Yesterday, St David’s Day 2012, Darwin Gray Solicitors turned ten years old. I can track those years in the group photographs taken every year at our family summer barbecue. More faces as the firm grows; hair going grey or just going; baby bellies one year then babes in arms the next; children with gappy smiles turning into sullen teenagers before disappearing from the photos altogether. The passage of time is framed and smiles down on us from the walls of our office. There we all are, summer after summer, standing shoulder to shoulder, getting older and wider.
It’s not just our children and our hairstyles that have changed in the past ten years. The way we work has changed too. Back in 2002, broadband had only just got going and “to google” had not yet become a verb. If we needed to research points of law, we had to get up from our desks and go look it up in a reference book and if we didn’t have the right book we walked over to the Law Society library. We stored the business cards of the contacts we made in Rolodexes instead of inviting them to join our professional network on Linked In. Facebook and Twitter didn’t exist. We thought Blackberries were a type of fruit and used our mobile phones to call people because, well, that’s what phones were for.
These advances in technology over the past ten years have made it easier to provide good service to our clients; we access vast banks of case law and legal know how straight from our computers in seconds; we manage our diaries and emails while on the move and we respond to our client’s needs very quickly. These are also advances that have made for longer working hours. In 2002 when we left the office our working day was usually done, except for the odd emergency. Nowadays businesses and business people are routinely working and on call much of the time they are awake. Which means lawyers are too.
The law hasn’t stopped still either during the past ten years. We’ve had some whopping bits of legislation to get our heads round. The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002; the Companies Act 2006; regulations making discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief, sexual orientation and age unlawful all now wrapped up in the Equality Act 2010. Then there are changes in the legal services market to contend with. On 6 October 2011, the Solicitors Regulation Authority introduced outcomes-focused regulation. Soon, alternative business structures will enable lawyers and non-lawyers to share the management and control of businesses providing legal services, with major companies like BT applying for ABS licenses.
Oh and we’ve been in recession since late 2007.
The business of being a law firm has not always been easy over the past ten years but it has never been dull. We’re proud to have worked alongside great clients over that time, many of them with us right from the start, and to have helped them with the growth of their businesses. Our own growth from two partners to ten means we’ve moved three times, from our first attic rooms in St Andrew’s Crescent via the Georgian elegance of Windsor Place to our modern offices in Churchill Way with panoramic views over Cardiff. We’ve taken in eight trainees and turned them into fully trained solicitors. We’ve had 12 babies between us. We’ve baked cakes, run marathons and cycled Pembrokeshire for charity. Those summer barbecues of ours are a blast provided you’re not a teenager. It’s great being ten.