Packing a Punch: 142-year-old Tees law firm is enjoying period of growth

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At 142 years old, some might say it is about time to be slowing down and taking stock. Right?


Especially when it comes to one of Teesside’s oldest established law firms which is enjoying a period of growth, both in terms of turnover and client base, across business and private client services.

Ask the team at Punch Robson why and the answer is ready – they believe in offering the highest standards of legal services to the people and businesses of Teesside and beyond, teamed with a desire to develop and expand an expert team of staff.

It is proving to be a winning combination.

The firm, based in Ingleby Barwick and Middlesbrough, has five departments – company and commercial including commercial property; litigation; residential conveyancing; family and mental health and wills, probate and trusts.

The last one is by no means the least and led by associate solicitor Pat Mellish is also expanding.

Together with fellow associate solicitor Andrew Steel, who joined the company in June, the pair have a combined 50 years of experience. They are joined in the department by newly-qualified solicitor Hayley Bartram and Helen Snell who joined the team in 2018.

Their job?

The wills, probate and trust department takes care of what can be a very sensitive, complicated and often emotionally charged area of the law.

“We have always had a strong wills, probate and trust department at Punch Robson,” says managing partner Elaine McLaine-Wood.

“There can be issues around recruitment in our profession across the board but we are not only taking on experienced and talented staff, we are bringing others through their qualifications and are delighted they are choosing to stay with us as a firm.

“Our team in this department also undertake extra professional qualifications which ensures they are very well equipped to deal with all kinds of situations that might arise.

“Going forward, growth will continue. Our workload has been increasing tremendously. We have many established commercial clients who come to us and use our expertise in this area of the law as well as many long standing clients and families who have used Punch Robson for many years and continue to do so. People value our work.

“The strength of this department, compared to competitor firms of our size is that that our team are true experts in their field, working full time in this area of the law. They are very much dedicated to it.”

The professional qualifications she refers to are STEP qualifications – The Society for Trust and Estate Practitioners – and qualifications in private client law which help to give the team greater understanding of the issues their clients face and the knowledge and skills to put that into practice.

Pat Mellish has 37 years of experience behind her. Working in the wills, probate and trust department, she says, is different every day. It can be complex and challenging.

“Court of Protection work is also part of our role,” explains Pat.

“This is an area of the law that covers making decisions on financial or welfare matters for people who can’t look after themselves. We have a number of clients in this area.

“It can be a very difficult area to work in – we don’t deal with any scenario that is particularly happy, it can be quite challenging,” adds Andrew.

“Part of our role involves being as sensitive to a situation as we can be – and our clients can be assured that we will do that with the utmost professionalism.”

The team often go out to meet clients as they recognise handling sensitive emotions in a formal office environment is something not everyone feels comfortable doing – whether that be at home, in a care home or even a business environment.

The department’s specialist expertise also means client referrals can come from other solicitors who might not have the same depth of knowledge and experience.

And in terms of Punch Robson as a business, the expansion has opened up another natural avenue.

“As a firm we are always looking at group strength,” adds Elaine.

“Expansion of the department also means we can undertake more business development work. We have great relationships within the Teesside community, which means we can develop by offering advice on legal services and also go on to invest more time in marketing.”

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Five-star growth

Punch Robson’s growth strategy spans its five departments.

As a business, the 142-year-old law firm has invested in its people and 2019 has seen it create eight new positions as well as two traineeships.

Managing partner Elaine McLaine-Wood says turnover at the business has seen an upturn, client base has expanded and as a result, the firm’s profile has been raised.

Punch Robson’s team now hope to cement that growth and continue providing expert services in very much the same vein.

Expansion has been put down to the quality of service on offer across

Punch Robson’s five departments: company and commercial including commercial property; litigation; residential conveyancing; wills, probates and trusts and family and mental health.

“Across our five departments we have created new positions so it is very much a story of growth and expansion,” says Elaine.

“As a group our turnover has increased, our client base has increased and our profile has increased. Now it is very much about cementing that and to keep on doing what we are doing.

“Not one of our departments outweighs another, we are all very much equal and each shares in the ethos of the firm and what we do.”

Being able to consistently bring the highest standards of legal services to both businesses and families is key to the expansion. As is recruiting the right people for the right job and offering an expert guiding hand to newly qualified legal staff who have chosen to stay with the firm.

Punch Robson also has a supportive presence on Teesside which Elaine thinks is incredibly important when it comes to giving something back to the community the firm serves.

Charities including the MFC Foundation, Butterwick Hospice and autism charity Daisy Chain are all beneficiaries in terms of the firm’s time and financial support.

“Supporting local causes is very important to us,” says Elaine.

“As a firm we very much want to try and give a bit back both financially and in terms of time where we can to the people of the Tees Valley.”

The firm also works closely with Teesside University to take in students and offer work experience placements during the summer.

“The key is trying to retain that excellence we have on Teesside within Teesside,” says Elaine.

The guiding hand doesn’t stop there though. For the second year running, Punch Robson will also sponsor a category at this year’s Tees Businesswomen Awards, organised by Tees Business magazine, and is supporting the brand new Tees Tech Awards, also organised by the publication.

“It is important to recognise women in business because it is about merit,” adds Elaine.

“We work with a number of clients in the tech sector and the new awards are a fantastic way to recognise Teesside talent in an area that is growing and one that those in it don’t necessarily shout about for themselves.”


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