The 1 October merger of Harrogate-based two-partner probate firm Hirst & Capes with 13-partner Graham Stowe Bateson saw the marriage of a heavyweight practice with a famous name. The merged firm will offer a bigger platform for Hirst & Capes, which has practised in Harrogate since 1817.
Managing partner of the merged firm Arthur Bateson is enthusiastic about the mutually beneficial deal, which he believes will create an improved client service for both existing and future clients. "It was a natural step to take," he says. "Both practices complement each other, and a greater presence in Harrogate can do nothing but benefit Graham Stowe Bateson."
Graham Stowe Bateson, founded 22 years ago by Graham Stowe and Arthur Bateson, is best known for its criminal defence practice and its family team, headed by Marilyn Stowe. Stowe is considered to be one of the UK's foremost divorce lawyers. She was also an integral part of one of this year's biggest legal stories, when she helped uncover the medical evidence that led to the Appeal Court freeing lawyer Sally Clark, who was wrongly imprisoned for the murders of her two infant sons. Marilyn Stowe's roles include chief assessor and chief examiner of the Law Society's family law panel since the scheme was launched in 1998. "Marilyn's work in the private divorce sector is second to none, and her nationwide reputation is something that we're particularly proud of," says Bateson.
The family unit dominates the Yorkshire region and continues to go from strength to strength. Yet Graham Stowe Bateson has continued its efforts to improve its services. It was the first firm in Leeds to introduce free legal advice clinics and has since initiated a scheme called Chrysalis, which operates as a post-divorce club. Chrysalis was initially set up to help individuals rebuild their lives after divorce proceedings.
The firm also specialises in mental health matters, with a four fee-earner team acting for a number of special hospitals, including Broadmoor. A large proportion of the work carried out by the mental health team relates to the compulsory detention of people judged to have mental disorders. The team mainly deals with provisions under the Mental Health Act 1983, but as one of a very small percentage of firms that specialise in this field, Graham Stowe Bateson considers itself to be at the forefront of all issues associated with mental health.
"Mental health is a fascinating area of law and our dedicated team has worked hard to develop a strong reputation in what is essentially a very specialist market," says Bateson.
Having absorbed Hirst & Capes under the Graham Stowe Bateson mantle, the firm has no immediate plans to recruit additional staff. But senior partner Bateson was confident that the development of the probate and conveyance units and the integrated service that could be supplied would eventually see further future expansions for the firm. "The merger is an excellent opportunity to develop a service that meets all our client needs," he says. "It provides a foundation to develop the kind of practice we want to create."
Senior partner: Graham Stowe Managing partner: Arthur Bateson No of equity partners: Seven Total no of partners: Fifteen, plus one consultant Total no of lawyers: 24 Main practice areas: Crime, family, mental health, probate and trusts No of offices: Seven - Leeds and six satellites