George Stott Bilbie, founded our firm on the same values he embodied his entire life.
He proudly described himself as the last of the old-style family solicitors.
The law was not an obvious career path for the boy born to George Stott Bilbie, a coal miner, and Ann Bilbie (nee Smith) in the staunchly working-class Minmi, on the mining fringe of Newcastle.
Mr Bilbie left Minmi public school at 14 and by the time he was offered a position as a junior clerk, or "stamp licker", at Johnson & O'Neill Solicitors in Newcastle, Mr Bilbie had never even used a telephone. Technological change was to be one constant in a career begun by duplicating letters with a letter press in the days before carbon ribbons, moving to photocopiers and fax machines and finally marvelling at the internet - even though he never had a computer in his office himself.
With only eight years of schooling, Mr Bilbie focused on becoming a proficient tradesman of the law.
By his mid-20s he was a managing clerk at the firm, and the country was sinking into the Great Depression. His father suffered the fate of many miners and was stood down. Mr Bilbie, now living in Newcastle, worked three weeks out of four. When paid, he travelled by bus and bike to Minmi to visit friends and to give the money to his family.
Mr Bilbie discovered that managing clerks aged 30 and over were eligible to sit for the Solicitors Admission Board examinations. The 25-year-old would rise at 5am to study before work and seek the advice of his boss, Stanley Johnson, in the evenings. In 1938 he was admitted as a solicitor.
It gave him considerable pleasure to be known as the working man's lawyer when he started out as a sole practitioner. When the colliery at Minmi eventually closed, it was with Mr Bilbie's help that the area was made a privately owned township, where his former neighbours could be landowners rather than tenants of J&A Brown Abermain Seaham Colleries.
Regarding law as a way to help people, he avoided litigation as "too much sitting around and wasting time". Instead, he worked with wills, estates, conveyancing and family issues - in one case, for five generations of a Newcastle family.
After five years as a solicitor he went into partnership with a friend, Eric Whitford, forming the firm Bilbie and Whitford. They were in business together for 42 years without a partnership agreement. When Nicholas Dan joined them, another handshake agreement in the early 1980s made the firm Bilbie, Whitford and Dan, now Bilbie Dan. "We are the old-style family lawyer, not the divorce type, the true old-fashioned Edwardian lawyer who helps people," Mr Bilbie once explained.
In 1994 Andrew Harrison joined the firm as a junior lawyer.
Not long after, Rob Faraday-Bensley also joined the firm in 1995, like Mr Bilbie as a "stamp licker" and then junior lawyer. In the intervening years, Rob worked as a commercial lawyer in London (Kerman and Co.), Adelaide (Thompson Greer) and at Sparke Helmore in Newcastle before returning to Bilbie Dan in 2003 as a partner.
Andrew has worked continuously at Bilbie Dan from that point in his career that he joined Bilbie Dan and now, in partnership with Rob, runs the business with the same philosophy that Mr Bilbie espoused all those years ago.
Together, Rob and Andrew are proudly, for the time being, the custodians of the firm Mr Bilbie founded.