We speak to Gordon S. Wellham, Managing Director of Richard Reed Solicitors, Sunderland on his retirement
Why did you choose the law as a profession? I had always enjoyed reading, writing and “articulating” the English language so, to my mind, it became a choice between the law and journalism. The law won as I perceived that, as an impressionable young man, there was a greater likelihood of job security and career advancement!Where and when did you begin your legal training? Having graduated from Hull University in the summer of 1972, I began my career in the legal profession with Richard Reed, a small/medium sized general legal practice in Sunderland on the 5th March 1973.Why Richard Reed? It was the only firm which replied to my numerous requests for articles of clerkship as training contracts were then known.
As I later discovered, Dick Reed was a formidable character with a strong personality who, although disabled as a result of polio contracted towards the end of the Second World War, had established his own legal practice and, from his wheelchair, had become a leading advocate in the criminal courts and a respected general practitioner attracting some fine legal talent to the practice in areas such as family law, conveyancing, private client work and general litigation.Did you ever consider moving on? During my 44 years at Richard Reed I did receive quite a number of offers of alternative employment within the profession including one from one of the larger, national (and now international) practices but somehow I found that it became increasingly more difficult to contemplate leaving the loyal client base which I had established by this time whilst advising on issues such as Wills, applications for Grants of Probate, Trusts, Powers of Attorney and Court of Protection matters.
I realised I was finding it more and more satisfying and worthwhile helping the elderly, incapacitated and/or frequently disadvantaged members of the local community.What changes in legal practice have you noticed in your years at Richard Reed? Too many to mention here but, in particular, the nature and complexity of the law has led to extensive regulation and much increased specialisation and it is hard to envisage the development of a general practice today in the same manner as Dick Reed achieved in the 1950s.On a separate note massive change has followed the relaxation of the rules about advertising a legal practice and its services. It was virtually unknown when I started and was, I think, then seen as somehow tawdry, beneath the dignity of the profession and actively discouraged because of its potential, as it was then perceived, for bringing the profession into disrepute.
Once relaxed, however, the process gathered momentum very quickly to the position in which we find ourselves today.How do you see legal practice evolving in the future and Richard Reed Solicitors’ place in that process? I think the challenges presented to today’s lawyer are many and varied but I believe that Richard Reed Solicitors is in a unique position to meet those challenges with the essential mix of youth and experience across all the teams covering the various disciplines and areas of law which we offer. We have in place a forward thinking and dynamic board of directors embracing modern technology so necessary to meet the ever increasing legal and regulatory demands essential to a modern legal practice and in order to take it to an entirely new generation of consumers with ever more complex and diverse needs.