JULIAN Dickins’ childhood centred around Newbury, but the solicitor has now made Hungerford his home and his family name has become synonymous with the town.
It was also just circumstance that led his company to take up residence in the Berkshire town, after its three partners left a Newbury law firm and couldn’t set up a rival practice within three miles.
Julian had always assumed that he would work in London once he left university, but the pull of the town he had so many fond childhood memories of was too great and he started his working life there too.
His had grown up in Newbury, the youngest of four children and attended St Bartholomew’s Grammar School.
“When I was in the sixth form the school merged with the girls, which was very exciting at the time,” he remembers. “I then went on to Southampton University, before going to the College of Law in Guildford.
“I never thought I would, but I came back to Newbury to do my training, although I did spend some months in London too.”
Before Julian qualified, in 1983, solicitors had always worked within any aspect of the law, but it was becoming the norm to have a specialism. Julian’s choice was working for a divorce lawyer or in property law.
He chose property and is still an expert voice on the matter today.
“At 22-years-old I was seeing people a lot older than me, going through some really tough times and I just thought that I didn’t have the life experience to work in divorce then, so I went in to property and started working at Penningtons as it was then,” he explains.
“I became a partner there in 1986 and stayed for 14 years.”
A decade after becoming a partner Julian decided that he wanted to leave the company, which eventually became Thomas Eggar.
“The firm got bigger and bigger, with lots of offices,” he says. “You just felt like a small cog in a bigger and bigger organisation.
“It just got too large and you ended up not even knowing half of the people you were partners with.”
So Julian joined forces with his colleagues at Penningtons, Victoria Hopgood and Christopher Chidley, and they decided to set up their own practice.
“Victoria had a similar background to me and had started at Penningtons on the same day in 1986 as my secretary,” he adds. “We have been working together for 29 years now.
“Christopher also worked at Penningtons and we all decided we wanted to do our own thing, so we left in April 1996.
“When we first started Dickins Hopgood Chidley we had a small office above the bookshop in Hungerford and it was just the three of us and one secretary.
“We couldn’t work within three miles of Newbury for the first few years so we moved out to Hungerford.
“We were pleasantly surprised that so many clients came with us too.
“It is a very unique town, with some great traditions.
“Everyone now knows us here now, we are very well established.
“It is really nice to run your own show. Our clients have been very loyal and we have built up a really good following in the town.”
In return, the law firm is very supportive of Hungerford, sponsoring events such as the Victorian Extravaganza and HADCAF.
Since moving to the town, the company has had two other offices, before settling into its current home – The Old Schoolhouse, in High Street – 12 years ago.
The staff has grown considerably in that time too; three became four two years ago, when Emily Payne became a partner too. It now has nine solicitors and legal assistants and eight support staff at the firm, but it remains a friendly, close-knit place to work.
“We still see everyone every day,” says Julian. “We haven’t got too big.”
Next year sees a number of special anniversaries that Julian says they will certainly be commemorating – the firm will be 20-years-old and Julian and Victoria will celebrate their 30-year work anniversary.
“For the 10th anniversary we held a ball in the Town Hall and raised money for the MS charity so we will be looking to do something like that again,” he adds.
Julian, who lives in Kintbury with his wife Ellie, has been involved with Newbury Rotary Club for the past 28 years, including a stint as president.
He is also the treasurer of the Kintbury Players and is the churchwarden at Enborne.
His wife runs Ellie Dickins Shoes, which is also on the High Street in Hungerford, just opposite Dickins Hopgood Chidley’s offices.
Ellie is in the running to become the next Constable of the Town and Manor of Hungerford, ensuring the family’s connection with the town will continue for many more years to come.