Finding the right solicitor

 As our organisation grew we were dealing with increasing paperwork and ‘bureaucracy’ – just one of the new words we learned quickly!  We needed to explore charitable status and had to find a good solicitor.  We needed someone unusual who could respect us and what we were trying to do.  They would need to work with us and also put what to us was  ‘gobbledygook’ into plain language.   We knew we were not stupid - but to most of us everyday English was hard to read… we knew Charity Law and Constitutions – were a different level.  We took a deep breath, and to be honest some of us lost sleep over this – we took our responsibilities very seriously .    We needed someone who could put  ” legal jargon’ into our everyday language.  There was no way we were going to sign up for anything we could not understand.  That wouldn’t be right!  Those of us prepared to become Directors  were determined to understand everything – for ‘the law’ and for us.”

We found the perfect person John Coles, who was known for his charity work.  John embraced our values and way of working.  His patience, sensitivity, support and humour were boundless.  Looking back we wonder “How did he do it?”  The ‘Pecket Way’ of running meetings meant they were much longer than most – all information was read aloud and up to 26 Directors  (most of whom had difficulties with reading and writing) wanted and needed  to understand.   Can you imagine the hard work that went into those meetings?

He will always be remembered affectionately as ‘Uncle John and we will soon be including some audio clips of John training Pecket Wellians prior to Pecket becoming a Charity and Company Ltd by Guarantee on the responsibilities of becoming Company Directors and Trustees of a Charity.  These sessions helped us to understand the legal aspects of these roles and helped people decided if they wanted to take on that responsibility or not. He was endlessly patient and answered all of our questions and listened to our fears. John took us seriously and he knew we took our responsibility seriously. We were accountable to people like ourselves first – then funders and other formal bodies.

John coles our solicitor worked with us to write our constitution – a written explanation of what we wanted to do and how we would work to do it. It has been revised since then but still bears bears the hallmark of the Pecket Wellian philosophy:

“Our original aim stated in the original constitution was to promote the development of communication skills and the creative use of these skills. The constitution states that a majority of directors must have reading and writing difficulties themselves [and other directors, should be people who support our aims and ways of working.”

This important clause has meant that still today (2013) the majority of Pecket’s Directors have reading and writing difficulties and other directors work in occupational health or academia promoting better access to education for all.