The early years
Mary Monson qualified as a solicitor in 1976 and started her own law firm just over three years later in 1979. The firm served the local community in Salford from its small office on Chapel Street on the bank of the river Irwell, decades before this poor area would be regenerated.
Within 5 years, Mary had become known as a dynamic and aggressive high street lawyer, building a reputation through the 1980s which saw her increasingly act in serious criminal and civil cases.
Our rise to national prominence
By the 1990s, the firm Monson and Co, as it was then called, had become one of the major anti-establishment law firms in the country. Celebrated civil rights barristers such as Michael Mansfield, Ian McDonald, and Vera Baird were acting regularly on cases for the firm, and documentary makers investigating police corruption or miscarriages of justice would ask Mary to contribute with comment for various programmes.
This period coincided with Manchester’s awful ‘Gunchester’ era, in which the drugs scene became the focus of violent wars between inner city area gangs. During this period, we acted in nearly every major gang trial listed in Peter Walsh’s excellent book ‘Gang War’. At this time the firm was unusual in that we acted for members of various opposing gangs during this senseless violence to ensure each client a fair trial. We always refused to engage with the criminal hierarchies who tried to interfere in the cases, even when they made threats of violence to Mary or her family.
In the early 1990s, the firm acted in the case that would perhaps define it, the Strangeways Prison Riot. We defended two of the defendants who faced Crown Court trial, including Alan Lord, the riot’s alleged ringleader, who also faced a charge of murder. The trial was regarded at that time to be the biggest criminal trial in history, lasting over 6 months, and being split into several trials to accommodate all the defendants. Lord was acquitted of murder, but the riots and their aftermath led to the biggest reform in prison standards since the Victorian era. The presumption held in some quarters that it was acceptable to treat prisoners like animals, provided the doors were firmly locked, was dealt a serious blow.
As the 1990s drew to a close, and the political landscape changed, people started asking us to take on cases in different areas, including fraud and financial investigations, and by the millennium we were acting regularly in complex fraud cases, including the largest advance fee fraud reported in the UK. We also began to be asked to act for clients needing property advice and business legal advice. In this way our commercial property, business, and conveyancing departments were formed.
Mary´s new generation of lawyers
Our present story begins in the years after the millennium, when the firm was joined by an idealistic new generation of lawyers who were inspired by the story Mary had begun in the decades before. We took the values which led to those achievements – showing clients understanding and respect, fighting for clients’ interests at every stage, and trying to do the job better every day – and brought them to every area of the work we do, from representing young people in the police station, to acting in property transactions or even fraud cases. This latest effort has led to some of our greatest successes, from cases like Hookway, which forced the government to bring in emergency bail laws, to successfully defending an abused 13 year old girl who had been accused of serious drug importation.
Our view of the legal profession and its purpose has not changed in all this time. Courts and the law are harsh but necessary evils in society. They are a safety measure to make sure that justice is done and that those without a voice can be heard. For that to happen, lawyers need to be fearless, dedicated and put their clients’ interests first. This has been our history, and we don’t intend to stop.