Each month, Legal Life looks to feature one of the many firms practising in and around Bristol. This month Legal Life features Southville firm, Watkins Solicitors, a firm dedicated to Justice for All.
Watkins Solicitors was established in 1998 by Beverley Watkins. They moved to their current premises on North Street, Southville, in September 2003. The Firm is a niche practice, practising in family law, education and public law. The Firm has quickly established an excellent reputation on the Bristol legal scene.
Beverley Watkins, the senior partner, has always been very keen to support and encourage law students who might otherwise struggle to find work placements. The Firm encourages and has supported a large number of students, particular with the University of the West of England, in work placements.
Beverley Watkins said “the firm is predominantly a legal aid practice but we understand how difficult it is for many students to gain work experience placements. In order to ensure that the next generation of lawyers comes from a diverse background, we have always encouraged and supported work experience placements.”
The firm was at the forefront of the campaign against the cuts for legal aid making the local evening tv news !
The firm runs outreach legal advice at centres in Hartcliffe and Brentry as well as weekly advice sessions at the women’s prison at Eastwood Park. A large proportion of the work undertaken is related to domestic violence.
The firm has also been active in supporting local charities. This year Victoria Shufflebottom, solicitor at Watkins Solicitors, cycled from Land’s End to John O’Groats, raising £1,500 for Survive, a charity which supports victims of domestic violence in South Gloucestershire. The Firm also raised £1,200 by holding a Spring sale to raise money for the British Rhythmic Gymnastics Team, the first rhythmic group to represent GB at the Olympics, as they were self financing and received no funding. Ten members of Watkins Solicitors ran the Bristol 10k this year, again raising money for Survive. Beverley Watkins has been a volunteer solicitor at Avon & Bristol Law Centre since 1997 and two of the other solicitors at the Firm, Kate Williams and Vicky Shufflebotham, are also volunteers at the Law Centre.
Beverley Watkins said “these are difficult times for legal aid firms and in the next year we are going to see huge changes in legal aid and the Firm will need to change and develop accordingly”.
Beverly Watkins is a Member of the Law Society’s Children’s Panel, Family Law Panel and Advanced member of the Family Law Panel.
Watkins continues to expand and have just recruited two new paralegals, Daniel Langley and Sarah Good-Allen, both ‘gold standard’ candidates. In the past paralegals have been offered training contracts and Watkins Solicitors is committed to ensuring there is a good quality of new recruits into the profession, particularly those committed to legal aid work, which is often very challenging. In the past, one solicitor had a training contract sponsored by the Legal Services Commission.
Watkins has always been keen to take advantage of new technology and despite its current size – it has 11 fee earners – it does not employ secretaries and fee earners are expected to be self supporting.
The Firm has just developed a new website.