Amid all the doom and gloom about what may befall the UK and its relationship with the rest of the European Union following Brexit, at least someone in Britain has had a very positive start to 2019. Just three days in, Adam Waller, the director of the property and commercial team at Graham & Rosen Solicitors, had secured a third of his target business for the first month: “It’s good to see a further increase in work so early in the year,” he says, “business confidence remains high and we are looking forward to a busy year in 2019.”
Waller admits that the high level of demand for the firm’s services so soon in the year is not normal, but, then again, we do seem to be living in interesting times. Back in 1997, when he decided to study a degree in Law and German at the University of the West of England, Waller imagined that “Europe would play an important part in my future.” He is still convinced that it will, albeit in a rather different form than he originally envisaged.
After finishing his studies in Bristol and spending a year working for a law firm in Hannover, Waller moved back to his home town of York to attend law school, before beginning his first job with Graham & Rosen in 2002 as a conveyancing assistant. He then completed his two-year training contract at the firm before qualifying as a solicitor in 2005. In 2012, he became head of the property department and, later that year, a director. And, in 2017, he brought together all the firm’s commercial and property specialists into a single team.
Today, Graham & Rosen employs some 50 people, of which Waller and three other partners are directors, with almost half of the total headcount accounted for by solicitors, legal assistants, chartered legal executives, and other fee earners. Headquartered in the same building in Hull city centre since the 1880s, it is a full “high-street business,” Waller says, serving clients’ every legal need throughout their entire lives.
The Hull office houses the property and commercial team, as well as the firm’s family, labour law, litigation, personal injury, probate (inheritance law), tax and trust departments, while its Cottingham branch concentrates on probate and real estate matters: “We can help with everything from buying and selling property; getting married and divorced; setting up, growing and closing a business; and with wills and personal property distribution,” Waller says.
Waller’s department now handles commercial and residential real estate transactions and financing operations, acting on behalf of both lenders and small and medium-sized businesses, while also looking after all kinds of corporate law cases. These include everything from business mergers and transfers, to trademark disputes and advising both British and European clients on the legal implications of doing business across borders, something which looks set to become much more complicated over the course of 2019 and beyond.
“Trademark regulation and protection is going to be a major issue,” Waller predicts, once EU legislation no longer applies in the UK. “Companies that trade in and with the UK are asking what they need to think about. Do they have to establish a base here? What are the tax advantages and disadvantages? And how are costs and customs requirements between us and Europe going to change? Is their business brand protected?”
Waller is bullish about the potential for Graham & Rosen, and TEN, the European Network of Law Firms, as a whole to benefit from increased, rather than reduced, cooperation on cross-border questions after Brexit occurs.
He is seeing real scope for his firm, and its counterparts across the other 17 European Union member states in which TEN is currently present, to make the most of their potential to provide for expert and trusted commercial law advice: “B2B trade is already a big issue for our business clients,” he notes, “but the scale of B2C sales, with 10, 20 or more clients, is much more significant and complex.”
This is particularly important for companies that want to be cost- and time-efficient, he insists, which basically describes almost everyone who does business across borders: “Smaller companies cannot afford to build up stocks to serve possible demand,” Waller points out. “It’s simply too expensive. And customs delays and duties could ruin smaller players as they can’t get stock across Europe quickly. We and TEN can really help business clients keep moving seamlessly throughout the EU.”
When not at work, Waller practices a wide range of sports – “I ski, shoot and fence,” he says – revealing that both Mr and Mrs Waller recently represented England and Wales respectively in fencing at the Commonwealth Games in Australia. His wife even took home the bronze medal, thanks in part to her husband’s coaching, Waller says. Waller also races dirt-track motorcycles, although an accident last year has left him temporarily in the pit lane.