Prism winter 2022

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DOING BUSINESS IN DURHAM CORPORATE TEAM ADVISES ARGENBRIGHT IN PROTECTOR GROUP ACQUISITION THE INHERITANCE TAX HEADACHE Sarah Slaven reflects on her first year in post as MD of Business Durham Latest transaction facilitates expansion of Argenbright Holdings LLC Could Business Relief be your secret weapon against IHT liability? Winter 2022

SMall talk

2 CONTENTS 03 Welcome Managing Partner, Jonathan Moreland, introduces the latest instalment of Prism. 04 Ask the Expert Partner, David Low, runs through the key benefits of Alternative Dispute Resolution, whatever the nature of the disagreement. 06 Zen deal Partner, Alex Wilby, assists local entrepreneurs, Zak Newton and Sam Gadd, as they take over ownership of Asian fusion restaurant, Zen. 07 3 Questions Getting to know Managing Associate, Andrew Allon, as he discusses why he became a solicitor and what got him through the challenge of the last SDLT holiday. 08 Recruitment update We offer a warm welcome to the 11 new arrivals at Swinburne Maddison, including our new Business & Practice Development Director, Phil Hourigan. 10 Corporate team advises Argenbright in Protector Group acquisition Following our role in Argenbright Holdings LLC’s investment in Amberstone Security Group earlier this year, we were delighted to be retained by Argenbright in connection with a second transaction facilitating their expansion plans into Europe. 12 Giving back Doing good things for great reasons, we round up some of the local charities and initiatives we have supported this year. 16 The Inheritance Tax headache Partner, Anna Stephenson, and Three Counties’ Corryn Wild join forces to answer your need-to-know questions on inheritance tax and why Business Relief may apply to more of us than we think. 18 How to… Solicitor, Jenna Keir-Kendrew, provides some practical tips for tackling bad debts and ensuring that your business gets paid within a reasonable period of time every time. 14 Meet our Fantastic Four We sit down with our four trainee solicitors to discuss their day-today roles at the firm and what they have learned from their time at Swinburne Maddison so far. 22
We asked our team… “What is your favourite Christmas tradition?” The articles contained in Prism are for general information only. They do not, and are not intended to, constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this magazine was published and we would always recommend that you seek specific advice on any particular legal issue. 20
Sarah Slaven shares just some of the reasons why County Durham is a great place to run a successful business. 19
news We’re delighted to announce Swinburne Maddison’s rankings within the 2023 edition of The Legal 500 UK.
In conversation with…


Welcome to the latest instalment of Prism, Swinburne Maddison’s very own publication bringing you the latest news and insights from our team, clients and the local community.

With the Christmas break upon us, there is always a lot to reflect on, and this year is certainly no exception. As I look around our newly-reorganised offices, I’m struck by two things: firstly, what an adaptable and good-natured team we have (either decamping back to their home offices or patiently working alongside builders and re-fitters for the second time in just a few years) and, secondly, just how many new faces have joined us since this time last year!

Our people have always been central to the DNA of Swinburne Maddison and a key part of the client experience. From the warm welcome that our clients receive when they first enter the office to the pragmatic and sure-footed legal advice they receive from our lawyers and the care and attention delivered by our support staff throughout their matter. Every member of our team gives 100% in the delivery of their role and it is important to us that we recognise this loyalty and hard work with a career that they can all find challenging and, above all, rewarding. That is why we decided to put our money where our mouth is this year by going for the Investors in People accreditation, and I’m delighted to say that we were successful. You can read more about the result on page five of this issue, but suffice to say, we were very happy with the outcome and look forward to building on this success when we launch our new values programme next year.

Looking beyond Swinburne Maddison for a moment, it is coming up to a full year since my appointment to the Business Durham Advisory Board – a role which has proven to be every bit as engaging and thought-provoking as I’d expected – and I am

immensely grateful to the Managing Director of Business Durham, Sarah Slaven, for taking the time to come and speak with us about what makes County Durham such a great place to set up a business.

A huge thank you also to Corryn Wild of Three Counties who sat down with Partner and Head of our Private Client Team, Anna Stephenson, to discuss some of the most popular methods of mitigating the impact of Inheritance Tax and explain why Business Relief might apply to more of us than we think.

We also have coverage of some of our biggest corporate deals this year, including the acquisition of The Protector Group on behalf of US-based Argenbright Group, a deal which will help to facilitate Argenbright’s expansion plans into Europe.

And, of course, it wouldn’t be a December edition without me wishing all of our staff, clients and professional contacts a very Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy New Year. As 2022 draws to a close, there is certainly a sense of trepidation about what may lie around the corner, with talk of another recession coming our way and ongoing financial hardship for many individuals and businesses. Whatever challenges or opportunities the year has in store, we’ll be here to support and guide you through it. 3

The benefits of Alternative Dispute Resolution in all types of dispute


Arbitration is more formal than Mediation and is usually reserved for larger commercial disputes, or disputes which concern a highly technical, complex or niche area of disagreement.

To pursue this method of ADR, a neutral third-party arbitrator who is an expert in the area concerned, will be appointed to hear evidence and make a legally binding decision on behalf of both parties. The arbitrator can be appointed by either party to the dispute, or by a professional body that both parties have agreed on.

As a Partner in our busy Dispute Resolution team, I represent clients in a broad range of cases including disagreements over land and property, breaches of commercial contracts and director disputes.

Whilst many of our clients will be familiar with the idea of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) in the context of family matters, I am often met with looks of surprise and some uncertainty when I suggest this to clients in relation to different, often more commercial, types of dispute. And yet, now more than ever, we should be encouraging all of our clients to embrace ADR as a quicker, cheaper and more commercially practical way to bring any dispute to an end.

The 4 most common methods of ADR

There are a number of alternative paths that should be explored before heading to the courtroom to resolve a dispute. The most common of these are:


Mediation involves the appointment of an independent specialist who works closely with the parties to try and facilitate a resolution, often making suggestions for compromise that may not have previously been considered and bringing an objective view to the dispute.

The parties remain in control throughout the Mediation and it will only lead to a binding settlement where terms for resolution are explicitly agreed. In the event that agreement cannot be reached, either party is free to issue or continue with court proceedings in the usual way or to explore another approach.

The arbitrator’s decision is binding and can be enforced through the courts if needed.


The most informal of the 4 common types of ADR, Negotiation can begin at any time and will usually be conducted by the parties’ lawyers, either through written correspondence, telephone calls or round-table meetings; always with the ultimate aim of reaching a pragmatic and commercially sensible agreement and preventing the matter going to court.


Conciliation is a method of ADR which is often reserved for employment disputes, as it is something which most employees must pursue before they can bring a claim to the Employment Tribunal. Similar to the Mediation process, a conciliator will discuss the issues with both parties to reach an agreement, but their opinion is not legally binding.

