McKees is a leading independent commercial law firm with a multi-jurisdictional team and specialist capability in financial services, dispute resolution, real estate and corporate legal services.
We act for both local and international clients and have developed strategic alliances with full-service law firms in the Republic of Ireland, England, Scotland, Europe and the United States.
Through these alliances we are able to offer clients seeking business opportunities outside Northern Ireland access to specialist legal advice in each of these regions.
McKees is a family firm which was established by our founder John McKee back in 1887. Initially, the firm comprised John McKee as a sole practitioner but in the early 1920’s he was joined by his son, Morris, who qualified but then promptly fell out with his father over money! His father gave Morris a cheque for £100 and a good-luck handshake and told him to start his own practice which he duly did.
At the end of the 1920’s John McKee was joined by his second son, Frank. Sadly John McKee died just before Frank completed his training and there were difficult years as Frank McKee struggled to hold the practice together. Subsequently, Frank was joined by a third brother, Harold, who had been working with the Bank of Egypt in London but following his father’s death decided to return to Belfast and to the practice of law. In due course Harold qualified as a solicitor and he and Frank then practised in partnership as John McKee & Son.
At this point, the war intervened and the brothers agreed that Harold and Frank would go to war while Morris, who had served in the First World War, would remain and look after the practice. Having made this agreement Morris suddenly appeared in uniform and Frank found himself responsible for looking after both practices. During the war Morris McKee received the MBE for his work training troops for the D-Day Landings and Harold McKee received the George Cross for his work with bomb disposal.
After the War, Morris continued to develop his predominantly litigation practice in Chichester Street, Belfast where he was joined by his daughter, Sheelagh, as J Morris McKee while Frank and Harold continued to practise as John McKee & Son. Frank McKee didn’t know the meaning of employee rights, you either performed to his exacting standards or you heard about it as did the whole office and half the street. The family used to say that as fast as Harold hired, Frank fired!
Finally in 1958 the two firms, that is Frank and Harold practising as John McKee & Son and Morris practising with Sheelagh as J Morris McKee merged and moved to new offices in Victoria Street, Belfast. The practice continued to develop at this address until 1979 when, bursting at the seams, it moved to Royal Avenue where it remained until 2007 when, again needing more space, it moved to its present location in Linenhall Street.
In 1978, one of the firm’s partners, Thomasena McKinney, became the first female President of any Law Society in the British Isles. The McKee family connection continues to this day with managing partner, Chris Ross, being the step-grandson of Harold McKee.