The Development Of Peterborough Law Firm

by : Richard Hegarty

In February 1968 the Peterborough Development Corporation was established with a task to provide homes, work and a full range of urban facilities and services for an extra 70,000 people drawn mainly at that time from the Greater London Area. Richard Hegarty was born in nearby Stamford and went to Stamford School and even as a sixth-former saw the potential for legal work in the greater Peterborough area. Whilst at Leicester University studying law he saw the beginnings of the new Peterborough being built with new roads and houses and industrial developments beginning to make an impact on the Peterborough skyline.

Richard Hegarty graduated from Leicester University in 1972 and commenced his articles with a firm of solicitors in Leicester, Harding & Barnett, and then subsequently Gardner & Millhouse. He firmed up an intention to set up in practice in Peterborough in the early part of 1973. Richard’s father was the managing clerk of a firm of solicitors in Stamford, Kelham & Sons, and had vast experience in conveyancing and probate matters over a 40 year period. He was due to retire at the end of 1974 and Richard and his father agreed to set up in practice in Peterborough. Mr Hegarty senior brought not only a vast experience but also many very useful contacts in the Peterborough area. The firm opened its doors on 15th October 1974 in premises at 16 Lincoln Road, Peterborough. Richard’s mother was the receptionist and typist. The offices consisted of two rooms and a cubby-hole which was a makeshift reception. Peterborough had not seen a new firm of solicitors for some time, but the timing could not have been better with a substantial increase in the number of new homes being built in Peterborough and an influx of new residents. In the early days Richard would do criminal, family and conveyancing work, but it soon became apparent that the firm would have to expand to cope with the substantial volume of work that was coming to the firm. Mr Hegarty senior retired from Kelham & Sons in December 1974 and initially was going to work part-time in Peterborough. The work load was such that it was immediately obvious that he would need to work on a full-time basis and this he did until he died in harness in August 1983.

The firm continued to thrive on the back of the expansion of Peterborough, and in October 1977 Tim Thompson joined and became a partner shortly after qualifying in 1979.

Hegarty & Co opened a branch office in Stamford in December 1979 in Maiden Lane. These premises soon proved to be too small for the volume of work that came into the Stamford office and in 1984 the firm purchased premises at 10 Ironmonger Street and redeveloped them into modern offices. The Stamford office continues to practice to this day from those premises.

The expansion of the Peterborough office continued at a pace and in 1984 the whole of 16 Lincoln Road was purchased and redeveloped into offices. Martin Bloom joined the firm as in 1980 and the practice continued to expand the areas of law which it was involved in.

In the mid-1980’s it was decided that each solicitor would no longer handle a broad range of legal matters but should specialize, and so separate departments for property, crime, litigation and family were created. Although such specialization in firms of solicitors is now taken for granted, at this time it was very much a new phenomena for provincial firms.

Towards the end of the 1980’s it became apparent that the firm would have to move into new offices to be able to cope with the increase in the numbers of staff and the onset of new technology. A site in Broadway was earmarked for development and the partners purchased the site and built offices which they still own today.

Richard Hegarty was elected to the Council of the Law Society in 1989 to represent solicitors in Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire. He spent a total of 16 years on the Law Society Council during which time he held a number of senior posts. In the early 1990’s he lectured extensively in practice development and was instrumental in a number of projects at the Law Society which were designed to improve the quality of legal services provided by solicitors. The most notable of these were the creation of the “practice management standards" which Richard helped to write in the early 1990’s. Richard saw the importance of improving the quality of legal services that solicitors provided and how important the use of systems was going to be in the 1990’s and beyond. Practice management standards developed into the accreditation mark Lexel which is now the accepted standard for quality firms in England and Wales. Hegarty & Co were one of the first firms to obtain accreditation to BS5750 which is now the ISO 9001 standard. This accreditation they retain today together with the Law Society Lexel standard.

Although he retired from the Law Society Council in 2005 Richard still serves on the Compliance Committee of the Solicitors Regulation Authority and is a member of the Law Society’s Lexel assessment panel.

As the firm developed, the partnership increased and Matthew Sidebottom was made a partner in 1990 four years after joining the firm.

In 2003 Kally Singh, who had completed his training with the firm, became a partner and Hugh Nicholls, who had been at a major City of London practice for 17 years joined as a partner.

On 1st May 2006 the firm became a limited liability partnership with the name of Hegarty LLP. The same year saw the appointment of three new partners Andrew Heeler, Greg Baker and Sean Rowcliffe increasing the number of partners to it’s current total of nine.

Richard Hegarty says, "Today Hegarty LLP is recognised a major regional firm employing almost 70 staff, and provides a broad range of legal expertise.It is pleasing to have helped with that vision of Peterborough back in 1968 and help in a small way acheive is goals"