Abigail Bird is a partner and head of the legacy team at Laurus, London
Knowing I wanted to assist people through difficult stages of their lives steered me towards a career as a family solicitor. While at secondary school, I sought work experience at a local family law firm. My time there involved a distressing child matter. I realised that family law was not for me. It was only through my training contract that I considered private client, as it was my final seat prior to qualifying – and I never looked back.
I studied LLB Law at the University of Birmingham which I thoroughly enjoyed. Once I graduated, I knew I would want to start putting my knowledge into practice. I decided therefore to study the LPC part-time alongside working in a law firm.
I was offered temporary work experience at a high street firm in Middlesex. But in just shy of four years, I had worked through the positions, and was fortunate enough to be offered a training contract and then to qualify as a private client solicitor. I have now been at my current firm, Laurus, for four years as head of the legacy department.
During my training contract, private client was admittedly the seat I was least looking forward to. But pretty early on I was lucky enough to have great client interaction and this made me realise that it was the area of law for me. There is real job satisfaction in what I do, whether it is preparing a tax-efficient will, helping achieve someone’s peace of mind by having registered LPAs in place, or supporting an executor through an estate administration. As my career has progressed, private client has also allowed me to further my knowledge of other interesting topics due to the natural overlap, such as personal tax and finances. I am also enjoying developing my media presence and speaking on video platforms.
In addition to client work, managing and mentoring my team has helped me develop into a more well-rounded person. I feel it is important to support the younger generation through their legal career, as they are our legal future.
Working remotely during the pandemic has pushed me to manage in a different manner. But I speak to every member of my team daily, whether during ourteam meetings or our 1-2-1 sessions – mental health and staying in touch are paramount. Being a manager is a completely different challenge to being a lawyer – it requires a new set of skills to take on the concerns, both personal and work, of your team and mentees. That being said, it is also rewarding to see their confidence in their own abilities grow.
I am fortunate to have had many memorable moments in my private client career so far. My promotion to partner and becoming a shareholder at my current firm stands out. Being awarded the STEP Excellence Award – an award given to those who attain the highest mark per examination globally – is another. Setting aside time for personal development outside of your learning in-house is important.
Building our private client department has been one of the most nerve-racking yet satisfying highlights of my career. It is so rewarding to see the team grow. People have the perception that clients are predominately elderly. But there are so many life events requiring us to look at our affairs, such as having children, building a company, second marriages, receiving inheritance. Our client base spans from those starting out in their chosen professions all the way up to the elderly.
Covid has naturally made people think about the future and focus their mind on getting their affairs in order. But with social distancing and lockdown, the practicalities of doing so have proven difficult. As one way to ease the difficulties, the Wills Act 1837 has been updated to allow witnessing wills via video. Although it is encouraging to see the law attempting to modernise and accommodate those who would struggle to get independent witnesses otherwise, I fear it may result in an increase in disputed will claims in the future. There is potentially an area to argue lack of capacity, incorrect signing or even undue influence in certain cases.