We get regular enquiries from our members (and the public) asking for help to find the will ‘Granny’ wrote all those years ago at Smith & Jones in Smalltown. Granny has now passed on and so has the law firm. Can we help?

Yes. The Library holds annual solicitor directories going back to 1775. Using these we can track successor law firms, they can then be contacted directly and asked to check their old client files.

A brief example of how we do this type of research is below.

1974: Granny wrote her will and left it with Smith & Jones in Smalltown for safekeeping. The partners are John Smith and William Jones.

1978: The firm Smith & Jones has disappeared from Smalltown but Smith & Son is at the same address and phone number. The partners are now John Smith and David Smith.

1982: Smith & Son now have two offices, the second in nearby Bigtown. Three more partners have joined the firm.

1989: Smith & Son no longer has an office in Smalltown. However, the Bigtown office still exists with three of the partners, including David Smith.

1995: Smith & Son has vanished completely from the directories. However, all the partners are now at a new firm in Bigtown called Brown & Smith, including David Smith.

2005: Brown & Smith has changed name to Brown & Co. The address and phone number are the same and most of the original partners are still there.

2011: Brown & Co appears to have merged with Simpkins to become Simpkins & Brown at a different location in Bigtown. A search in the legal press confirms the merger.

2016: Simpkins & Brown are still in Bigtown.

This very simple illustration demonstrates that in 40 years the name and location of the original law firm has completely changed. Without tracking its history through the directories it would have been virtually impossible to find the connection.

As well as conducting this research for our members, we also offer it to non-members for a small fee. Clients can therefore be invited to contact us directly.

For further help and enquiries please contact the Law Society Library on 020 7320 5946 or e-mail us


This FAQ is compiled by the Law Society Library. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information in this article, it does not constitute legal advice and cannot be relied upon as such. The Law Society does not accept any responsibility for liabilities arising as a result of reliance upon the information given.