Managing a growing practice / Welcome Carolyn Croft and Lis Bellamy

Welcome to Carolyn Croft and Lis Bellamy

We are delighted to welcome solicitors, Carolyn Croft and Lis Bellamy to our team.

Family Law Specialist Solicitor – Carolyn Croft

Carolyn Croft joins us as a consultant solicitor from fellow Legal 500 practice; Kitsons – where she was an Associate Solicitor.

Carolyn is an experienced family law specialist who specialises in divorce and private law children cases. Carolyn is from Plymouth and has spent her entire career working in the Plymouth area (and also gained her law degree at Plymouth University). Carolyn will therefore be focusing on building the Plymouth end of our practice. Carolyn is also a member of the Plym Chamber of Commerce.

Lis Bellamy joins as a solicitor with a view to becoming our Compliance Officer for Legal Practice (COLP). Originally practising as a solicitor in large national and international law firms both in the UK and Singapore, Lis then had a long career in law firm management including many years as managing Partner of Chester-based Drummonds Solicitors and more recently as a business consultant. Lis  served for six years on the Law Society’s Professional Standards and Ethics Committee and in 2018 Lis joined the Office for Legal Complaints – the Board of the Legal Ombudsman.

Ian Walker says:

Solicitor and Professional Compliance expert – Lis Bellamy

I am thrilled to welcome Lis and Carolyn to our team.

Both Lis and Carolyn bring a wealth of experience to our practice and will very much assist us in completing our progression from being a small to medium-sized law firm.

Lis has considerable compliance experience and we are very lucky, firstly that a desire to live by the sea and her husband’s love of fossils drew her to the beautiful Jurassic Coast from the North-West, and secondly that she has now joined our team. Our major project for this year is to better embed our compliance systems into our IT platform to ensure that our client care is the best it can be. Lis will be contributing to this project as well as assisting with our day-to-day compliance management.

I have known Carolyn for more than 10 years and she will very much add to the overall strength and depth of our legal team.

Carolyn and Lis are both a joy to work with and we are happy to have them on board.

A Growing Firm

Ian Walker founded our practice eight years ago and in the last three years the practice has grown substantially, more than trebling in size, from four family lawyers at the end of 2017 to twelve family lawyers today. Three more lawyers are due to join us in the next couple of months.

The growth has been organic.

2020 – success in a year of challenge

2020 was a particularly significant year for our team. Notwithstanding the wider challenges arising from the coronavirus pandemic and recession, we were able to relocate our head office to smart modern offices at Vantage Point, Pynes Hill, Exeter. We also reorganised and expanded our team and achieved nearly doubling our turnover from the previous year.

Our use of cloud-based IT systems and everyone having a laptop meant that we were able to transition quickly to working remotely when the March 2020 lockdown arrived. This meant that our biggest problem was how to deal with the physical post.

On top of this we were recognised for the first time in the Legal 500 as a Leading South-West Family Law Firm and we were named as the Boutique Law Firm of the Year (11+ employees) in the Modern Law Awards 2020.

Transitioning to becoming a medium-sized Law Firm

Our 2020 reorganisation was part of a planned transition from being a small law firm to becoming a medium-sized law firm. A first step on this path was gaining Lexcel Accreditation in 2018. Our growth has been driven by client demand.

This demand has been driven by a combination of accessibility; a team of excellent lawyers and outstanding client care. At every step, we have endeavoured to add team members who have the potential to grow as individuals as the firm grows – and who are all bought into our team ethic. We are all approachable and friendly, yet maintain professionalism when helping our clients to resolve their matters as amicably as possible.

Ian Walker – Solicitor/ Mediator/ Arbitrator/ Managing Director

Good management and good teamwork

Compliance with professional standards is essential for any law firm, and good financial management is critical to the success of any business. The two key roles in a law firm to support these fundamentals are the Compliance Officer for Legal Practice (COLP) and the Compliance Officer for Finance and Administration (COFA).

For a long time, Ian Walker filled both roles. As our firm has grown – and as part of our transition to being a medium-sized practice – it is prudent for these roles to separate from the role of Managing Partner. In 2020 we recruited Paul Jacobs FCCA – a management accountant from regional law firm Foot Anstey – with a view to Paul becoming the COFA. The recruitment of Lis Bellamy gives us a compliance expert who will become our COLP. This allows Ian Walker to concentrate on the overall practice management – and provides us with a strong management team able to drive the practice forward.

In addition, we have re-structured our teams to bring greater focus to our specialist services within divorce, children and childcare matters and also mediation.

2021…

2020 was a difficult year for many and 2021 has got off to a difficult start. Lockdown 3 seems to be more challenging than even Lockdown 1. Clearly, we are in choppy economic waters and there is more uncertainty and pain to come.

The family justice system has remained open throughout everything that has happened, and we have successfully adapted to conducting virtually all court hearings and client work through videoconferencing. The vast majority of our team is currently homeworking – only attending the office if really necessary.

The changes we implemented in 2020 and the improvements to our IT platform that we have already made – and which we will make over the next six months, will allow us not only to continue to provide an outstanding service to our clients – but will also allow us to improve on how we do this by focusing on making it easier for our team of legal experts to deliver the service and legal expertise that our clients want.

What is clear – is that the way in which law firms can and should deliver their services have changed and there is no going back. Ultimately the greater excellent use of technology is a good thing for clients – and with this in mind we are looking forward to the consolidation of our transition to becoming a medium-sized practice and to further organic growth in the future.

We are particularly grateful to our team members for their considerable contribution to the growth of our practice – and just as importantly, for being such a pleasure to work with.

Join our team

The strength of our team arises from its members. As a dynamic and growing and progressive practice – we must always be open to opportunities.

We are therefore always interested in hearing from outstanding family lawyers and family mediators who might be interested in joining our team. From our base in Exeter, we currently operate through a range of locations across Devon, Somerset and Dorset to Bristol and Bath.

Acknowledging the advantages of the greater use of technology we are very much open to the possibility of working with family lawyers who are based further afield. If you are interested in a confidential chat, then please email ianwalker@familylawandmediation.co.uk

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