Our Exeter New Head Office – Modern offices for modern family law solicitors!

Ian Walker Portrait photoOur Exeter New Head Office – Modern offices for modern family law solicitors!

From small beginnings…

When I founded Ian Walker Family Law and Mediation Solicitors in January 2013, I didn’t have any big ambitions. The idea was that the practice would be myself and a computer; I would use technology as best I could to provide good legal advice and representation and family mediation to clients; I would promote the values of Resolution; my practice would be accessible.

I had been awarded legal aid contracts for family law and for family mediation. Having practised in Devon for approximately the previous 15 years, it seemed a good idea to open my office in Honiton. The reasoning for Honiton as a location was that it was not far from where I lived and I didn’t particularly fancy the thought of committing myself to driving into Exeter every day for the next phase of my career (having experienced a decade of Exeter traffic). I also understood that many clients from East Devon travel into Exeter for legal advice and for family mediation. Being outside of Exeter placed me nearer to the client base I sought to represent.

I was lucky enough to find a room at the East Devon Business Centre in Honiton. The centre remains a nice and well-located Business Centre. It is on the edge of Honiton and next the A30 and has good disabled access and free parking. This meant that as a venue it was very accessible and differentiated my practice from the general practices in and around Honiton High Street.

Immediately prior to starting the practice I had been working in Plymouth (before this I had been in Exeter for a decade). I therefore started the practice in East Devon completely cold.

Specialist family law solicitors in Honiton

I am pleased to say that my thinking that there would be a demand for a specialist family solicitors and family mediation practice in Honiton was correct.

Within two years I was overwhelmed with work. I was using a room in Taunton as an occasional meeting room for family mediation and this also started to take off. I therefore found myself at a crossroads. Either I could find a better way to manage my caseload – perhaps having to drop the legal aid contracts, or I could take on a colleague and expand the practice.

The decision I made was to expand the practice. Family law and family mediation are demanding areas of work and the problem with being a sole practitioner is that you don’t have anyone to bounce ideas off or who completely understands the pressures of work and who can provide peer support.

Growing an outstanding team of specialist family lawyers since 2015

In 2015 I was joined by Chartered Legal Executive Karen Elliott. We subsequently took on an additional room in Honiton and before long we had a permanent office at Exchange House, Taunton.

In the period from 2015 we have just carried on growing.

Along the way I have built an outstanding team of family lawyers. There are now 10 of us plus support. The team includes Kim Stradling who is one of the most respected child law specialist solicitors in the south-west and David Howell Richardson, who was for many years head of family at Stones Solicitors in Exeter.

Modern Law Awards Winners 2020

In February 2020 we were honoured to be awarded the accolade of Boutique Law Firm (11+ employees) at the Modern Law Awards 2020. The emphasis of the prestigious national awards that are the Modern Law Awards, is very much on progressive practice. I had also been honoured to be highly commended in my role as practice manager at The Law Society – Recognising Excellence Awards 2019.

We also acquired Lexcel Accreditation from the Law Society.

By autumn 2019 it had become clear to us all that the spaces we were now occupying at East Devon Business Centre was insufficient for our needs. The point had therefore been reached that needed to look for a space that would serve as our new head office.

Looking for a new Head Office

After an extensive property search, we concluded that there were no office spaces around Honiton that would meet our needs. We eventually settled on Pynes Hill Business Park, Exeter as being our preferred location. This was because Pynes Hill is easily accessible from the M5 and A30. We will have the benefits of being on the edge of Exeter (with free parking) but without the disadvantages of being in central Exeter (heavy traffic, expensive parking et cetera). We would therefore be able to remain accessible but in modern offices which would be able to meet the needs of our business and our clients moving forward.

We eventually settled on Vantage Point, Pynes Hill as being our first choice. An agreement was reached with the landlord and contracts were exchanged in early March.

