Stone King’s Chair, Alison Allen, has just achieved the impressive milestone of a quarter of a century at the Bath-headquartered law firm.
She joined the firm in 1998 as a solicitor in the trusts and estates team, at a time when Stone King had just one other office in London. Since then, it has grown considerably and now operates nationally, with additional offices in Bristol, Birmingham, Cambridge, Leeds and Manchester.
The focus then, as it is now, was on the firm’s work for the charity, education and private client sectors. These days, the firm also specialises in business and social enterprise and faith law, with Stone King top-ranked by independent legal guides Chambers and the Legal 500.
“I was five years qualified when I came to Stone King and had just had my first child, my eldest daughter, who was just one,” said Alison.
“What struck me about Stone King was the quality of the work and the high degree of professionalism, balanced with a friendly, supportive culture and a strong family focus.
“It wasn’t easy being a professional woman with a family back then. Enhanced maternity leave wasn’t around in the profession in the 90s and people just weren’t looked after as much as they are now.
“Like many women then, I went back to work when my eldest daughter was 16 weeks old, which was very difficult.
“When I had my twins three years later, I managed to take six months off. Of course, it was still very hard working and caring for a young family; I can remember having to prepare 18 bottles of milk every day before I came to work.
“I’m so pleased that, at Stone King, women are now supported to take a year out on maternity leave, with paternity leave also very much the standard.”
As well as being Stone King’s Chair, Alison is Head of the firm’s Private Client Sector. She advises on general private client matters, including inheritance tax, trust drafting and administration and Wills. She also specialises in advising older and vulnerable clients and their families and carers, something she particularly enjoys.
A lot has changed in the legal sector since Alison began training as a lawyer, not least people being able to smoke in the office, no computers and a mountain of paperwork and post.
These days, technology has aided the legal sector, benefitting clients who cannot come into the office. It also means the days of being surrounded by papers are, thankfully, long gone.
There have been societal changes too, with law firms, like wider society, recognising the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I).
“At Stone King, it’s become the norm to accept that it is the responsibility of those leading to implement changes,” Alison said.
“Even though we’ve got a way to go, as an organisation there’s a real commitment to getting there.
“I’m pleased and proud of the fact that DE&I has become central to everything that we do.
“We’re also involved in several projects and initiatives that aim to diversify the legal profession and provide more opportunities to people from low-income and other under-represented backgrounds, such as our partnerships with Bright Network, Tutors United, our participation in the 10,000 Black Interns scheme, and the fact that we are a Disability Confident Employer.
“I also think our apprenticeships are fantastic. They’re one of the best things that have happened to enable people to come into law and feel like there’s a route through for them.”