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Devon Life Business & Professional talks to Everys Solicitors

PUBLISHED: 10:32 22 November 2012 | UPDATED: 22:25 20 February 2013

James Griffin ( Managing Partner) and Kate Stamp (Equity Partner)

James Griffin ( Managing Partner) and Kate Stamp (Equity Partner)

In the family and down on the farm, why life at Everys is a bit like The Archers...

RURAL AFFAIRS


In the family and down on the farm, why life at Everys is a bit like The Archers...

WORDS CHRISTINE MEGSON

Everys has a Devon pedigree almost as impressive as that of some of the family businesses on its books. The partnership can trace its roots back over 300 years, taking in a vast swathe of local history. Todays Everys is the result of a series of historic mergers between the then Every & Phillips and established local firms like Dunning and Co in Honiton, Mayo & Co in Seaton, Lindford Browns of Exmouth and Kites of Taunton, each of which has enhanced its local knowledge and connections.
It is that local knowledge that is a speciality at Everys and, according to Managing Partner James Griffin, its what sets them apart.
You will get from us a level of expertise which I think is very difficult to reproduce. We have got the history of acting for these clients, the knowledge of not just farming, but their particular farms and businesses.
As an outdoor man with a love of the countryside and a Land Rover Defender parked by the office, James has a great empathy with his clients. He rides and shoots, and his countryside credentials are well-established and invaluable to the firm.
A large part of our client base comes from the farming community. This has evolved across the years from being purely farming clients to commercial ones, many having diversified from the traditional methods into other areas such as property development and other business enterprises. We see them as partners, its not just one transaction, it is the bigger picture, about how we can add value and take their business opportunities on.
Everys now has a staff of 150 spread over seven offices in Devon, two in Somerset and one in Dubai. They include some of the best legal brains in the county.

I enjoy the relationships with the clients. I really enjoy working with families over different generations

Kate Stamp is an Equity Partner and heads Everyss Commercial Department. In addition to her commercial property practice she is also one of only 50 Fellows of the Agricultural Law Association in the country. She regularly dons her wellies to visit clients and has a clear understanding of the challenges they face.
Clients needs have greatly changed since Ive been in practice. Farming families have had to evolve in the way they approach business. The second and third generations are often highly educated and skilled, and approach the family farming business as a commercial entity.
A combination of European influence and the various complicated agricultural quota systems and subsidies, together with current issues such as milk prices, CAP reforms, poor harvest and TB, have made the lot of farmers large and small a difficult one. Kate knows that all landowners are facing challenges in protecting their main asset for subsequent generations.
Everys has a long history of acting for family-run businesses where landowning is their primary function and where those landowners regard themselves as stakeholders for future generations. On that land they may be carrying out a range of activities. Understanding that client profile so well is our strength. We have specialists working in the firm who can offer a range of bespoke services incuding tax planning, estate matters and a matrimonial/ancillary relief team specialising in high net worth and landowning clients.
Kate has two sons and family life revolves around sport. A keen off-road runner, she is in for the long haul and sees her job as not just lawyer but trusted confidante.
I enjoy the relationships with the clients. I really enjoy working with families over different generations. I like to know how the family dynamics work and to be the person that clients can pick up the phone to and discuss ideas without worrying that it will cost them a lot of money.
Families are at the heart of small and medium-sized rural businesses, and understanding the relationships between the generations is often the key to their success, according to Hilary Quantick, the head of Everys Private Client department. Having set out to be a pathologist but let down by her maths, for Hilary the skills needed in law can be just as forensic.
People dont like to face up to difficult decisions, we all think we are immortal. Its important to get the generations to sit down early on and talk.
Aspects of her work can be like an episode of The Archers, but Hilarys aim is to get to know her clients and keep their businesses running smoothly over succession and inheritance issues. She sees visiting the farm or business as an essential and enjoyable part of the job.
On one visit, I arrived to find everyone outside with a ewe that had had four lambs. Over tea and cake afterwards, three generations of the same family, who hadnt really talked much about the future, ended up working out a plan that they had not anticipated. That resulted in eight wills all dove-tailed together to produce a strong future for the farm.
As a keen gardener, Hilary is acutely aware that growing success depends very much on preparation and keeping a weather eye on conditions.
These are tough times for everybody, so forward planning issues can end up on the back burner. Farming clients are struggling, many have had a bad summer because of the rain so its important that they understand their options.
The personal approach is one thing, but occasionally, where several generations are involved, only the family lawyer can help, and it often goes beyond the call of duty.
I remember one long-standing client passed away and her daughter was in New Zealand. The daughter couldnt get over for the funeral so asked me to ensure that her mothers ashes were interred with her fathers. The only problem was locating the ashes. I spent a whole afternoon rummaging around under a bed at the home where I eventually found them.
But what of the future? Like all law firms, Everys is gearing up for change. The implementation of whats known as Tescos law will affect the way in which everyone buys their legal services, but James is characteristically upbeat.
We are all facing the challenges of the Legal Services Act, which came in 2011. We look after our clients families and businesses, and our brand of personal service will become more important than ever. We have opened an office in Dubai, and I love the thought that an old lady in East Devon can come to our Budleigh Salterton offices to make her will at the same time as a global insurance company can use our services thousands of miles away in Dubai.
The Westcountry has a vast array of small and medium-sized businesses, from brewers to market gardeners, and small building firms to hotels. James believe that offering quality and supporting them through thick and thin builds relationships for years to come and should see off any competition from the supermarkets.
His analogy: You wouldnt take an Aston Martin to Halfords.

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