The benefits of ADR

Even setting aside the obvious benefit of avoiding litigation and the significant cost, stress and delays that are associated with court proceedings, ADR can offer a huge number of advantages:-

• Privacy – Unlike most court proceedings, ADR discussions take place behind closed doors, meaning disputes can be dealt with in a confidential manner, protecting the reputation of all concerned.

• Leniency on costs – Because ADR is actively encouraged by the Civil Procedure Rules and the courts, you may suffer costs consequences if you do not engage with, or give serious consideration to the methods available. By exploring these options in good faith, you will be helping to protect your position on costs should the matter ultimately end up in court.


• Flexibility – ADR does not impose limits on what you can agree to do in order to achieve an acceptable resolution. It is much more flexible and responsive to the individual needs of those involved, meaning parties are often able to agree more unusual settlement terms which may not have been approved within the rigid limitations of the court system.

• Control – ADR allows you to stay in control of how a dispute is resolved rather than placing the decision in the hands of a court. It also gives the parties autonomy to decide where and when the ADR will take place and the details of any third parties who will be involved. Finally, because anything that is discussed during ADR is usually treated as “without prejudice,” all parties are free to negotiate freely, safe in the knowledge that their words cannot be used against them if the dispute ends up in court after all.

• Preservation of business relationships – As the needs of all parties are considered during the ADR process and the focus is very much on both parties working together to find a solution, the outcome is more likely to suit the needs of everyone involved. This can help to minimise conflict and allow the parties to preserve a more positive relationship going forward.

Choosing the right law firm

Before navigating the emotional and legal complexities of any dispute, it is important to have the right advisor by your side.

At Swinburne Maddison, we put our client’s needs at the centre of everything we do and recognise that all of our clients have unique priorities and objectives. Whether acting on behalf of a private client, private sector business, or public sector organisation, at the heart of our Dispute Resolution team’s work there is always a pragmatic attitude and high-quality service, which is tailored to the individual circumstances of every case.

What our client’s say:-

“The team has been excellent at communicating complex legal issues to a group of clients with varying degrees of legal knowledge. The accessibility of the team is good, the knowledge and breadth of experience that individuals are able to draw upon in the team is great.”

For further information or guidance on any of the issues covered in this article – or for advice on an active dispute – please contact David Low on or by phone on 0191 384 2441.
Legal 500 UK 2023 Edition

In case you missed it

New owners for Asian fusion restaurant

Zen, the highly popular Asian fusion restaurant in Durham City, is under new ownership following the purchase of its entire issued share capital for an undisclosed sum by local entrepreneurs, Zak Newton and Sam Gadd.

Trading under a newly registered company, Zen UK Holdings Limited, the pair instructed Swinburne Maddison in May to act on their behalf in the purchase of the restaurant business, which has been successfully owned and operated by Sam Gadd’s parents, Nigel and Deborah Gadd, for almost 15 years.

Swinburne Maddison worked closely with the Gadd’s’ retained accountancy and business advisory firm, Azets, to conclude the deal, primarily ensuring that they implemented the agreed terms of the tax clearance provided by Azets and advising the new owners on areas of risk.

Commenting on the transaction, Alex Wilby, a Partner in corporate finance, mergers and acquisitions, said:

“We were delighted to be instructed by Zak and Sam as they embark on their ownership of Zen, which is a highly popular restaurant. We also enjoy a good working relationship with Azets and, as always, it has been a pleasure to work with Stephen Harris and the tax advisory team.

“Whilst this was a straightforward matter, we hope our work simply marks the start of a longer-term relationship with Zak and Sam, which may involve us in other areas of legal practice as the pair build their business empire in the future, which I am confident will be a huge success.”

When launched in 2008, Zen quickly established itself as the north’s first high-end Thai/pan-Asian fusion restaurant. It operates with an entire Thai kitchen team and a menu that is mostly authentic Thaiinspired dishes, balanced by a western twist.

Zak and Sam are no strangers to the hospitality industry, currently owning two other venues within Durham – Tango, which specialises

(L-R) Alex Wilby, Swinburne Maddison, Stephen Harris, Azets, Zak Newton and Sam Gadd, Zen

in delivering good vibes and quality food as well as the Rabbit Hole, which also offers distinctive pan-Asian fusion dishes.

They have both been involved in Zen in some capacity since 2020 and with its acquisition now complete, having seized on many different retailing concepts prior to Covid, the two entrepreneurs have their sights set on future expansion, as Zak explains:

“Before the lockdown we operated several business concerns –from barbers’ shops and tattoo studios to blockchain and social impact concepts - but after taking a step back, we realised that time is on our side and some of the best opportunities are within our area of expertise.

“We are fortunate in possessing complementary skills – Sam is great at identifying future trends and opportunities while I am best at making them happen. Additionally, Sam is a chef and a very good one at that, so we are now at a stage where our efforts are best spent away from the venues, enabling us to come up with new menus and concepts and ensuring the business infrastructure is running smoothly.

“Since we have been involved with Zen, we have taken the business digital with our takeaways and reservations managed primarily online, as well as streamlining and improving systems - the most recent innovation being our revamped Fire Garden, which officially opened last month and is proving very popular with our customers.

“We already have our eyes on another establishment within Durham City and we are currently working on taking the Zen concept to a second city-centre location. Then there is our Zen2go takeaway model, which is set to go into its own venue soon. So, the future is looking very exciting indeed.”

The sale of Zen has enabled Nigel and Deborah Gadd to invest their energy and vast knowledge of the restaurant business into a new venture and far from retiring, they have recently acquired Vennels café in Durham city centre and already started work on transforming the venue and its menu.



I studied for my Law degree at the University of Sunderland and qualified as a solicitor in 2011.

I’ve always wanted to do something that helps people, and working in law, clients are always coming to you with an issue and it’s your job to find a solution. It’s a very rewarding line of work.

residential property work?

During my studies, I enjoyed Family Law and Criminal Law, however in practice I found that working in Property was the right fit for me. I have previously worked at firms which specialised in Conveyancing exclusively, however that can lead to quite a narrow view of things. Working at Swinburne Maddison, I am often working alongside colleagues in other departments and get to see the broader picture of that individual’s life.

Buying and selling a property is one of the biggest moments in an individual’s lifetime – there’s a reason why it’s often at the top of those “most stressful” lists! It’s my job to guide them through the process in a calm and pragmatic way, helping them to understand all of the legal jargon and supporting them where I can – sometimes emotionally.

I do have a very full case load, but I enjoy meeting a variety of new clients on a weekly basis and each transaction is different from the next – it’s never boring!

I would say my personal greatest achievement was being promoted to Managing Associate in May 2022.