The fit out of our new office was delayed slightly by the lock-down, but I am pleased to say that the work is very nearly complete and everything is on track for us to be moved in around the end of June, so that we are fully up and running by 1 July 2020. You will see from the lead picture that we are now on the signage for the building.

Don’t worry about the signage!

(The name on the signage is Ian Walker Family Law Solicitors – this was because Ian Walker Family Law and Mediation Solicitors was just a little bit too long to fit comfortably! We are definitely not going to be undertaking any major rebranding and we are still very much a mediation service as well as being a family law solicitors practice. The issue was simply space!)

A fantastic work environment

And what a fantastic space it is going to be.

Vantage Point is a modern office block at the bottom of Pynes Hill (opposite Michelmores Solicitors). It is light and airy, and we have a good allocation of parking spaces. The configuration will provide and excellent work area which will assist team working and which will also give us additional space for extra growth. (Our training room will also include a pool table (as a prop to ensure that everyone is not sitting down all day, but we will also be up for a challenge against other local businesses!)

We will have the fastest fibre broadband we could get – which is important because our IT has always been based around using secure cloud platforms. This meant that when lock-down came it was easy for our team to move to homeworking.

The extra space that we will have means that we will be able to comfortably meet government workplace guidance.

Improving our client experience even further

Our new office at Vantage Point will also enable us to provide an improved client experience. (finished interior pictures to follow – but these will give a taster!)

The offices will provide a private and discreet location for our clients from Devon (but in particular Exeter and East Devon) to access our services.

I will let you know when we have moved. Holding a socially distanced moving in celebration may be challenging unfortunately.

Making a strong team even stronger/new faces

The impending move also coincides with a general re-organisation.

We have in the last couple of months been joined by Lauren Preedy who becomes the Head of our Divorce Team. (Lauren is the chair of Somerset region of Resolution and a divorce specialist).

We have also been joined by Kris Seed who becomes the Head of our Private Law Children Team, and by Briony Kingston who is based in Bristol and who will lead our new Bristol offering.

All in all, our family law team will consist of 12 experienced family lawyers by September 2020. (Which means we still have a couple more arrivals to announce).

Expanding the network

We have also expanded our network to include additional locations in Bristol and Shaftesbury and Plymouth with a couple of additional locations to follow. (Watch this space).

This means that from a central hub we are able to provide considerable family law and mediation expertise across the South West at accessible locations to our clients.

We are still family law solicitors in Honiton

We very much remain open in Honiton.

We have retained our original office at East Devon Business Centre as a practising address.

We are conscious that some of our East Devon clients would struggle to make the journey to the edge of Exeter, so we will continue to meet their needs at East Devon business Centre in Honiton (by appointment).

Join our team

Our team is built around its team members. We have concentrated our efforts over the last nine months into finding the best office space that we could which would both be a fantastic place to work, and which would assist us to provide an outstanding service to our clients. Having achieved this – we can now look again at our wider office network.

We are always open to hearing from experienced family lawyers who want to have the security of working within a large specialist team which is fully committed to all areas of family law work and which is totally committed to the values of Resolution and to providing a legally aided service.

We have a good mix of employed solicitors/legal executives and consultant solicitors/legal executives. Different working models work better for different individuals. In both cases we are committed to flexible working and homeworking.

We think that as time passes that the best way to deliver family law services is through a niche practice and that clients will for obvious reasons be more attracted to practices which have an obvious strength in depth within their team.

Therefore if you are interested in joining us then please send a CV in confidence to me at: ianwalker@familylawandmediation.co.uk . We are very much open to hearing from family lawyers who are slightly beyond our existing office network, as well as from family lawyers who are more local.

And finally…

it’s fair to say that the last seven the half years has been quite hard work – but hopefully we now put in place an overall structure which will allow the practice to further develop and evolve in years to come.

I have been very lucky to have been joined by such a fantastic team. What we have achieved would not have been possible without them.

I will let you know when the move has taken place!

… An updated website may also be on the way as well….

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