The son of a racehorse trainer who decided to turn his passion for horses into a specialism in equine law, has joined Setfords Solicitors.
James Wilkes, who’s an Associate Director, advises on everything from the buying and selling of horses to disputes and veterinary negligence.
His clients have included Team GB Olympians and international riders based in England and Wales.
James grew up in a racing environment with his mother, Meg Jones, now 67, training horses all over the world. She was a well-known name during the 1970s and early 80s both in the UK and the USA. She trained horses at the world-famous Meadowlands race track in New Jersey and Saratoga Springs in New York. Here in the UK she owned the Saunders Stud and her achievements included training Cheltenham Festival winners .
James was considering following in her footsteps, even becoming licensed to train race horses when they lived in America – but his mother had other ideas.
James said: “Mum didn’t want me to do it. It’s hard work. It’s wet, cold and dangerous. She broke nearly 30 bones during her career. She wanted me to do something a bit safer and a bit more secure. And she’s really proud of how I’ve managed to combine my passion with a great career.”
James, who also practices employment law, commercial litigation and advises on commercial transactions, joins Setfords from Top 200 law firm DMH Stallard and works primarily out of the firm’s head office in Guildford .
Setfords has a team of lawyers based in the town but another 158 consultant-lawyers based around the country who have the backing of 50 support staff based in Guildford. It’s known as a dispersed model and CEOs Guy and Chris Setford, who are cousins, were among the pioneers of the innovative way of working.
James said: “I’m very excited to join Setfords – it’s an exciting place to work because of its innovative approach to how legal services should be delivered and the philosophy of supporting their lawyers so they can best support their clients.
“And I’m looking forward to growing my equine practice – with all of my clients I feel they are kindred spirits. When you grow up loving horses you immediately understand others with the same passion.”
Joint-CEO Chris Setford said: “We’re extremely pleased to have James on board. We want to support him to grow his equine practice. It is a niche area of law and I doubt there is anyone else out there with the same background and therefore understanding of equine issues.”
Joint-CEO Guy Setford added: “It was immediately apparent the commercial acumen that James brings. And alongside having this specialism in equine law he’s also an extremely talented employment lawyer and commercial litigator.”
James owns two horses and regularly rides, as does his partner, and, with his sister being an equine vet, constantly talking shop can be a problem.
James said: “It’s fair to say we’re all horse-mad and when we all get together we find it hard not to talk about things that aren’t equine-related.”