Good practice makes perfect at TC Smith

Staff of TC Smith solicitors at their Church Street office.
Staff of TC Smith solicitors at their Church Street office.

The long-established and highly respected Berwick solicitors’ firm, TC Smith, has gained the Law Society’s highest award for good practice and management.

Lexcel is a nationally recognised benchmark awarded to solicitors who meet the highest management and customer care standards.

The scheme’s accredited practices undergo rigorous independent assessment every year to ensure they continue to meet the required standards of excellence in: case management, risk management, and, most importantly, client care.

The award is particularly significant for a firm in a small rural town and TC Smith is one of only four in Northumberland to make the grade; so demanding are the standards required they are one of only 16 in the whole of the north east with the accreditation.

Senior partner John Marshall paid tribute to the hard work and dedication of the staff for the achievement and honour: “The firm has demonstrated the ability to deliver a very high standard of legal services which will obviously benefit our clients,” he said.

“Our staff have contributed enormously to this process. Without their dedication and application we would not have obtained it.”

Partner Mark Butson, who was largely responsible for setting up the procedures and protocols, added: “The standard recognises excellence of service which in turn helps clients to choose a solicitor who will provide the level of expertise and care that everyone hopes to receive.

“By consistently applying certain standards and procedures to our work we can enhance our risk management and consequently minimise mistakes. In turn this allows us to invest more in the practice and increase the scope of services we can offer. We are interested in feedback from our clients and respect their opinions and the Lexcel standard provides a mechanism for achieving this. Where our clients tell us that we can improve an aspect of our service then we will do so.”

The award reflects the firm’s determination to strive for the best in the 21st century but they are also proud of a long history and close association with Berwick’s ancient traditions and are still based at the Church Street offices where Thomas Cleghorn Smith founded the firm in 1887 and which he shared with his father, then borough treasurer. Thomas’s son Edmund joined the partnership in 1926 when he returned from serving with the Royal Artillery during the First World War. Thomas, assisted by Edmund, was largely responsible for drawing up the 1926 Freemen Act which regulates the Berwick Freemen’s Estate.

TC’s youngest son Ivor joined in 1929, although he served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War and Edmund kept the business going with the assistance of only one clerk. The two continued in practice after the war and John Reay joined them in 1963. A well-known figure in Berwick, Mr Reay retired in 1996.

In a remarkable record, all three Smiths, John Reay and current senior partner Mr Marshall, who joined the firm in the early 1970s, have all been sheriffs of the borough.

The huge importance of agriculture to Berwick and the surrounding area has made farming law one of TC Smith’s core specialities; they have always handled inheritance, wills and trusts with care and sensitivity adapting to modern demands. Partner Sara Stockdale is an expert on all kinds of family work, with particular emphasis on the care of children.