While the Law Society is celebrating its 150th anniversary, it is relatively young in comparison with some firms of solicitors which can trace their roots back 400 years.So far my enquiries have revealed three firms dating back to the 16th century.The Kent firm Thomson Snell & Passmore appeared in the 1984 edition of the Guinness Book of Records as the 'most durable firm of solicitors'.
An articled clerk working at the firm's office in Tonbridge, Kent, came across large numbers of very old deeds in metal boxes in an attic when the firm was moving to new premises.These records enabled the honorary archivist f or Tonbridge, Douglas Elliott, to trace the history of the firm back to Nicholas Hooper, the local curate and part-time scrivener, in 1570.In 1991, a London firm, Pickering Kenyon, took over the title in the Guinness Book of Records, having traced its history back to 1561, when William Umbervyle was admitted at the Middle Temple.
In 1730 Umbervyle's great-great-great-great-grandson, William Umfreville, was admitted as a solicitor, and practised at the firm.Umfreville was followed shortly by George Andree and Edward Pickering.
The Pickerings continued to practise in the firm until 1940, when RHE Umfreville Pickering died.
Harold Kenyon joined as a partner from 1926 to 1930.Pickering Kenyon is proud of the fact that it is the only law firm entitled to bear arms.
The letters patent granting armorial bearings were presented to the partners in 1988.The third firm which has survived from the 16th century is the Hitchin firm now known as Hawkins Russell Jones.
The firm was founded in 1591 by John Skynner, a native of Norwich.
The firm became known as Hawkins & Co in 1832.
In 1987 the firm merged with Russell Jones & Co, of Welwyn Garden City and Hatfield to form Hawkins Russell Jones.Reginald L Hine, who was a member of the firm for 35 years, recalls details of the firm's history in his book Confessions of an Un-common Attorney.1995