The years 1946 and 2021 have turned out to have a significant amount in common.
Both were preceded by cataclysmic events which had huge personal, national, and international impacts, the implications of which would stretch long into the future, and both found individuals, businesses, institutions and economies facing monumental challenges towards achieving some sort of meaningful, long-term recovery.
Back in 1946, Wilf Kilner and Rowland Hay returned to Newcastle after serving their country overseas and formed Hay & Kilner Law Firm as a generalist practice with a particular focus on personal injury issues.
As it celebrates its 75th anniversary, Hay & Kilner has evolved into one of North East England’s premier independent full-service law firms.
Still headquartered in Newcastle, and with a branch office in Wallsend, Hay & Kilner provides comprehensive legal advice across every aspect of the law, with a growing presence in the corporate and commercial sector and a particularly strong reputation for its private client work.
Having successfully navigated the challenges of the last 18 months, managing partner Jonathan Waters is looking forward to the firm playing its part in the continuing recovery and growth of the North East economy, and to becoming ‘a bigger, better version of itself’.
He says: “Despite everything that the region has been through over the last 18 months, we’re incredibly optimistic about the future prospects for both the regional economy and our own growth strategy.
“If you look around the North East, there is so much infrastructure investment happening, from the arrival of new Treasury offices in Darlington and the substantial improvements to the Northumberland rail network through to the planned new Nissan battery facility in Sunderland and the Britishvolt gigafactory at Blyth.
“With a skilled and loyal workforce, high quality universities, a growing population and lifestyle opportunities that are the envy of all, the North East has so much to offer and it’s no wonder that more and more businesses are choosing to enhance their presence here.
“We’ve also been investing in our own infrastructure, both technological and operational, to put us in the right position to expand our expert team of solicitors and develop what we offer across every area of the practice in tandem with the economic growth that will follow in the North East.
“We know that our business model works and that there will be opportunities in the coming years to do an awful lot more with it, and our aim is to become a bigger, better version of ourselves.”
While maintaining its focus on servicing clients based in the North East, Hay & Kilner has ambitions to extend its operations into other parts of the country.
Jonathan says: “We’re proud to be a North East firm that primarily focuses on its home region, and the general preference for people and businesses in the region wanting to deal with locally-based advisors gives us the scope to further develop the breadth and depth of services we provide to them.
“However, with the pandemic proving that specialist knowledge and expertise is increasingly more of a consideration for many firms than physical location, we’re also now aiming to grow our presence elsewhere too.
“The lower cost base we can offer from a North East location is very attractive to businesses based elsewhere and provides the incentive to open up discussions about all the high-quality corporate and personal services we can provide.”
Technology investments will be crucial to the practice’s growth plans, with the lessons of the last 18 months being central to how, where and when new systems are deployed.
Jonathan continues: “Meeting clients face-to-face will always be important, especially for those in rural areas who tend to especially appreciate the personal element of the relationship, and the advantages of seeing businesspeople operating in their own environment are as clear as ever.
“However, we’ve all felt the benefits over the last 18 months of being able to instantly see clients and colleagues just by opening a laptop and we’d expect this trend to continue as we gradually return to normal life.
“From our own point of view, the judicious use of technology has allowed us to keep in close contact with colleagues and clients during the pandemic, something which has been especially important for junior staff who’ve been unable to spend the time that they usually would working alongside senior staff – we’ve looked to create crossover opportunities wherever possible, with technology successfully filling the gaps as required.
“We’re also currently investigating ways in which Artificial Intelligence might be integrated into our operations to help improve certain procedures without our personalised approach being compromised.”
One of Hay & Kilner’s key priorities is the training and retention of high-quality young solicitors, a fact backed up by the number of current partners who trained with the firm.
It’s a path that Jonathan followed himself. Educated at Newcastle Royal Grammar School, he studied at Leeds University and York College of Law before returning to the North East to take up a traineeship with the firm in 1998, qualifying as a solicitor in the year 2000.
He became a partner in 2006 before taking on the role of managing partner five years ago.
Jonathan says: “I looked at other options, but the appeal of coming home was very strong for a number of reasons, not least the opportunities offered by training at Hay & Kilner.
“As a full-service practice, we offer trainees the chance to experience many different aspects of the law, so they can find out which suit their interests and aptitudes best, learn alongside highly-experienced practitioners and identify how they want their career to progress.
“We want them to learn what it takes to become solicitors right from the outset, whether as traditional two-year traineeships or through six-year legal apprenticeships, and the success of this approach is borne out by the number of Hay & Kilner trainees who have worked their way up through the ranks to become partners.”
After 75 years in business, Hay & Kilner has a proud history to celebrate – but the firm’s focus is very much on the future.
Jonathan concludes: “Our development will be based around the same basic principles that have always served us well – providing high quality advice and support to clients which meets both their commercial and personal needs, understanding what’s important to them as people and bringing our different departments together wherever possible to deliver a comprehensive service that meets all their requirements.
“Change has always been a constant in the North East, but grasping the opportunities it presents is the key to making progress and we have everything in place we need to do just that.”