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Staff profile legal eye on James Shiells

Name: James Shiells
Position: Executive
Department: Private Client

Areas of expertise:

I am a member of Gullands’ Probate and Wills Department. My principle duties and responsibilities include estate administration, preparation of Wills, preparation of Powers of Attorney, change of name deeds, Court of protection applications, administration of client’s affairs under powers of attorney or deputyship orders.

I moved to Gullands’ Maidstone office in 1987 and it is still a very friendly, family orientated firm. In May this year I was asked to transfer to the Gravesend office, the town where I live and began my working career, to help widen the profile of the firm in North Kent. The transfer was made very easy for me thanks to the friendly welcome and support of my colleagues in Gravesend. I feel as though I have come full circle and I am now keen to promote the firm wherever I can in
my home town.

What has been your biggest career lesson and why?

To a large extent, the image of the Probate Department in any law firm has always been one where little changes. For me though this myth was soon dispelled when I moved from litigation to probate some 35 years ago. Although some of the practice and procedure has not changed substantially for 100 years or more, the expectation of clients is now very much of the moment. There are times when it is necessary because of illness, or family misfortune, to be flexible and be prepared to drop everything to deal with a particular urgency.

If you were not in this job, what would you be doing?

Possibly one of two, I have always been quite interested in art and was reasonably good at it in school and enjoyed photography. A career as a professional photographer would have been interesting. Perhaps a less risky option would have been to follow my interest in history, possibly teaching it.

Biggest changes in practice?

I suppose most people of my generation will say the same in that the digital age has completely changed the way we work. When I first took employment, dictation machines were effectively small tape recorders with spools of recording tape. These had to be spliced into the receiving spool and the quality was incredibly poor compared with today’s equipment. These machines were then superseded by mini cassettes and I can remember the first word processor was a huge machine which took up the entire space in one of the smaller rooms in the office and which only one or two specially trained people were allowed to operate.

Nowadays all of this and so much more can be accessed by a flick of a button on the computer sitting on my desk. Although we tend to look at the past with nostalgia. I doubt any of us would really want to go back to the old technology


These are varied and many. After leaving school I played football in the Gravesend league for about 16 seasons. I spent four years sitting on the league management committee. To keep myself fit I now practice Wado Ryu Karate and currently hold a first dan black belt.

I am very keen on photography and have had several photographs published in books and magazines. I tutored photography under the Kent Children University Scheme for six years.

I have a real interest in history and have worked as a volunteer at the British Museum. My wife and I get good value from our National Trust membership. I have at various times been a member of Gravesend Camera Club, Gravesend Historical Society and the Kent branch of The Royal Aeronautical Society.