What we now know as Birchall Blackburn Law was originally Birchall & Co, a small sole practitioner practice founded by Mr Dennis Birchall.
Dennis Birchall originally began work at the age of 14 with Preston solicitor Edwin Napthen. He then volunteered for the Royal Ordnance Corps and was involved in the North Africa and Sicily campaigns. On his return, he joined the practice of Mr Marsden as an articled clerk and took his exams in Guildford in 1947. He left this practice shortly after qualifying and set up on his own as Birchall & Co in the early 1950s. His first office was a small room above an accountant’s firm on Cannon Street in Preston. For several weeks no work came in. Finally he had a breakthrough when a client of his former firm needed a lease drawing up urgently and all the other solicitors in Preston were closed for the Whitsun holiday.
The firm began to grow and moved to an office in Glover’s Court in Preston. The practice dealt mainly with conveyancing, but as litigation cases came in the firm dealt with whichever was the first case based on a defence of diminished responsibility. It also handled an early Thalidomide case.
David Blackburn began his legal career in commerce and industry in the 1970s, until he started his own practice in the historic market town of Chorley. In April 1973 his practice merged with Birchall & Co and the firm was renamed Birchall Blackburn.
Although Dennis Birchall retired from full-time practice he continued to give assistance to the new firm Birchall Blackburn Law.
Denison Robbins was an articled clerk in Birchall Blackburn Law and then he joined David Blackburn in partnership on qualifying as a solicitor in 1975. Denison and David then ran the practice together for the next 8 years. In 1980 Christopher Eddlestone joined the firm as an assistant solicitor and became a partner in 1983.
It remained a 3-partner practice until the mid-1980’s when both John Didsbury and Ivan Jones joined the firm as partners from backgrounds in criminal law and insolvency.
Birchall Blackburn Law continued with its bold expansion plans and in 1984 acquired a practice in Chorley in the historic legal quarter of St Thomas’ Road.
In 1987 Birchall Blackburn Law merged with the two partner firm of Duncan & Jennings and acquired a further office in nearby Bamber Bridge, which was managed by Jim Duncan. Alan Jennings became a consultant based at the Preston office.
In 1988 Birchall Blackburn Law took over the Accrington firm of Sprake & Ranson, a firm with a history dating back to the 1890s. The connection to this firm remains strong as Ian Ranson, the grandson of the eponymous Mr Ranson, continues to work for Birchall Blackburn Law today. Ian, as the third generation to qualify as a solicitor in Lancashire, from a family with a 100 year history of working in the legal sector.
In 1989 the firm, keen to establish a presence in Manchester, merged with Manchester firm Cohens, headed up by the late Laurie Hoffman. With this office the firm added a commercial offering to its range of services. Michael Foxford, a newly qualified solicitor with Cohens, later became a partner in Birchall Blackburn Law in 1991.
Later that year the firm acquired the practice of John Lumley who had offices in Clitheroe and Whalley in the Ribble Valley.
As well as enjoying expansion through mergers with other firms in the region, the head office in Preston continued to enjoy sustained growth throughout the 1980s and in 1990 eventually moved their offices in Glovers Court to larger premises at Crystal House on the historic Flag Market in Preston.
Moira Boyce joined the firm in 1991 and subsequently became a partner in 1996 and headed up the Personal Injury Department.
In 1992 Cathy MacCracken joined the practice as a trainee solicitor. She qualified into the commercial property department and became a partner in the practice in 1998.
Andy Rattray joined the practice in 1995 as the firm’s Practice and Accounts Manager. A Chartered management accountant, he became one of the first non-solicitor partners in a law firm in the country in 2009.
The firm continued to expand and in 1998 acquired the Preston firm of Cotman & Jameson, who moved from their Friargate offices to join Birchall Blackburn Law in Crystal House. Respected community figure Roy Jameson, who was also a Notary Public, continued to work for Birchall Blackburn until his death in 2002.
In April of 1998, assistant solicitor Jamie Patton joined the practice. He later became a partner in the personal injury department in May 2002.
In the same year, seeking to consolidate the firm’s position in the busy market town of Chorley, Birchall Blackburn Law took over the long-established firm of Berry & Son and moved into their larger premises on the other side of St Thomas’ Road. Andrew Berry, former managing partner at Berry & Son and the great-great- grandson of the firm’s founder, joined Birchall Blackburn Law as partner until his retirement from the profession a few years later.
In 2005, Birchall Blackburn Law looked to develop a greater presence in West Lancashire and orchestrated a merger with the firm of Paul Watson & Co., a predominately Personal Injury and Private client firm with offices in Southport, Formby and Penwortham. This gave the firm an even greater presence throughout Lancashire and into Merseyside.
Birchall Blackburn Law’s Preston operations continued to grow as it became one of the largest law firms in the soon- to-be city. A move from Crystal House to the larger offices at Merchant House on Avenham Street in Preston city centre took place in May 2005 to accommodate the firm’s ever expanding legal team.
The firm’s Manchester office was also enjoying similar levels of growth and in 2006 moved from the old Cohen offices at Waldorf House on Cooper Street to 20 Kennedy Street.
2008 saw Birchall Blackburn Law join forces with long-established Preston firm Ward Dewhurst. Former managing partner, Gerard Waddingham continues to work as a consultant for the firm.
In the same year the firm changed its legal structure from a traditional partnership to a limited liability partnership. The firm became known as Birchall Blackburn LLP.
In 2009 Birchall Blackburn merged with Morecambe based firm Clarkson Penhale and former partner Alan Shellcross continues to work for the firm as a Consultant.
A presence in the busy Lancashire market town of Leyland had long been a goal of Birchall Blackburn Law and when suitable premises on Hough Lane became available in 2010, the firm was delighted to open a new office in the town. Birchall Blackburn Law was able to offer the people of Leyland a local firm with a national presence and a full range of legal services.
In October 2010, the firm incorporated and became a limited company. BB Legal Ltd was created and the practice continued to trade under the trusted name of Birchall Blackburn Law.
In 2011 came the opportunity to move into Cheshire by opening an office in Chester in May 2011, which now houses the Industrial Disease and Catastrophic injury teams.
In September 2012 Birchall Blackburn Law merged with long-established practice Kevill Kirkham Grayson in the heart of Chorley and transferred its operations from St Thomas’ Road to High Street. Founding partner Richard Grayson continues to work for the firm as a consultant.
As a result of these strategic mergers and acquisitions, Birchall Blackburn Law has been able to cement its position as one of the North West’s leading law firms.
Today Birchall Blackburn Law employs over 250 members of staff across 7 offices around the North West, offering a wide range of legal services to its clients.
The firm has been responsible for many landmark legal cases during this time which have helped to change the courts’ interpretation of law.
Throughout its long history, Birchall Blackburn has been built on developing close and lasting relationships with our clients, offering them first rate legal services whilst never losing sight of the fact that our clients are real people who will continue to need help with many legal issues as they continue on through life. As a law firm, we are always there for our clients.
We are proud of our heritage but are also focused on our future to ensure that we continue to innovate and assist in the development of legal practice for our clients.