However, I’ve got to say I am extremely proud of not just my achievements, but the whole Conveyancing team’s efforts over the past couple of years. Thanks to the SDLT Holiday during the first lockdown in 2020, there was a huge boom in new instructions and it was a bit of a crazy period for all of us. But we’re a very tight-knit team and, together, we rose to the challenge and supported each other through it.

With another SDLT holiday/reduction now in place until March 2024 I can see it being another busy period for us and we’re currently recruiting for another lawyer to join our team. For anyone looking for a fresh challenge who likes the idea of working with a highly experienced and supportive team of colleagues, please do get in touch. Swinburne Maddison really is a great place to work.

Please visit the Careers page of our website for details of our current vacancies or get in touch with our HR team on 0191 384 2441 or for a chat in confidence.

Why did you want to specialise in
What has been your greatest achievement at Swinburne Maddison?
Where did you study law and why did you want to become a lawyer?

Swinburne Maddison celebrates key director appointment – one of ten new hires for the firm

Hourigan’s appointment is just one of ten hires Swinburne Maddison has made over recent months due to an influx of new work.

Phil Hourigan, who has enjoyed a career spanning over thirty years with NatWest Group fulfilling Area Director positions in commercial banking across the North, is e Hewell equipped to assist the management team in delivering Swinburne Maddison’s business plan and ensuring continued growth and success for the firm.

Commenting on his appointment, Phil said: “My relationship with Swinburne Maddison has come full circle. I was the bank manager responsible for arranging the banking deal when the firm was initially formed, almost 25 years ago, and have been a strong advocate ever since.  I have also benefitted from being a client, and now I will be working with them. The role really excites me and gives me the opportunity to put my skills and experience to positive use in helping develop the business and deliver its ambitious plans for continued growth.”

Managing Partner, Jonathan Moreland, is delighted about this latest appointment, saying: “We were thrilled when Phil decided to join us. We regard it as a major coup for the practice. This is a newly created role and given Phil’s profile within the regional business community, together with his track record in commercial banking, we are confident he will bring both experience and objectivity to the role to assist with our plans.”

Three appointments have been made in the Commercial Property team. Firstly, Mary Foster, a commercial property Solicitor who joins Swinburne Maddison from the Newcastle office of a transatlantic law firm, working on a range of commercial property transactions including the sale of agricultural land. She is joined by Solicitor, Diane Hall, who has a strong background in both residential and commercial property matters, and Legal Executive, Victoria Dineen, who is currently studying for Chartership with the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives and will assist the team with plot sales on various regional residential and commercial development schemes.

The Dispute Resolution team, headed up by Managing Partner, Jonathan Moreland, welcomes four new appointments – Jenna Keir-Kendrew, who joins as a dispute resolution Solicitor from the North of England P&I Association Ltd, Matthew Lawton and Georgia Hogg, who join the team as Paralegals, and Alex Siddle, who has been awarded a training contract after working as a Paralegal within the firm since October 2021.

Following our major reorganisation in May last year, we have continued to go from strength-to-strength
We were delighted to celebrate a key senior appointment to our team in September this year following the creation of a brand new Business and Practice Development Director role.

The Private Client team is delighted to welcome Associate Solicitor, Catherine Taylor-Wilson, who brings more than 25 years’ specialist experience to our growing team.

And finally, Eleanor Uren, formerly employed by North Tyneside Council, has been appointed HR Coordinator in another newlycreated role to assist with partner, Carolyn Beal’s, expanding workload as Practice Manager.

Welcoming all the new appointees, Jonathan continued: “It gives me great pleasure to welcome our new members of staff. I should

also like to take this opportunity to extend my gratitude to our existing employees for their hard work, commitment and loyalty to the firm, which enables us to continue to strengthen and grow our business.

“Following our major reorganisation in May last year, we have continued to go from strength-to-strength, and have already hit our three-year targets within 16 months. wIt has been an incredibly positive experience for the whole firm and while there is uncertainty in the market currently, I am pleased to report that business is booming at Swinburne Maddison.”

Meet our new Solicitors

Mary Foster

Team: Commercial Property Areas of Specialism: Agriculture, Land sales and acquisitions, Leases, Secured Lending.

Favourite holiday destination?

It’s hard to choose just one but I’d say Florence in Italy. The Duomo Cathedral, Uffizi Gallery and Italian ice cream make Florence a dreamy holiday destination.

Diane Hall

Team: General commercial property matters, property sales and purchases, Leases. What do you get up to in your spare time?

At the start of the year I was lucky enough to have the chance to take on half an allotment, so in my spare time you can usually find me there.

So far, I’ve managed to grow sugar snap peas, swiss chard, dwarf green beans, squash and raspberries – quite the harvest!

Jenna Keir-Kendrew

Team: Dispute Resolution Areas of Specialism: Contractual disputes, Housing Disrepair litigation, Debt Recovery Black Cat or Magpie? Given that my allegiance lies with the blue side of Glasgow, I would have to instead opt for a Teddy Bear.

Catherine Taylor-Wilson

Team: Private Client Areas of Specialism: Administration of Estates, Wills, Lasting Powers of Attorney, Inheritance Tax advice, Estate Planning and Trusts. How do you like to unwind? Being with family and friends, walking, yoga and exercises classes.

As a firm which has a long track record of supporting members of staff in the development of their careers, and which works hard to make sure every member of their team feels valued in their role, we are very proud to announce that we recently achieved the prestigious Investors in People (IIP) Bronze Accreditation.

This is the first year that we have applied for the accreditation and we received some wonderful feedback in our assessor’s report as well as some constructive ideas for improvement as we set out on our IIP journey.

The timing of the report couldn’t be better for us. We are already well underway with a major review of our values and this work goes hand in hand with the feedback we have received from our IIP assessment.

Our overall score was above the average benchmark for IIP assessments and legal services assessments, and a score that we are incredibly proud of for our very first assessment. It provides a strong platform on which to build.

The values programme will determine our core values which will guide the firm through an exciting period in its ongoing development. These values will be central to everything we do, whether it be formulating strategy, decision making, recruitment, staff appraisals or client relations. Our values will be our reference point.

Our staff have been fully engaged in our IIP accreditation and will play a leading part in rolling out our action plans.

Our core values will be derived from the feedback we receive from our people and in particular what it means to work at Swinburne Maddison. We have undertaken considerable external research from our friends in business and received some valuable insights into how to go about this hugely significant piece of work.

Swinburne Maddison began life as a 4-partner firm and now, as it approaches is 25th birthday, boasts 11 partners (7 of whom began their careers at the firm as articled clerks or trainee solicitors) and a further 60 team members. As we continue to grow at pace, it is more important than ever that we don’t lose sight of the fact that our people are instrumental to our success. Through the IIP and values programmes, we are committed to embracing change to cement Swinburne Maddison’s position as a great place to work.

Corporate team advises Argenbright on its acquisition of the Protector Group

Strategic deal facilitates expansion and leads to first UK bolt on acquisition for US company.

