November 1, 2018
Darlington-based law firm, Latimer Hinks Solicitors, celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2017 and, over the years, has counted the likes of Laurence Olivier and Diana Dors among its clients.
Once a full-service law firm dealing with all areas of law, the firm moved its focus to private client, property and agricultural work several years ago.
Under the guidance of Anne Elliott (chief executive), Andrew Way (managing director) and co-directors Elizabeth Armstrong and Natalie Palmer, Latimer Hinks has built a renowned and award-winning private client team that delivers estate, wealth and tax planning services and support for capacity related issues to clients based across the North East, as well as nationally and internationally.
Anne and Andrew have more recently handed the day-to-day running of the private client department to Elizabeth and Natalie, two long- serving members of the team which now consists of 14 fee earners.
Elizabeth, a specialist in tax, qualified as a lawyer in 1998. She joined Latimer Hinks in 2005 and now heads the trust department.
Meanwhile, Natalie applied for a role at Latimer Hinks in 2000, straight from university. After a year there, she then spent a year in a law firm in New York before returning to Latimer Hinks, qualifying as a solicitor in 2007. She now specialises in elderly client matters and Court of Protection cases.
Elizabeth and Natalie were attracted to Latimer Hinks because of the specialist expertise within the firm, the variety of work on offer and its proactive approach to staff development and ethos.
Elizabeth explains: “I would describe Latimer Hinks as a ‘mentoring practice’. There’s an open- door policy and we’ve always been encouraged to talk to each other about our cases and bounce ideas off each other. You don’t always get that in other firms.”
The firm encourages its team to build upon its professional knowledge. Ten of the 14-strong private client team currently hold the prestigious Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) qualification.
STEP was founded by George Tasker in 1991 and is an international professional body for advisers who specialise in inheritance and succession planning.
Gaining the STEP qualification is no easy task, and requires a number of years’ experience in practice before you can attempt the four challenging exams.
“STEP is a considerable undertaking,” says Natalie, “it’s effectively like studying for a university degree and takes up all your evenings and weekends.
“The result, though, is that you gain a much higher level of expertise and a deeper knowledge of trusts, estates, wills and tax.”
But STEP is just one example where Latimer Hinks Solicitors encourages knowledge building. Elizabeth – who has previously lectured in law and describes herself as a fan of its ‘academic side’ – explains the firm is always looking at ways it can improve its knowledge and reveals that they often invite other professionals from its close network of accountants, stockbrokers and financial advisers to speak at team meetings and share their knowledge and expertise in areas associated with their work.
She adds: “The team is also very mindful of changes in the law and we ensure we are always looking at how these may impact our clients.”
While Latimer Hinks Solicitors’ clients get access to highly-knowledgeable and agile legal advice, they also benefit from a highly-personal service, too.
Elizabeth explains: “We go above and beyond for our clients and many of them become friends. We care about them and can’t help but get involved in their lives.”
Natalie – who is a Dementia Champion and a trustee of Age UK North Yorkshire and Darlington – adds: “We also recognise that the type of work that we do can be very emotional for our clients. They may have lost a loved one or are dealing with a family member who is losing capacity. We relate to that and make sure we put our clients at ease
when they come through the door.”
While other law firms choose to base themselves in city centre offices, Natalie and Elizabeth are keen to point out that much of the firm’s success is attributable to its Darlington location.
“There is a clear connection to the firm’s success and where we choose to base ourselves,” Elizabeth says. She continues: “Darlington’s central location has been a blessing – road and train links have fuelled the department’s growth throughout the North East, North Yorkshire and London.”
With their increased responsibility, Elizabeth and Natalie are now looking to develop the private client team, but will remain true to the ‘holistic’ ethos developed by Anne and Andrew.
Natalie reflects: “We want to grow the team but we want to achieve this organically as that is what’s worked for Latimer Hinks previously.
“We also want our growth to feel seamless for our clients – many of whom represent multiple generations of the same family.”