Generations of clients have walked through the doors of Avenue Road solicitors Fraser Wise and Co, since Bill Fraser set the practice up in 1979.
Now, 35 years later, Bill is waving goodbye to Grantham as the father-of-three and grandfather-of-five looks forward to his retirement and spending more time with the family.
Before the law practice’s doors close at the end of December though, 63-year-old Bill spoke to the Journal and looked back on a career helping other families, representing defendants and unearthing police malpractice.
How did you get into law?
I qualified in July 1977 while working in Lincoln. I was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and both my parents were schoolteachers. We moved around a lot before settling in Lincoln, and I was the first to go into law in my family. I did a sandwich course at Trent Polytechnic so I could study and work. Some of the other people on the course didn’t enjoy the work but I did. I trained with a chap called Gilbert Blades, a very well-known solicitor, and I learnt from him. Then in 1979 the practice here in Grantham was for sale and I wanted to set up my own so I bought it. I’ve been here since September 3, the same day that war broke out!
How have you found working in Grantham and with Granthamians?
I think I have a good relationship with clients - I’m now seeing the grandchildren of some of my clients from 35 years ago, which is nice. I’d like to think that I’ve helped a lot of clients, not just in the criminal courts but in conveyancing and things like that. We have provided a general practice, with a lot of family law including divorce and childcare, as well as domestic and commercial conveyancing. And I think I’ve been to virtually every magistrates’ court in the county.
And what have been your most interesting cases?
Between 2000 and 2001, I was representing three separate clients, and we were recorded during private consultations by the police. One of those was in relation to the murder of Mark Corley. I happened to be the common solicitor, so I saw what was going on. The three cases got thrown out, and the story was in the Journal and in The Times.
How would you describe your style of defending in court?
I think the thing I do when I’m in court is be as concise and to the point as I can, but still make the valid points I’ve got to make. I’m never aggressive.
What’s happening to staff, clients and the Fraser, Wise and Co building?
The practice is closing at the end of December and I’ve found all the staff other jobs. My daughter Gillian is an associate at the practice and is going to work for Bird and Co. I’m recommending most clients to solicitors in town. The building is on the market and could be used for anything but has permission for offices. It dates back to around 1910, and Eric Chappell, the script writer, used to rent rooms off me – he wrote Duty Free here.
What are your plans for your retirement?
I’m retiring on health grounds and to spend more time with family. I have children and grandchildren – the youngest is five weeks old. We live in Waddington and some family are close by. I’ve really enjoyed working here, but because the business I purchased in 1979 was failing I’ve had to put in the hours to build it up. It will be nice not to have to say ‘I’ve got to go to work.’