Following its role advising the shareholders of Amberstone Security Group Limited (Amberstone) in connection with the investment made by Argenbright Holdings LLC (Argenbright) earlier this year, our Corporate team recently advised Argenbright on its second transaction in the UK to re-establish its UK presence and to form the cornerstone of its European launch.

The acquisition of Team Valley-based The Protector Group (Protector) will complement Amberstone by providing security monitoring services and IoT-enabled integrated security solutions into the construction and critical national infrastructure sectors. The Protector Group will join Amberstone Security under the Argenbright umbrella retaining its own identity.

As a provider of complex and mission-critical security solutions to major sites throughout the UK, Protector is a perfect fit for Argenbright’s overall expansion strategy as Protector has a strong regional presence and immense national potential.

Jason Trigg, managing director of Amberstone, said: “There are a lot of parallels between the two businesses in that we are both entrepreneurial market disruptors who have always looked to change the narrative of the security industry and make the services on offer even more bespoke and customer-centric. It made perfect sense to bring The Protector Group under the Argenbright umbrella and join Amberstone in delivering innovative, IoT-enabled integrated security solutions. I look forward to working with the leadership team at The Protector Group in the years ahead.”

There are a lot of parallels between the two businesses. It made perfect sense to bring The Protector Group under the Argenbright umbrella and join Amberstone in delivering innovative, IoT-enabled integrated security solutions.

(L-R) Frank Argenbright, Jason Trigg, Karan Ishwar

Commenting on how Swinburne Maddison advised the Amberstone shareholders in connection with the investment by Argenbright, and subsequently advised Argenbright on the Protector acquisition, Corporate and Commercial partner, Martyn Tennant, said:

“We were delighted to work with the Argentbright Group in connection with this transaction. Thanks to the strength and depth of our team and our experience in the sector (having previously advised on the disposal of Hadrian Technology Limited to Marlowe plc) as well as having worked on numerous transatlantic M&A transactions in recent years, we were well placed to advise the Amberstone shareholders regarding the strategic investment by

Argenbright. Our performance during that first transaction led to a referral by the Amberstone shareholders, which resulted in working with Argenbright in relation to the Protector deal.”

The satisfactory completion of both transactions serves to demonstrate the breadth of partner-level expertise that we are able to offer clients from our Durham head office. Martyn and his two fellow partners in the Corporate team – Alex Wilby and Craig Malarkey – worked across both matters, with 9 other partners and lawyers from our Corporate, Commercial, Employment, Pensions and Real Estate teams providing transactional support where required.

A top tier service

The Corporate and Commercial team have enjoyed a hugely successful 2022, ranking 6th in the region for deal volume in the Experian MarketIQ report for H1 2022 and retaining its Top Tier ranking in the 2023 edition of The Legal 500 UK. We were particularly delighted to read some of the glowing testimonials provided by clients and professional contacts who contributed to The Legal 500 research this year and are grateful to everyone who took the time to support us in this way:-

“Whether it’s been a case of needing advice or support we’ve found Swinburne Maddison to be first class. With experts in all areas of business, we’ve been able to get specific help when needed. In a recent engagement the team went above and beyond what was required and displayed their class in how they conducted themselves, showing that the work they did was as much out of friendship and loyalty as it was as a result of a commercial relationship.”

“We’ve dealt with a number of individuals within the firm but it’s Martyn Tennant who we have dealt with most. A partner at the firm, we’ve found him to be an excellent solicitor and have relied on him numerous times to advise on various situations that have arisen. He’s always available and very responsive, which is what you really need from your legal advisor.”

“In my experience, this firm was very approachable, professional and conscientious in all their dealings with me during my recent deal. Compared to other firms I reached out to they stood out by their simple, structured and open

approach in assisting me to navigate the process. Martyn Tennant one of the partners took the lead and brought in other partners and associates as their areas of expertise was required, never once giving me the feeling he was not in control overall.”

This year also saw the team advise on the recent investment made by Accel-KKR, a leading technology-focused private equity firm, into Singletrack, a company that Swinburne Maddison has supported through its full life cycle – from start up to this milestone event.

Founded in 2009, Singletrack is an engagement, research management and analytics platform, purpose-built by industry professionals for capital markets, helping clients on both the sell and buy sides maximise revenue, efficiency and profitability. Based in London and with satellite offices in Newcastle and New York this investment will enable Singletrack to accelerate expansion plans into global markets and execute on strategic M&A.

Commenting on the year to date, Partner and Head of the Corporate and Commercial team, Martyn Tennant said: “It has been an extremely productive time for the entire firm – and while we are only half-way through our financial year, which began on 1st May, revenue is up 14.6% on the same period last year. So, we are performing well in terms of achieving our strategic goals, expanding our team and enhancing our reputation, which all combine to lay firm foundations for the future.

“In terms of our strategic direction, we will continue to look at opportunities as and when they present themselves, but our immediate plan is very much continued organic growth with a focus on more senior-level recruitment across all teams.” 11

Giving back

With many of our Partners and senior lawyers playing an active role as board members and trustees for charities across the region –including The Dunelm Foundation, Suubi Africa UK and Feeding Families – fundraiser dinners are a staple in our events diary and we have been humbled by the generosity of everyone who has attended these events and helped to raise valuable funds.

Alongside our sponsorship of a range of local sporting clubs, we were delighted to return as sponsor for the renowned Durham Regatta and also The DASH!, an athletics event exclusively for primary school children which promotes sport and physical activity as a positive lifestyle choice for children and their families.

We also sent a team of volunteers to work the water station at this year’s Durham City Run, keeping the thirsty runners hydrated and cheering on anyone who needed a few words of encouragement at the half way point.

Our CSR team have been working hard over the last 12 months to ensure that we continue to deliver on all aspects of our CSR strategy and since the start of this year we have supported a wide range of local charities, cultural events and community initiatives.

As long-standing supporters of Durham Cathedral we were very proud to see our name inscribed in the Liber Vitae or ‘Book of Life’ earlier this year, alongside other individuals and organisations who have given generously to the Cathedral over the years. The tradition of recording benefactors’ details in this way dates back to the middle ages and was re-established in 2007 with the creation of a new Liber Vitae, specifically designed and bound for Durham Cathedral. A great honour indeed.

And, as regular sponsors of Durham Book Festival, we were delighted to be approached this year to be the festival’s first access sponsor, allowing the provision of Stagetext live captions at all of their Gala Theatre events. Stagetext are a deaf-led charity, passionate about making culture accessible to all. They employ the latest technology and set the highest standards in access, to give everyone a complete and equal experience of the arts. It was great to see these captions in action at the “Audience with Alexander McCall Smith” event back in October.

