Our story begins in 1910 when Mancunian Frederick Gulland came to Maidstone having been appointed Secretary to the Maidstone Gas company. At that time there was a firm of solicitors called Ellis & Ellis who resided at 35 Earl Street Maidstone.
It was here that Douglas Gulland was articled to Mr Charles Ellis and after a stint working in London following his qualification was also asked to return to become a Partner in 1939. It was at this stage that Douglas asked younger brother John to join him in a career in Law and become articled to him.
John (pictured to the right) had been pursuing a career in banking up until then but decided that a change of career would possibly suit.
Unfortunately, progress was halted by the outbreak of War in 1939. Upon being demobbed, John Gulland went back to banking. When Douglas was finally demobbed he returned to find that the Ellis and Ellis had deteriorated badly during the war years and Mr Ellis was keen to sell. Douglas purchased the business and set up his practice historically for the first time in Mill Street.
From the window of No 7 Mill Street the devastation of the West side of Mill Street following a direct Bomb Blast could be clearly seen.
Maidstone town centre during WW2 [Image Source]
Again Douglas asked John to consider a move from Banking to the legal world. By this time John was married and his wife was expecting their first child. However after some deliberation the decision was made and Gulland and Gulland were born when John qualified in 1949.
It was at around this time that Douglas also made the shrewd move of purchasing the plot of land at no 10 Mill Street, the site that had been levelled by the bomb blast. A certain Mr Court, whom Douglas knew well had purchased the adjoining plot at No 12 and when building licences were finally issued the two men designed and built purpose built solicitors offices using the same architect and builders. So for the first time the practice had the luxury not only of a much improved working space including modern offices but also a purpose built strong room for the storage of wills and deeds as well as a dry basement for the storage or archived files and so on. Later when No’s 16, 18 and 20 came on the market Douglas and John bought the freehold.
By this time there was a staff of 12 and Gulland and Gulland began to form the respected and trusted practice that soon became one of the best known practices in the area.
The family theme continued when Blair Gulland (pictured to the right) son of John joined the firm in 1969 and was articled to Douglas.
However there was no silver spoon treatment and Blair learned the business from a tiny office along with other articled clerks and qualified in 1975. He specialises in Commercial Law and became one of the firms top fee earners eventually taking the helm of the firm in 1987.
The introduction of a Criminal Department to add to its existing Residential Conveyancing, Commercial, Litigation, Family and Probate departments, and the award of the much sought after Legal Aid franchise in 1995 spurred the expansion into 22 Mill Street. A stairway and internal connection between No’s 22 and 20 was formed to the rear of the buildings new conference facility and the buildings were historically connected.
The implementation of a new computer network saw the firm entering into the digital age in the late 1990’s. Embracing new technology allowed the firm to digitise its growing database of clients as well as its Deed and Will storage facilities.
Expansion proved to be somewhat of the shape of things to come when in 2000 part of No 14 was added to the collection of Premises on Mill Street. This oddly shaped building doglegged behind the existing offices stretching almost the entire length of Mill Street.
In 2001 Gulland and Gulland purchased fellow Maidstone firm Roderick O’Driscoll and Partners. Roderick also had a long and established history in Maidstone and had a particular expertise in the field of Construction and Arbitration. The firm took the opportunity to launch what is now perhaps the only specialised Construction and Arbitration department in the south east. The ability to offer Alternative Dispute resolution gives the client the ability to avoid costly legal battles by allowing interested parties to reach mutual agreements under the guidance of a qualified Arbitrator.
Now with 12 Partners the firm underwent somewhat of a structural change and elected three management committees to deal with specific areas of the business. A Finance Committee, A Marketing Committee and an IT Committee were formulated. Shortly afterwards the decision was taken to re-brand the firm as Gullands as it had affectionately become known countywide. The launch of the new logo came in 2002.
With solicitors firms in general beginning to take marketing seriously Gullands embarked on a new wave of targeted advertising using its new brand name and logo. Soon the Gullands “selection” Ads were being seen in Countywide press and business publications and even heard on local Radio.
Its second campaign became one of the most talked about advertising series in the local press. Released as a successive storyboard series the simple yet striking ads achieved a kind of “marmite” effect (you either loved them or hated them) but one thing was for sure, they were most certainly noticed.
In 2007 more boundaries were broken, quite literally. Firstly the building at no 12 finally became part of the Gullands Empire. The most significant part of the Jigsaw now allowed all of the offices to be physically linked for the first time.
Mill Street in Maidstone [Image Source]
Then later that same year Gullands welcomed another historic Maidstone firm “Days” solicitors into its midst, bringing the number of staff now to around 85 including a skilled support staff.
New challenges continue to present themselves and most recently the profession as a whole was somewhat taken aback by the planned implementation of the Home Information Pack or HIP.
These packs which include the much talked about Energy Efficiency Report are an information pack that is obligatory when you place your property on the market and are designed to speed up the Conveyancing process by allowing potential buyers to make more informed decisions based on the contents of the report.
Although the idea was met with some considerable scorn by the Law Society Gullands have once again embraced the challenge with the use of new technology and is now one of the few firms Countrywide that is able to offer the full HIPS report at prices that are not only competitive but in many cases better than those available from Estate Agents. In addition the experience of conveyancers with combined experience of over 100 years is at your disposal, making Gullands the choice of the informed person.
Many changes have occurred since 1939. However through everything the business approach of the Firm has remained constant. It is quite simply the needs and requirements of the Clients themselves that is of paramount importance. As a family the Gullands were able to distinguish the importance of putting first and this has been something that has been impressed on the firm from the very beginning. It has helped the firm develop into the practice that it is today, a Practice that over the last 5 years has expanded by some 30%.