Business Profile: Ramsdens lawyer Helen Thewlis
May 25 2010 by Henryk Zientek, Huddersfield Daily Examiner
Buisiness Profile: Ramsdens lawyer Helen Thewlis
WHEN Helen Thewlis first contemplated a career in the law, she didn’t reckon on being a solicitor.
“I always wanted to join the police,” she says. “But I couldn’t pass the eye test. I cried for a day when I found out.
“I was already at law school by that stage, having thought that would get me through the police ranks more quickly. I was thinking more of ‘law and order’ than just the law.”
Helen grew up in Brockholes and was educated at Honley High School and Huddersfield Technical College, where she gained a BTec in business and finance.
She went on to Leeds University, having decided to study law because she had enjoyed the topic at college. She later attended the College of Law in York.
Helen trained with her father’s practice of Kidd Miller & Co in Holmfirth before its merger with Ramsdens in 1999.
She did “the usual mixed bag” of law, such as conveyancing, wills and probate.
“It gave me a good grounding, “ she says. “When you work for a small team, you have to do everything.”
Since then, she has seen a series of mergers which has transformed Ramsdens into one of the biggest law firms in Kirklees and Calderdale with offices in Huddersfield town centre, Edgerton, Elland, Holmfirth, Slaithwaite and Halifax.
The firm now has about 130 staff in total and 14 partners.
The firm covers areas including commercial property and litigation, employment law and sports law as well as personal injury, residential property, wills, probate and inheritance tax planning.
Its commercial team is based at Oakley House, Edgerton,
“We are a proactive firm and we are always looking to expand,” says Helen, who is partner and head of the family law department.
“Over the past 10 years, we have grown substantially.
“As recently as 2002, the family department consisted of just me! Now we have a department of six fee earners and their support staff.
“Family law has always been my specialism.”
Helen is a “collaboratively trained lawyer”. Collaborative law is a relatively new process whereby couples separating try to resolve their difficulties as a team rather than as adversaries.
Helen, who is based at the firm’s six-storey office block in Ramsden Street, is also a member of Resolution, a group which trains and commits lawyers to deal with matters in a non-controversial way.
Says Helen: “Mediation was introduced as the way to tackle disputes and on the back of that came the idea of collaborative law.
“Regrettably, it does not work for every person and there are still some very bitter, contested divorces, but you deal with each clients the way that best suits their needs. What is right for one person will not be the best for someone else.
“Here, in Huddersfield, we have quite a few trained collaborative lawyers.
“That makes it easier to deal with cases in a town like Huddersfield than it would be in a city like Leeds where there are a lot more lawyers and a lot more competition.
“Here, we want to try to resolve matters as amicably and reasonably as possible.”
Says Helen: “Huddersfield has a good, tight-knit business community. There is human contact.
“I was never tempted to go to a city firm. I experienced city life when I was at university and at law school.
“I don’t want to be stuck on the M62 commuting to Leeds. We go to Leeds quite often enough as it is!”
Helen says: “I have been very fortunate in my career at Ramsdens. People know each other. You are a name rather than a number.
“As a firm, that is something we like to ensure that our staff know all the partners and that as partners we are very approachable.”
Helen is an active member of the Kirklees and Calderdale Collaborative Law Group and also assists the Law Society with family law training.
She also plays a part in Ramsdens’ mentoring arrangements at Huddersfield University.
Helen and her children – seven-year-old Victoria and two-year-old William – are keen fans of Huddersfield Giants and are regulars at the club’s Galpharm Stadium games.
“It is a good, family-orientated environment in which to take the children,” she says.
“We are season ticket holders and have been following them for the past five years or so.
“I follow Huddersfield Town’s fortunes although I don’t attend the matches.
“Town’s result is always the first one I look for.
“And, of course, I was rooting for them in the play-offs.”
Helen no longer dwells on her thwarted ambitions to join the police.
“I love my job,” she says. “Even though I seem to spend more time at work than I do at home. I sometimes call my office my bedroom!”