As always, our team have blown us away with their own individual efforts too, making a huge difference to some of the most vulnerable members of our community through their generous donations to our two collections for Durham Food Bank; one just prior to the school Summer holidays and one in the run up to Christmas.

A huge thank you to all of our team for their ongoing support and to all of the charities out there doing such valuable work in very challenging times. 13

Meet our Fantastic Four

Swinburne Maddison is passionate about attracting and retaining talent. As Durham’s leading law firm, it is important that we support our aspiring lawyers and provide a positive environment for them to excel. In fact, 7 out of 11 of our current Partners began their careers at the firm, either as articled clerks or trainee solicitors, so you could say we have a long history of growing our talent from within.

There are many ways to become a lawyer, be it through CILEx, a solicitor apprenticeship or by the more traditional University-LPCtraining contract route.

We are delighted that, for the first time ever, we have four trainees currently training with us – with another two joining us next year! If the ability, dedication and drive of our current cohort is anything to go by, the future is very bright.

The life of a trainee can be a busy one, with lots of new skills to learn and many surprising twists and turns along the way. With the right support, and an approachable network of experienced colleagues around you, we hope that it is an exciting and rewarding one too. We sat down with each of our four current trainees to ask them some questions and find out a bit more about their day-to-day roles.

Commenced October 2022, First seat: Dispute Resolution

How does studying law compare to working at a law firm?

The main difference between studying law and working at the firm is the application of knowledge. Instead of working towards the goal of receiving a high grade at University, at a law firm you are applying your knowledge to real-world scenarios and seeing first-hand the consequences on regular people. It is far more stimulating and rewarding, albeit more challenging, than just studying the theory.

Describe the Dispute Resolution team in 3 words? Compassionate, supportive and (incredibly) hard-working.

What has been the highlight of your time at the firm so far?

The obvious answer has to be receiving my training contract! It’s safe to say that this next step in my career represents my effort since starting University and I’m very grateful.

For a slightly less ‘professional’ achievement, I’m on a winning streak with firm social events at the moment, having won the Annual Egg and Spoon race with Julie Rushton and David Low earlier this year (which was very intense!) and then winning the Mr Bean cardboard cut-out at our “Bongo’s Bingo” inspired summer party. Who wouldn’t be happy with that?

Brooke Jefferson


You recently moved into our Private Client team. Is this an area of law that appeals to you?

Definitely! I find working in the Private Client team very interesting and rewarding as you are meeting individuals looking to plan their future or supporting those who may have lost a loved one. I enjoy being able to get to know my clients on a personal level and helping to provide them with a solution, whatever their individual circumstances.

What workplace values are important to you?

When starting out in your career you need to feel supported first and foremost. At Swinburne Maddison I already feel trusted to do a good job which, in turn, has improved my confidence and made me feel like a valued member of the team. The firm has a great office space, a good atmosphere, and a lot of positive and pragmatic people who are willing to help if you need anything. All of the Partners operate an “open door policy” and are approachable if you ever have any questions, which really makes you feel like you work in a place which values teamwork and collaboration.

How do you relax after a busy day/week in the office?

I am a bit of a foodie, so there is nothing better than finishing work for the week and having a nice takeaway or a meal out, usually an Italian, followed by a couple of cocktails. I also find going on a nice walk quite relaxing – occasionally.

September 2022, First seat: Private Client

Ashley Patterson

Commenced May 2021, First seat: Corporate and Commercial

You worked as a PA in the Corporate team prior to starting your training contract. What has been the most interesting deal you have worked on during your five years with the firm?

There are two deals which stand out. The first involved our team advising the shareholders of Amberstone Security Group Limited in connection with the investment made by Argenbright Holdings LLC earlier this year – this was the biggest deal I had ever played a part in and involved quite a few late nights, but it was great to work with the team and other departments and see how everyone pulls together to get the deal done, and it was a great learning experience. The other was the sale of Sirius Renewable Energy when I was a secretary. This deal completed just as the country went into the first lockdown. Getting it over the line was a huge relief for the team and the client!

Trainees are typically required to rotate “seats” several times during a training contract. How easy is it to adjust to a new team?

I can see how this could be nerve-wracking, but here it is absolutely fine. Everyone knows each other and are always very welcoming and supportive. I have recently moved into the Dispute Resolution team from Corporate and it can take some time to get to grips with how your new team operates. In Corporate, a lot of the work can be project based, however our Dispute lawyers can be instructed on a significant number of different files at any one time, with extra added pressures of strict court deadlines. It’s impressive to see how they manage this and it’s a great experience!

Which work/social event is the highlight of your calendar?

The Insider North East Dealmaker Awards is always such a great night and the perfect opportunity for us to celebrate our achievements over the past year.

Everyone knows each other and are always very welcoming and supportive. I have recently moved into the Dispute Resolution team from Corporate it can take some time to get to grips with how your new team operates.

You are currently sitting in our Commercial Property team. What type of clients do you deal with here?

It’s a complete mixture. Since joining the team, I have worked with developer clients, such as Esh Group, assisting them with land purchases, lenders such as Atom Bank who provide lending for business owners and private landlords and businesses who are looking to lease or purchase premises for commercial use. I also deal with various other contacts such as agents and banks.

Many of our clients have a longstanding relationship with the firm and you get to know the people you are dealing with so it doesn’t feel as ‘transactional’ as you may think.

What advice would you give to a young student considering a career in the law?

Keep an open mind as to which area of law might be for you. At University, something which you may have really enjoyed studying, in practice you might not enjoy at all – and vice versa.

You are an active member of the Swinburne Maddison social committee. What does that involve? The social committee is something I asked to be involved with. There are six of us from across fee earner and support staff roles who come together to plan and execute the firm’s social calendar. This ranges from the annual summer and Christmas parties to beach walks with the team and their families (dogs included!). It’s great fun and I always take time to speak with my colleagues throughout the firm to make sure there’s something on the calendar for everyone.

Since joining the team, I have worked with developer clients, such as Esh Group, assisting them with land purchases, lenders such as Atom Bank who provide lending for business owners and private landlords and businesses who are looking to lease or purchase premises for commercial use. 15
Liam Musgrave Commenced April 2022, First seat: Commercial Property

The inheritance tax headache

Tax rates are a hot topic this year, Inheritance tax (IHT) especially so with many considering it to be the most unfair tax of all. So, when does IHT apply and what can you do to minimise its impact?

Partner and Head of the Swinburne Maddison Private Client team, Anna Stephenson, teams up with Corryn Wild, Director and Chartered Financial Planner at Three Counties, to answer some common questions on IHT and explain how the hugely useful Business Relief may apply to more of us than we think.

First things first, is IHT always going to be payable?

No, not for everyone. Generally, IHT will not be payable on estates below the value of £500,000. This tax-free threshold is made up of the “nil rate band” allowance of £325,000 and the “residence nil rate band” allowance of £175,000.

