Middlesbrough, while also negotiating leases with tenants including Lane 7, Turtle Bay and Wed2Be.
They’re also on the panel of a number of lenders, including Santander, which enables the firm to act for both lenders and clients, resulting in quicker deals.
McLaine-Wood adds: “We’ve also advised on buying and selling businesses and providing bespoke contracts for companies.
“We’ve acted for a number of developers in the region who have had to negotiate with tenants such as Costa Coffee, Starbucks, Subway and the Co-op.
“We are what you might describe as a high street practice offering niche services, because of the five different areas we cover.
“We also work with a number of local referrers to offer added value. For example, we can pull in expert support from accountants and IFAs, if our clients need financial advice, as we believe ultimately it’s about the client getting the best possible service all round.”
While corporate law is a big part of Punch Robson’s services, all five of the firm’s departments are equally important, with all of them contributing around 20% to its annual turnover.
Personal services include residential property, divorce and family law, wills and probate and child care, with senior partner John Wilkin heading up litigation, partner Graeme Downs leading on family and mental health, Katherine Eaton heading residential conveyancing and associate Pat Mellish heading up the wills, probate and trust team.
“All partners, except myself, were trainees with Punch Robson, and that’s something we’re incredibly proud of,” says McLaine-Wood.
“Our aim is to be able to advise and represent our clients across all of their legal needs. Our solicitors are able to specialise in their preferred area of law, allowing them to become true experts.
“This specialist expertise sometimes means that we receive client referrals from other local solicitors who don’t have the depth ofknowledge and experience.”
Mental health and legal aid are two other areas Punch Robson are proud to lead on.
“As a firm we’re heavily involved with the Law Society’s Mental Health Panel,” adds McLaine-Wood.
“Graeme Downs, who leads family mental health, has been on the panel a long time and we have others who are also on it.
“There are a lot of firms that have stopped doing legal aid over the years.
“We think it’s important to keep doing that work and keep on representing the people of Teesside who need assistance.
“As a long-standing member of the community we are committed to delivering a great service to local people and businesses, and as part of this commitment we work with a set of principles.”