By Suzanne Rutter
A leading national law firm has today reaffirmed its commitment to growth in the region amidst great changes on the legal landscape as it celebrates opening its Newcastle office doors ten years ago.
Irwin Mitchell’s regional hub – which delivers legal services to the North East and Cumbria - opened on Grey Street in the city centre in May 2003 with just 10 members of staff covering personal injury and medical law cases.
Since then the firm has become a formidable advocate for clients facing a plethora of legal issues such as serious injury, workplace illness, medical negligence and asbestos exposure, as well as providing support on public law and court of protection issues.
Known nationally for its commitment to securing funds to provide clients with comprehensive care and rehabilitation packages Irwin Mitchell’s regional managing partner John Davis said it’s ‘all aspects’ approach to helping clients and the local community had been key to its success and growth to date in the North East.
In the past decade the office has worked closely alongside a number of local charities such as Headway and Brainbox, which support people with brain injuries, Disability North, Contact A Family and Heel and Toe, which help youngsters with a range of disabilities, as well as the firm’s 2013 Charity of the Year, the Abbie Harbottle Fund for Sick Children, a charity dedicated to providing equipment for children’s wards in hospitals across the North East.
To celebrate the milestone anniversary, Irwin Mitchell also joined forces with youngsters at Hadrian’s School in Newcastle, which caters for children with complex disabilities and learning difficulties, who released 500 balloons from the school’s grounds. A competition was also held to find the balloon which travels the furthest.
In September 2012, Irwin Mitchell became one of the first law firms nationally – and the first in the North East – to be approved as an Alternative Business Structure (ABS) by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and the first to be granted multiple ABS licenses.
Described by Davis as a significant milestone for the firm, becoming an ABS has enabled the business to take advantage of the opportunities which are already starting to emerge from the changing legal landscape.
Having started at Irwin Mitchell as a solicitor 1986 Davis has since gone on to manage the Newcastle based regional office. He received an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday honours list in 2012 for his work with Brainbox, a North East charity which supports brain injured children and their families and he now specialises in acting for people who have sustained serious spinal and brain injuries.
He said: “When Irwin Mitchell first announced its intention to set up an office in Newcastle, we pledged to offer an unrivalled level of legal services to injured and disabled people across the North East and Cumbria region.
“We anticipated there would be a high demand for our services and we have adapted and grown to meet that demand.
“We have grown from just 10 staff in 2003 to 55 in 2013 with specialist lawyers providing unrivalled advice and experience for our clients.”
Davis went on to say the business has advanced dynamically and now has specialist legal teams dealing with the full range of high-profile, complex and high-value cases including road traffic accidents, industrial disease and spinal and brain injury claims. The firm’s Private Legal Services Division now comprises personal injury, clinical negligence, public law, and court of protection.
He said: “We have always been unique in our approach to business and we have developed a clear, well-defined business strategy, based upon uncompromising standards of client service, which has guided our rapid development since the office opened.”
Ranked number one for its personal injury work for the third year running in last year’s independent industry guide, the Legal 500, the Newcastle based team of legal experts were described as ‘extremely impressive’, and applauded for their ‘innovative, hardworking’ approach which saw them ‘completely devoted to their clients’.
Irwin Mitchell has also developed close links with Northumbria University’s Law School to pilot a groundbreaking new scheme to train future lawyers. The partnership was made possible by a new SRA initiative designed to develop work-based learning as a means of increasing access to the legal profession.
The firm was the first law firm to be approved as a provider of placements for the new student trainees and also supports Northumbria University’s pro bono work as well as sponsoring an annual award which enables a Northumbria student to spend time in New York working in a legal advice centre there.