However, for estates which exceed the value of £500,000, the part of the estate which is above the tax-free threshold may be taxed at the standard rate of 40%.

The good news is that the nil rate allowances I’ve mentioned are both frozen until 2026. Not only that, these allowances are transferrable between spouses and civil partners, vesting a potential maximum inheritance tax-free threshold of £1m on a second death. As with all things tax-related, I would always recommend that you take specialist legal and financial advice to ensure you fully understand the allowances at your disposal and any criteria which apply, so that your affairs remain as tax-efficient as possible. Careful Will drafting and estate planning may also assist in preserving these allowances, maximising the value of the estate that ultimately reaches your loved ones.

What are the “top tools” you recommend to clients who want to reduce their IHT bill?

Lifetime gifting and the 7-year clock

Making a gift of capital during your lifetime – either absolutely or via trust – is a useful way of reducing the value of your estate. For example, offering assistance to your children to ease their mortgage worries.

Provided that you survive the making of the gift by 7 years, the value will fall outside of your estate for IHT purposes, and give you the opportunity to see the gift being enjoyed by your chosen beneficiaries. Just be careful not to reserve a benefit in a gifted asset, for example by transferring the ownership of your main residence, as this could jeopardise your residence nil rate band allowance; a trap which many unfortunately fall into.

Gifts out of surplus income

Making gifts out of surplus income is a tool often misunderstood or under-utilised. After paying your monthly outgoings, do you have surplus income building up which is boosting the value of your estate? If so, consider establishing a pattern of gifting this surplus, perhaps topping up the nursery fees of your grandchildren?

Anna starts off with an overview of the current IHT rules and some of the most popular methods of mitigating your tax liability.
Could Business Relief be your secret weapon against IHT liability?

Charitable donations

Gifting 10% or more of your residuary estate to charity under your Wills can reduce the rate of IHT from 40% to 36%.

What other reliefs are available?

Agricultural Relief and Business Relief are valuable reliefs from IHT. Clearly, Agricultural Relief is one for farmers to utilise, but Business Relief can prove useful to more of us than you might think. And it’s considerable; Business Relief can provide IHT relief at a hefty rate of 50%, or even 100%!

Assets qualifying for 100% relief include:-

• Shares in an unlisted company

• A sole trader business or share in a partnership; and

• Shares listed on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM)

50% Business Relief is also available in respect of:-

• Shares in a quoted trading company, in which the individual has voting rights; and

• Land, buildings or plant and machinery owned by the individual and used in their partnership or a company that they control.

The business must be “wholly or mainly” trading to qualify for Business Relief and you must have owned the relevant business property for at least two years before the relief can apply.

What are the key benefits of using Business Relief to reduce IHT liability?

Firstly, obtaining Business Relief is much faster than many other methods of reducing IHT liability. Typically, a Business Relief investor can benefit from a reduction to their IHT liability after only 2 years. This is particularly useful if someone is concerned that they may not survive for 7 years, the term required for many other methods of reducing IHT.

In addition, you retain ownership of the asset. Many methods of reducing IHT involve making gifts of capital or income, either directly or via trust. Whilst this works well for some, for many gifting is not appropriate. Perhaps they feel their family is not ready to receive significant sums of money, or maybe they expect to use the capital themselves at a future point. Business Relief investments can be held by an individual, in their own name and encashed in future years if and when the capital is required.

Is Business Relief only for people in business?

Definitely not. Although Business Relief is obtained by business owners, this tax break is also available to private investors. Business Relief investment portfolios are mostly used by people in two specific situations:

Firstly, those individuals who have recently sold their interest in a business, perhaps to retire, or to seek a new business venture. When they sold the business, their entitlement Business Relief was relinquished. This means the value of their former business is now within their estate, potentially subject to tax at 40% in the event of their death. In this situation, a portfolio of Business Relief investments can be used as a ‘holding pen’ for their money, whilst they take time to decide their next move. Providing the new investment is made within three years of the sale of their business, it is possible to obtain immediate Business Relief, without having to start a new 2-year clock.

The second situation commonly arises because, for many, the desire to reduce IHT liability often comes later in life, when they become more focussed on passing their wealth to future generations. Sadly, this often happens at a time when people are not confident they will survive 7 years. In this case, after exploring all other avenues, a Business Relief investment portfolio may be the most sensible option. Some portfolios can be used to fund future care costs, meaning it is possible to use Business Relief for estate planning without restricting your ability to pay for your desired standard of care.

What are the downsides to Business Relief investing?

Business Relief investments are, without doubt, considered high risk. For example:

Unlisted Business Relief investments may not be accessible immediately. Whilst many providers pride themselves on returning capital to investors within a short time period, typically around 30 days, this certainly isn’t guaranteed.

If you invest into companies which subsequently fail, there is a risk to your capital.You can lose money in Business Relief investments. It is therefore important to spread the risk using a portfolio which offers access to a wide range of business activities.

Business Relief has been around for over 40 years; as far as tax reliefs go, it’s relatively well tested and established. However, as with any tax legislation, this is always subject to change.

Please note that the content of this article should not be considered investment advice or any form of recommendation. This article does not purport to contain all information that a prospective investor may require and is subject to updating, revision and amendment. If you require investment advice, you should always consult an independent financial adviser.

Corryn tells us more.

Effectively recover your business debts

The pursuit of outstanding debts can become a significant and timeconsuming distraction when running a business, particularly for SMEs who may not have the credit control resources or cash reserves of their larger counterparts.

Clearly, ignoring outstanding or overdue payments isn’t an advisable business strategy. So, what is the best way to tackle these bad debts and how can you ensure that your business gets paid within a reasonable time every time?

1. Be proactive, not reactive

The best tip I can give to any business owner who is worried about overdue bills is to stay ahead of the problem. Do your research and make sure you know exactly who you’re dealing with before taking on any work. Do they have an established reputation? Have you carried out a credit risk assessment?

2. Review your policies and procedures

Again, this is about avoiding the problem before it arises, but I can’t stress enough how important it is for every business to have a robust set of terms and conditions and a comprehensive credit policy in place. A good lawyer will be able to work with you to ensure that your current documentation is fit for purpose and suggest any amendments that may be required.

3. Get the facts

Even with all of the groundwork in place, there will still be occasions where debts become overdue. The first step in recovering this debt is to work out exactly what it is that’s stopping you from getting paid. Were your payment terms clear and visible? Have you included a Purchase Order where one is asked for? Are they having staffing issues and the invoice hasn’t reached

the person authorised to pay it? There could be any number of reasons why you are waiting for payment. Be sure to take a moment to consider them all before you consider your next steps.

