In 2007, Woollcombe Yonge moved from their office on North Hill to their current location towards The Barbican on Bretonside. The business originated from two Oxford University law students who, on realising they were both from Devon, resolved to set up their own law firm on completion of their studies.
The firm was based in the South Hams where most clients were from the rural and agricultural sectors and they still act for a lot of these types of client today. The firm had been doing some criminal law work but it was not until the 1980s when John Haythorn and Sandy Morrison expanded the Criminal law team into what it is today. Their assistant at the time was a young Tracey Baker who rose through the ranks and has been the managing partner of the firm for the last 14 years.
Tracey Wright specialises in Wills, Trusts and Probate, which is otherwise known as Private Client. Woollcombe Yonge opened their arms to Tracey 3 years ago, where she was very grateful for a change of pace and operating from one location. Before this, Tracey felt stretched working in two different offices either end of Cornwall and travelling from Devon.
‘I felt I was falling short as a mother, as a wife, as a daughter and as a friend. I needed to simplify my life’.
With 20 years of experience under her belt, Tracey made the move to Woollcombe Yonge. In addition to the work you might expect Tracey to do, she has a particular set of clients who lack the mental capacity to look after their finances, such as people who have suffered brain injuries, who have autism, other mental health issues and learning difficulties. At a young age, Tracey was inspired by the work her mother did as a Registered Mental Health Nurse, she then studied Psychology at A-Level and whilst studying at university worked as a nursing assistant in a number of psychiatric hospitals. She is now proud to have the ability to help vulnerable people within her job role.
Woollcombe Yonge consists of 6 sectors; Wills & Probate, Residential Conveyancing, Criminal, Divorce, Children Proceedings and Business Services. The Business Services team assist business owners with all things company and commercial and even incorporates Dispute Resolution. Each of these departments has fully qualified and experienced staff available to deal with any kind of issue or query.
Will Giles is head of the Family Law team which deals with both Divorce and Children Proceedings. Will and Tracey had worked together for 16 years at a previous firm. Will is also trained as a Mediator for Family Mediation which is something the Courts now encourage when couples are looking to divorce.
Ian Veater joined the team in 2018 having worked with both Tracey and Will previously and hearing the great feedback. Ian is a partner and head of the Business Services team. He also specialises in dispute resolution and has a keen eye for a great deal.
The current pandemic has meant that their busiest sector at this moment in time is Residential Conveyancing headed up by Joe Cunningham, another who has risen through the ranks from trainee to partner. This is due to several changes, for example, the cut on stamp duty, a moratorium effectively on house sales, low-interest rates and a desire for many to move down to the South West for a healthier way of life, and because working from home means that geography is no longer an issue.
Other changes from the pandemic have meant that there is a limited number of people working in the office at any one time. This has meant the team alternating between working from home and in the office. Unlike some law firms, Woollcombe Yonge is still offering face-to-face appointments and home visits, however, a phone call or video call is encouraged.
From the outside, Woollcombe Yonge could be seen to be ‘punching above their weight’ when it comes to the clients they work with. However, this is not the case, although they are a small team in a small office, they have qualified experts available to advise in each of their sectors. They are assisted by a small number of legal assistants to ensure that work can be done at the right level but they do no rely on an army of non-qualified staff with a ‘pile it high, sell it cheap’ ethos. This and their considerable criminal law team are what sets them apart, and in some ways ahead of other larger law firms in the area.
Tracey believes that the most important quality to have as a solicitor is the ability to listen to clients. Often, clients do not know what is relevant. The skill comes in the lawyer being able put the client at ease and to ask the right question to get to the crux of the issue.
Tracey and all of the team at Woollcombe Yonge make sure that before anything else, the clients are relaxed and comfortable. They would like everyone to know that they are only human; they have whiny children, mortgages to pay off, and are worried about Covid-19 too so they are no different to anyone else. Tracey spoke in the interview about one of the best bits of feedback she regularly gets, particularly in the context of making a will;
‘Oh, well that was easy!’
She hopes that when people realise how straightforward the process can be, they will be more likely to come back again when anything needs changing as it remains the case, even in the full flow of the pandemic, that 3 out of 4 people have not made a will. To encourage more to make wills, Woollcombe Yonge even provide the ability to make a will absolutely free of charge from their website.
To Tracey, she believes that there is no difference speaking to people via video call rather than face-to-face. She is still able to build up the same rapport with clients over a video call as well as the ability to still have a giggle where appropriate.
Woollcombe Yonge likes to give back to the community wherever they can. Their ‘Charity of the Year’ this year is Dame Hannah Rogers Trust but they sadly haven’t been able to do as much as they would have liked with them due to Covid-19. However, normally they would all take part in large fundraising events throughout the year such as the Mighty Hike, where they hiked for 26 miles along the South West Coast Path to raise money for MacMillan last year. Some team members did a fire walk and they even sponsored the Hugs from Henry Strictly ball which saw Tracey take on the role of head judge and Leonie Rowe, from the Residential Conveyancing team, participate as one of the dancers.
Although they are an old company, their ethos is far from dated. They work from modern offices and embrace new technology to ensure that clients can still have access to good legal advice even during a pandemic.
Woollcombe Yonge has been running for 250 years, and the pandemic didn’t stop them. Working from home was their new normal as they carried on supporting their clients and doing what they do best. The company have been through the Spanish Flu as well as two World Wars. Even being bombed out of their office in the war did not stop them and they are not stopping now.
They are here, they are open and they’d like to meet you.
To book an appointment or to talk with one of their friendly and skilled partners, contact them on 01752 660384 or send them an email email@example.com
Woollcombe Yonge Solicitors, 63-65 Bretonside, Plymouth, PL4 OBD
F: @woollombeyonge e: firstname.lastname@example.org