While we celebrated some significant anniversaries during 2023 – 25 years for our Head of Accounts, Gareth Warner; 20 for Head of Residential Property, Jennifer Irving; and 15 for Partners Katie Gillam and Jonathan Rowe – we also welcomed three new Partners to CooperBurnett LLP, David Brown, Russell Brinkhurst and Oliver Bussell. All extremely experienced, they also brought new expertise to our firm – notably, David with construction and Oliver with planning. In addition, Sarah Strong, who has been with us for nine years, was named as a Partner.
We also remain proud of our reputation for supporting the ambition of our aspiring lawyers. Last year, Carla Loveday was promoted to Senior Associate Paralegal, while Paralegal, Iola Palmer-Stirling is continuing her training here, and Imogen Fleur has very recently qualified as a solicitor into our Commercial Property team. We also welcomed Paralegal Joshua Hayes, as part of the new M-Law programme at The Kent Law School (University of Kent).
Last year marked 25 years since we both qualified and we trod a fairly traditional path to achieve that at the time. Today, we positively encourage our team to take the route to qualification which works for them and it’s refreshing that there are quite a few available nowadays.
In fact, the whole attitude to qualifying has changed; Joseph remembers that – where he worked at the time – becoming qualified meant his own office upstairs and the opportunity to smoke in there!
Times certainly have changed! We have both seen completely new areas of law emerge in the past 25 years – surrounding subjects such as IT and the GDPR for instance - while there are now fewer generalists in the profession. We have both witnessed the formation of the SRA during our working life and there’s certainly much more regulation in our profession.
As ever, our work in the community continues to be a great sense of pride to us all. In June, we raised more than £5,500 tackling the ultra-marathon Race To The King for our then charity of choice, Demelza – which our Partners pound-matched, resulting in the children’s hospice charity receiving more than £11,000!
Three of the team, nick-named the ‘Magnificent Seven’ - Ayla Clissold, Sarah Strong and Gemma Gillespie - each individually covered an incredible 100km (62.1 miles), with Ayla and Sarah amazingly completing that distance in one go. The team also included Gareth Warner, Hannah Mashford and the two of us and, together, we walked a combined 500km.
In September, we were thrilled to support the Walk Tonbridge Festival, organised by James Pavlou, for the third year running. This incredible initiative raised an amazing £27,242.09 for charity, with £10,057.59 heading to Sustain, the community food and fuel bank in Tonbridge, and the remainder going to charities including Prostate Cancer UK, Make Birth Better, FEAST Tonbridge and Tonbridge Athletics Club. In all, eight team members completed the Walk Tonbridge Marathon!
Recently, we welcomed a new charity of choice, Jigsaw South East – which offers grief support to children and young people who have experienced the death of a significant family member, while it also offers assistance to children and young people who have a family member with a life-limiting condition. Our charity committee is considering the next big TeamCB charity challenge, so watch this space!
Last year, we also launched a partnership to support the equestrian teams at Beacon Academy in Crowborough and Uplands Academy in Wadhurst (both part of The MARK Education Trust). We have enjoyed meeting both the riders and their horses. It’s been inspiring to learn of their successes and what they’ve achieved personally being part of a team of like-minded students.
Out in our business community, Victoria is continuing to co-host enTWine, the business forum for Tunbridge Wells – which has gone from strength to strength – while as a firm, we are supporting organisations including Sevenoaks Chamber, which successfully launched its Third Thursdays events in Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge during 2023.
Recently, Joseph joined the board of Royal Tunbridge Wells Together Business Improvement District (RTW Together BID), a role he is sharing with Victoria.
Last year, the Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge & District Law Society celebrated an incredible 90 years and we are delighted to have been part of that organisation for nearly half its life, with a number of our team being President over the years. We are particularly proud that Partner, John Spence, had led that organisation for the past two years as its President.
Of course, it’s always immensely satisfying to have our hard work as an organisation recognised independently. We’ve been named as a ‘Leading Firm’ in the 2024 Legal 500 rankings for our Corporate and Commercial team. Katie Hilsdon, a Senior Associate in our Corporate and Commercial team, was recognised as a ‘key lawyer’ in the latest rankings from The Legal 500; she joins Partners Victoria Sampson and Russell Brinkhurst in being recommended by the organisation.
Last, but not least, CooperBurnett was named as ‘Best Business 26+ Employees’ at the Times of Tunbridge Wells Business Awards 2023 – which was truly one of the highlights of our year.
We are grateful that our clients have remained loyal to us; our workload has been busy across all our practice areas, with a significant pipeline of work already in place for 2024.
We do hope that you are feeling equally as positive in terms of your business and personal goals and aspirations for this New Year. TeamCB looks forward to supporting you in any way we can.
Joseph Oates and Victoria Sampson