4. Act quickly

If, after you’ve eliminated all of the other possibilities, it is clear that your client or customer is having difficulty paying, take immediate action. The longer you delay, the more your client and customers will think they can get away with late payment and, as a general rule, the longer an invoice is overdue, the less likely you are to ultimately recover the debt. Send outstanding invoice reminders, charge interest on any late payments (assuming your terms and conditions allow you to do so) and – if all else fails – speak with a trusted lawyer to discuss whether it would be appropriate to commence legal proceedings.

Prior to any legal proceedings being issued, a Letter Before Action must first be sent to the debtor, requesting payment of the outstanding debt and warning of the imminent issue of a court claim. It is often the case that this letter is sufficient to make the client or customer to take the debt seriously.

5. Is it worth it?

Not all debts are worth pursuing. In some cases, the recovery of bad debt may cost your business more in terms of time and energy than you stand to gain in cash, so it is important to carefully consider whether it is in your best interests to take legal action or whether it would be better to just cut your losses.

It is also important to remember that legal proceedings do not necessarily result in payment. Even if a Judgment is obtained, this may have to be enforced if the debtor still does not pay. And, of course, if the funds simply aren’t available to cover the outstanding debt, the enforcement may not be successful.

If you do decide to pursue matters through the Courts then it is imperative that you take appropriate legal advice to ensure you

Based on a strong understanding of the practical realities of business, with a focus on providing proportionate and common-sense solutions, our Dispute Resolution team are a safe pair of hands to recover debt owed to both commercial and

For further information or guidance on any of the issues covered in this article – or for specialist advice on your own debt recovery procedures – please contact Jenna Keir-Kendrew by email at or by 0191 384 2441

HOW TO... 18

Firmwide success in the Legal 500

Following the announcement of the latest Legal 500 rankings in September this year we are delighted to share that Swinburne Maddison LLP has once again been recommended in eight separate practice areas – covering the full range of disciplines across the firm – and awarded three Top Tier positions.

The rankings are compiled following an extensive independent research process, which considers detailed examples of work as well as feedback received from thousands of client and peer interviews to identify the leading law firms in the UK. It goes without saying that we are immensely grateful to all of our clients and contacts who took the time to contribute to the research and provide their honest feedback on who we are and what we do. This year was particularly humbling as we received more referee responses than any other law firm in the region!

Congratulations are due to Sharney Randhawa, who this year was named a “Rising Star” alongside Gillian Moir and Abigail Zuk, with Kath Hill, Martyn Tennant and Victoria Walton retaining their “Leading Individual” status and David Low once again being named a “Next Generation Partner”.

We have set out below a rundown of all eight of our recommended practice areas, alongside some of the wonderful testimonials taken directly from latest edition.

Commercial Litigation (TOP TIER): ‘The team are highly approachable, accessible and communicate in clear, concise, jargon-free language.’

Commercial Property (TOP TIER): ‘Engaged and informed team, providing seamless service and timely action across all stages of our transaction.’

Corporate and Commercial (TOP TIER): ‘Whether it’s been a case of needing advice or support we’ve found Swinburne Maddison to be first class. With experts in all areas of business, we’ve been able to get specific help when needed. In a recent engagement the team went above and beyond what was required and displayed their class in how they conducted themselves, showing that the work they did was as much out of friendship and loyalty as it was as a result of a commercial relationship.’

Employment: ‘Extremely professional but friendly. I have used the Swinburne Maddison to support me to reach a settlement agreement with my previous employer. My husband’s business also used the team to support with employment contracts. We have both very much appreciated personal, immediate advice by telephone.’

Family: ‘The team were extremely friendly, kind and welcoming.’

Private Client: ‘I have found that in all my dealings with the firm I have been treated with respect and all members of staff from receptionist to partner that I have been in contact with are approachable, helpful and professional. I have recommended this firm to others.’

Property Litigation: ‘Swinburne Maddison are extremely experienced and have an excellent depth of knowledge and help us with a wide variety of queries and cases – this can be from an initial enquiry right through to court and possession.’

Social Housing: ‘Swinburne Maddison have provided highquality, consistent advice and services on a range of social housing related matters including land & property acquisitions, RTB/RTA disposals, shared ownership leases and other related matters’.

The team at Swinburne Maddison is absolutely fantastic. They are highly skilled knowledgeable and professional. Compared with other law firms I have dealt with they have taken ownership of my case from the onset and have ensured that at every juncture they have dealt quickly and efficiently with any matters that arisen and have kept me fully informed throughout.
In case you missed

In conversation with...

Sarah Slaven, MD of Business Durham, is coming to the end of her first year in post

At the end of 2021, no one could have foreseen the barrage of challenges that lay ahead – the war in Ukraine, the energy crisis, escalating inflation, the resignation of the Prime Minister and the refusal of Covid to completely disappear - so it is just as well that Sarah has no time for negativity.

Instead, she has been getting out and about to meet County Durham’s business community.

Her interim role, which began at the start of lockdown before her appointment was made permanent last December, certainly helped prepare her for what lay ahead, which was mainly focused on helping County Durham businesses survive Covid.

As the business support service for Durham County Council, Sarah and her team administered a raft of business support measures with help from the Durham Business Recovery Grant, which saw 349 businesses assisted and £5.26m distributed in grants, thanks to additional support from Durham County Council, on top of that provided by the Government.

At the same time, Business Durham’s Digital Drive funding was fast tracked to provide help when and where it was needed with digital health checks, workshops and masterclasses, while the Durham Business Opportunities Programme ensured that smaller businesses were made aware of the range of assistance available to them through Business Durham’s network.

The County Durham Growth Fund was able to help those companies that wished to expand their workforce or extend their premises to create new jobs - and there were some, even during Covid – while one of the key start-up programmes for the region, the Durham City Incubator (DCI), helped retain graduate talent, assisting would-be entrepreneurs to set up businesses in Durham on graduation.

This, Sarah explains, is what Business Durham support is all about: “We offer an eco-system of support through our various grants, and we hope that spin-out companies from Durham University will stay when they see what is on offer here. Swinburne Maddison has been really supportive of the DCI programme, providing legal packs and advice on what you need to do when setting up a company.

“We are now starting to get some traction around the fact that County Durham is a good place to set up a business – we have not been in this position before – and then we can find growing enterprises a place in our property portfolio for the next stage in their development.”

... So, how has it been?

One such start-up, sustainable materials business, Low Carbon Materials (formerly known as Sphera), which looks set to take the construction sector by storm, is a prime example of the support available for all stages of the business journey, moving from Durham City Incubator support, to Business Durham’s Fishburn Industrial Estate units and during 2022, moving again to an expanded unit offering 11,195 sq ft of prime industrial space at Jade Business Park with a County Durham Growth Fund grant. Sarah continues: “In spite of all the difficulties, 2022 has been a good year and we have achieved against all our KPIs and developed a strong platform to build on.

