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East Midlands-based law firm looks back as it celebrates 35th birthday

FROM a small office above a grocery store to a leading, regional law firm employing almost 200 people – Nelsons Solicitors this month celebrates its 35th birthday.

Nelsons, which now has offices across the East Midlands, was set up in Nottingham in 1983 – a time when law firms were not allowed to do anything to directly attract work and simply had to wait for clients to come to them.

Tim Hastings, chairman and solicitor who co-founded Nelsons, said:

“We even had a debate about whether a ‘please enter’ sign on the front door was a regulatory breach.

“We had to think outside of the box. While we couldn’t tout, we could at least always be available. So, in an era when our competitors’ doors were bolted during lunch times, we printed our home phone numbers on our letterhead and business cards and offered a 24-hour service.

“As well as testing the boundaries of old fashioned professional rules, we recognised the need to be good at what we did. We learned lessons quickly and were both hungry to succeed and afraid of failure in equal measure.”

Three years later, in 1986, the rules changed and Nelsons ran its first local adverts on buses and jingles on the radio, as well as full national TV campaigns.

Mr Hastings said:

“The profession was slow to react but we had nothing to lose. Our energy then speaks for the spirit and confidence of the firm, which was our defining feature. Local rivals predicted our downfall but this never deterred us because we had self-belief.”

By 1999, Nelsons had become one the largest criminal law firms in the country and opened offices in Leicester and Derby. It also completed seven mergers with long-established law firms within just 18 months. Just seven years later, Nelsons took the momentous decision to drop criminal law, focussing on corporate and private clients.

Now, Mr Hastings is working with new chief executive Stewart Vandermark – combining fresh ideas with insights and experience gathered over the past 35 years.

Mr Hastings said:

“I’ve known for years from networking with other managing partners and CEOs that we are head of the curve in many ways, and it’s reassuring that Stewart is hearing it too as he now treads the same circuit.”

Mr Vandermark added: “Many of us joined Nelsons after it became a regional firm and then a ‘regional heavyweight’, according to Legal 500.

“But when Tim and the other founders opened its doors, they took a gamble by setting up a young upstart firm, willing to push some boundaries and create something new.

“It is that spirit of disruption, of pushing boundaries to put clients first, that is at the heart of the story of Nelsons and a reason why it has grown so rapidly. We need to keep true to that spirit as we enter into the next phase of our journey.

“I’m immensely proud of how far Nelsons has come. It’s a unique story – from a small office above a shop to a leading law firm in just 35 years. Nelsons has always been, and must continue to be, willing to push forward so we can find new and better ways to serve clients.”

For more information on Nelsons Solicitors, please visit or call 0800 024 1976.

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