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James Cook

James Cook

Director, Head of Child Care & Public Law Team
Department: Child Care & Public Law
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James Cook trained and qualified at a South Yorkshire firm where he specialised in family and immigration law.  James joined Ridley & Hall in 2006 and continued his expertise in family law focusing primarily on representing parents, family members and children in care proceedings.

James has been a member of the Children Panel since 2009 and has represented children both through court appointed Guardians and directly.

James undertakes a wide range of family cases, he has represented families on numerous cases when extremely serious findings are being alleged including those of sexual and physical abuse.  He has and continues to represent families successfully both locally but also nationally in England and Wales including Birmingham, London, Bristol, Nottingham, Cambridge, Cardiff and Manchester.

In addition to care proceedings James has represented parents/children in cases involving contact, residence and adoption.  He has also represented clients in cases involving the abduction of children, removal of children from the UK and injunctions under the Inherent Jurisdiction of the High Court.  James has represented parents in cases in the Court of Protection, High Court and Court of Appeal.

He has also represented parents on breaches of their Human Rights by Local Authorities.

James’s client focused approach is both sympathetic and understanding whilst still giving clear advice.  James strives to ensure his clients are treated fairly by all professionals, no matter what the circumstances, to ensure they have the maximum chances of success.  James is a pro-active family litigator who isn’t afraid of ensuring his clients cases are fully challenged when required.

James became a partner on the 1st October 2009 and heads the Child Care and Adoption Team.

James held the post of President of the Huddersfield Incorporated Law Society between November 2011 – January 2013, having been the vice-president in the year preceding this.  James remained a member of the law society committee until 2016.  He became a committee member of the West Yorkshire based Lawyers for Children (LFC) in 2016 and is currently LFC’s treasurer.

James has provided training for Huddersfield University and West Yorkshire CAFCASS.  He has also spoken at the national Community Care Conference in London on Special Guardianships.

James is a regular runner and has completed a number of ½ marathons over the last five years for charities.  James has raised money for charities including Dementia UK, LIVES and Kirkwood Hospice.

James assistant is Nicki Butterworth.


“James Cook is a very experienced advocate who works above and beyond for each client. James is passionate about the rights of the children, ensuring that he skilfully advocates to ensure that their voices are heard.”

Child Care & Public Law Team

Sophie Aldridge

Sophie Aldridge

Trainee Solicitor
Sophie achieved a First-Class degree in Law, Criminology and Criminal Justice in 2020, for which she also achieved the Criminology Award for the highest overall grade on the course. Following this, Sophie achieved a distinction on the Graduate Diploma in Law, was awarded the prize for the highest overall grade on the course, together with the prize for the highest grade in Property Law. Sophie is now studying the Legal Practice Course before training to become a solicitor....

Sarah Brown

Sarah joined Ridley & Hall in 2010 following the completion of her Law Degree. Whilst working at Ridley & Hall she studied the Legal Practice Course part time over two years, completing it in 2012....
Zoe Butt headshot

Zoe  Butt

Team Leader of the Care Team
Zoe Butt joined the firm in March 2023 as a Partner. Zoe has a wealth of experience in children matters and works in our Care and Public Law teams. Zoe’s particular expertise is in complex care proceedings involving Child Sexual and Criminal Exploitation, and cases involving alleged Non-Accidental Injury. She also has a wealth of experience in dealing with cases involving Forced Marriage, Female Genital Mutilation and Honour Based Violence....

Nicki Butterworth

Associate Personal Assistant
Nicki is an experienced Personal Assistant who works within the Care & Public Law Team (for Child Care Director, James Cook). Nicki’s career began in the retail sector, and it was there where she began to hone her renowned communication and customer service skills....

Deborah Hardy

Deborah has over 25 years’ experience in family law and has particular expertise in representing children, court appointed guardians, parents and extended family members in care proceedings in Leeds and surrounding areas. She joined Ridley & Hall as a Partner in 2018....
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Jennifer Keefe

Jennifer has experience in all areas of family law, however she is particularly passionate about representing parents, extended family members and children involved in care proceedings, or helping families that are facing child protection issues....
Clare Linden Headshot

Clare Linden

Clare joined Ridley & Hall Solicitors as a Partner in 2018. Clare graduated from Durham University and completed her legal training at the College of Law in York in 2006. Clare qualified as a solicitor in 2008 when she re-located to Leeds to join the niche family law firm McAras and was made a partner in 2013 following the firm’s merger with Simpson Millar solicitors in Leeds....
Laura Milburn

Laura Milburn

Laura has many years of legal experience and was called to the Bar in 2010.  After qualifying as a Barrister, Laura cross-qualified to become a Solicitor in 2012.   Laura is a passionate advocate and has used her advocacy and negotiation skills on behalf of many clients over the years. ...

Helen Moody

Helen joined Ridley & Hall in 2012 after completion of the Legal Practice Course,  initially as a Legal Assistant working alongside Nigel Priestley to build up experience in the Public Law department. Helen completed her training contract at Ridley & Hall and qualified as a solicitor in 2016. Helen has had major successes in claiming allowances and back dated payments for kinship carers from Local Authorities across the country. Helen was made an Associate Solicitor in January 2023....
Rosie Nicholson Headshot

Rosie Nicholson

Associate Solicitor
Rosie primarily assists clients on a variety of issues in relation to kinship care, particularly claiming allowances and back dated payments for kinship carers from Local Authority’s. Rosie also assists clients with Special Guardianship Order applications and advice in relation to the support that is available under Special Guardianship Orders....
Kim Noble

Kim Noble

Kim qualified as a Solicitor-Advocate in 2019 after obtaining her Higher Rights of Audience (Civil) as a Trainee Solicitor based in the Care Department at a Local Authority. Kim has obtained a Law Degree, Legal Practice Course and a Master of Laws prior to qualifying as a Solicitor-Advocate....

Nigel Priestley

Senior Partner, MBE
Nigel Priestley is a Senior Partner of Ridley & Hall Solicitors and a community care and adoption specialist solicitor. He is a member of the Children’s Panel and regularly represents children and parents in care proceedings. ...
Marie Stanley Headshot

Marie Stanley

Legal Secretary
Marie joined Ridley & Hall to work in our Wills & Probate team. After securing a Cilex qualification opportunity offered by Ridley & Hall in 2023, she now works in the Care Team....
Tracy Steel

Tracy Steel

Tracy joined Ridley & Hall as a trainee solicitor in June 2022 and is due to qualify as a solicitor in September 2022....
Anthony Sykes Headshot

Anthony Sykes

Anthony joined Ridley & Hall Solicitors in November 2023 as a Care & Public Law paralegal. He closely collaborates with the department's lawyers, assisting with a broad spectrum of matters at all stages of care proceedings....