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About Us

Our History

Emery Johnson was formed in 1995 and joined forces with Astills in September 2013 to become one of Leicestershire’s leading law firms offering a wide and specialist range of legal services. In anticipation of its 25th anniversary in 2020, the firm re-branded to Johnson Astills, taking the ever progressive firm into the next decade.

With a reputation for excellence in each of our specialist legal departments, Johnson Astills is a modern firm with a long heritage.

Astills was founded in 1947 by C Norman Astill in Leicester and flourished under son, Paul Astill, as a firm offering traditional family law including wills and conveyancing.

Steve Swanton joined Astills as an articled clerk in 1973, though he has remained with the firm throughout his career, becoming a partner in 1979 and senior partner in 2002.

In 1978, like Steve, Rosemary Hamilton was articled to Paul Astill and, though she left the firm for some years, she returned in 2003 to head the matrimonial team having worked on the pilot scheme for Legal Aid franchises.

In 2007 Ian Patterson of Horwood Patterson joined Astills, bringing with him his well established Private Client practice.

In the meantime, ambitious and pioneering young lawyers Helen Johnson and Lesley Emery founded Emery Johnson in 1995. With a small loan from the Sir Thomas White Charity and an even smaller business loan, the pair rented offices at Welford Road and Emery Johnson became Leicester’s first all female partnership.

Emery Johnson specialised in criminal defence and care work on behalf of families involved with Social Services. In 1997 Helen Johnson qualified to represent clients, without need to instruct counsel (a barrister), in all courts up to the Crown Court.

Equity partner Emma Mitchell joined Emery Johnson in 2000 to head-up the newly launched family department. From the start, Emma has championed Collaborative Law and Mediation to offer a more modern, less acrimonious approach to divorce and relationship breakdown (though she can still fight your corner in a more traditional divorce case).

Over the years, Emma and Steve often referred work to each other, each comfortable that the other was equally expert and equally personally committed to a successful outcome for each and every client.

When Helen Johnson became President of the Leicestershire Law Society in 2012, Steve was Deputy Vice President. As they worked more closely together, campaigning on many of the proposed legal changes which they saw as detrimental to clients, the similarities in their forward-looking approach and democratic leadership of their firms became apparent.

Each firm specialised in different but complementary areas of law and with increasing exchanges of referrals. In 2013, taking care to ensure that our clients interests would remain paramount, we merged to offer a holistic approach to legal services for modern life with each of our specialist divisions among the most respected and successful in Leicestershire.

Our success is based on our commitment to keeping each division separate which allows specialist staff to provide authoritative advice, a supportive environment and expert representation to achieve the best outcome for every client.