Latimer Hinks solicitors, one of Darlington and County Durhams longest established law firms, has celebrated the retirement of its longest serving member of staff.
In 1963 Mary Everitt joined the firm based in Priestgate on a three month trial. "They never did tell me if I passed! she says. 49 years later she has seen major changes within the way law is practised and has been involved in cases which have been of importance to the local area.
Having arrived as a junior secretary, Mary, who was born in Darlington her grandfather had a bakery in Gladstone Street worked alongside some of the towns best known lawyers, including Charles Hinks, Eric Marsham and, for 21 years, Tony Little.
When Anne Elliott joined the firm in 1976 Mary helped her to promote and expand the already well established Latimer Hinks Private Client Department, which Anne still heads up today. The two have worked together in that Department until Marys retirement and will continue to have a close working relationship, in that Mary acts as Annes personal assistant in connection with her role as Under Sheriff of the County Palatine of Durham.
When Mary joined the firm, it was known as Latimer Hinks Marsham and Little, a name which was the result of a 1950s merger. The name only changed in the late 1980s, when the decision was made to shorten it. Already based in Priestgate, the firms offices expanded as it took over the neighbouring fish shop and the Co-Op confectionery shop, as well as taking space above the Kings Head Hotel.
Whilst Mary has seen many changes, such as the move from manual typewriters to computers and from hand tracing and carbon paper to photocopying, she says: "Latimer Hinks has always based and prided itself upon personal service that continues. It is very much a family firm in the context of serving several generations of families
"Originally, one lawyer would deal with all aspects of a clients work. Now teams specialise in different areas of work, but there is still, and I hope there will always be, that element of personal service contact and knowledge of the Client.
"We have dealt with some families over the whole of the 49 years that I have worked for the practice. I have received e-mails from as far away as the US, wishing me luck and commenting that I probably know more about their families than they do.
Mary was working with Eric Marsham, when she was involved in a case where farmers whose land was on the banks of the River Tees were fighting plans for a weir at Croft. "We won, she says proudly, "and theres still no weir at Croft.
Anne said: "Mary has seen so much in her time at Latimer Hinks, not only within the firm, but also in Darlington and the surrounding areas. The knowledge and experience she has built up has been hugely valuable, not only to me and the rest of the Private Client team but to the firm as a whole.
"I am delighted, and relieved, that Mary has agreed to continue to work with me in relation to my role as Under Sheriff. She will be greatly missed at Priestgate by colleagues and clients alike, many of whom are now very good friends.