“Property is a key strand of income for us as it supports what we do in Business Durham. Jade Business Park is doing particularly well – all seven units are full - and we have just received planning permission for Phase 2, which will provide 550,000 sq ft of floorspace and potentially a further 1,000 jobs.

“We are also starting to fill units at Station Place at Aycliffe Business Park where there are new, good quality units suitable for small businesses, which we know are in high demand.

“NETPark however, is our jewel in the crown and is now 100% occupied. Our vision was to create a science and technology park – a home for R&D-based businesses – and we are thrilled at its success and the progress in a global context of some of its tenants, such as Kromek and Filtronic, and our partnership with Durham University and CPI located onsite.

“And recently, we have also been given the go ahead by Durham County Council for the next phase of NETPark, which will offer 270,000 sq ft of industrial space – double the size of the existing science park – where we will be able to offer space for scale-up manufacturing. We already have five or six current tenants who are interested in a larger unit on Phase 3, which promises to be a very attractive relocation proposition.

“If all goes according to plan, NETPark Phase 3 should commence in the spring of next year, with completion in autumn 2024, supporting a further 1200-1250 new jobs.”

On the immediate horizon, however, is the energy crisis and how local businesses are going to deal with it. Sarah continues: “The Government’s support package is only a six-month fix, and businesses plan much further ahead than that, which makes it a particularly challenging time, without all the other global factors.

“When we visit businesses, the two main topics under discussion are access to skilled people and the energy crisis. Alas, Business

Durham’s pockets are not deep enough to help with the energy crisis, but what we can do is to ensure that our programmes help businesses look at options to be more productive and energy efficient.

“With the move towards NET Zero, combined with rising energy costs, companies are noticing more than ever the amount of energy they are using, so NET Zero is now in sharp focus. They have become open to changing their processes so they use less energy, and our role is to highlight what is available in the way of support, introducing them to funding they may not be aware of.

“We are also fortunate to have some companies here in the North East that are at the forefront of electrification and new product development in sustainable energy such as British Volt, Nissan’s gigafactory, Envision, and Power Roll at Jade Business Park, with its disruptive technology and mission to dramatically increase the worldwide uptake of solar power.”

Looking ahead, Sarah reckons there are plenty of reasons to be cheerful in spite of the doom and gloom some would subject us to, such as the development of the Aykley Heads Business Park, right on her doorstep – a great employment site for incoming fintech and digital companies - and the launch of the ‘County Durham Pound’, which is asking large, local employers how they can use their spending power to create more wealth for the county. Then there is the Government’s Shared Prosperity Fund, which is likely to be used to fill the funding gaps left by the absence of European funding.

“She concludes, part of our job is to talk about the positives in Business Durham. We see some great activities and attitudes from businesses in the face of many difficulties. The last two years have demonstrated the resilience of businesses in the region because the business community has really pulled together. When all is said and done, ours is really quite a simple message: County Durham is a great place to have a successful business.”

As a long-established Durham business ourselves, we wholeheartedly agree.

The personal stuff:

What are your three main goals for Business Durham while you are MD?

Building the team to ensure we can continue what has already been achieved, long into the future.

Seeing NETPark 3 up and running.

Raising awareness beyond the region about County Durham as a place to do business – there are too many people who do not know about its many attractions as a business location.

And outside of work?

I live in Cullercoats so there is plenty of scope for walking on the beach. In fact, I like to spend a lot of my time outdoors and if not walking, cycling or gardening, preferably spending time with my two teenage boys who have grown up so quickly.

What drives you mad? Negativity in all its forms.
We offer an eco-system of support through our various grants, and we hope that spin-out companies from Durham University will stay when they see what is on offer here. Swinburne Maddison has been really supportive of the DCI programme, providing legal packs and advice on what you need to do when setting up a company.


Lying under the Christmas tree (by myself or with the kids) to investigate the presents and guess what they are! It’s a sure-fire way of building excitement in the run up to the big day.

Carolyn Beal, Practice Manager

Ice cream Sundaes at Minchella’s Ice Cream Parlour on Christmas Eve, followed by Uncle Buck on the telly. John Candy is a festive favourite in our house.

Katherine Minnis, Marketing

Christmas Eve PJs are a must every year!

Eleanor Uren, HR

As well as an annual Christmas quiz, I have a family tradition of a Harry Potter movie marathon in the run up to Christmas. I used to do this with my older brother, but this has now become a tradition with my girlfriend instead.”

Alex Siddle, Corporate and Commercial

22 The last six months in numbers
Thank You! celebrity guest at our staff summer party... New Recruits! 10 Awards 2 Shiny New 1website 1 new followers 165
We asked our team… “What is your favourite Christmas tradition?”

Every Christmas Eve I read The Night Before Christmas. My Dad used to read it to me (up until the year before I was married!) and now I read it to my daughter. It’s my favourite ever book.

Victoria Walton, Commercial Property

Join our team

Why Swinburne Maddison? Why not!

We’re always on the lookout for great people to join our team but we also want to make sure we are the right fit for each other.

Are you:-

Personally I like to do something handy over the Christmas period, like cure bacon or brew beer, but my fiancée and I also have a growing tradition of stockpiling the rather delightful M&S Clementine & Cranberry Bucks Fizz as if we are prepping for the apocalypse.

James Curran, Dispute Resolution

My favourite tradition is definitely going to chop our own trees down and trying to fit them in the car to bring back and decorate!

Even though my son is 24, we have always watched films on Christmas Eve and they have to be Home Alone 2: Lost in New York and The Santa Clause. We will be doing it again this year!

Glenda Henderson, Accounts

For the past two years the Stammers family have been doing an annual Christmas Day quiz. So far I have won every year and have two mini trophies!

Sara Stammers, Marketing

Self-assured but not arrogant

Full of beans with stamina to match

Fresh but not flighty Professional but not reserved Independent but a strong team player A fast learner with the emotional intelligence to match

And all about the solutions not problems – legal solutions that fit of course!

You might think we are being choosy but our people make us who we are. It’s so important for our team and our clients that we build on what we have achieved over the last 25 years and pick the right personalities to help us get there. We are very proud of our past and even more excited about our future.

Before we go any further, let’s tell you a bit more about us:-

We aren’t big city – we are quite stunning though We aren’t bright lights – but our cathedral has hundreds of them We aren’t sharp suits – but we are comfortable in our own skin

And we certainly aren’t central motorway – but we do have our own parking

Wherever you might be on the career ladder, if you think you might be a good match for our DNA and want to learn more about how you can be part of our future plans then please get in touch with our HR Coordinator, Eleanor Uren, on 0191 384 2441 (eau@ for a chat in confidence.

To apply for any of our current vacancies, please visit the Careers section of our website by scanning the QR code below. 23
Aykley Heads Durham 0191 384 2441 Commercial • Commercial Property • Conveyancing • Dispute Resolution • Employment Law • Family, • Notarial • Private Client
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