Head of landlord and tenant at Dutton Gregory Solicitors, Chandlers Ford, Hampshire
Law does not run in my family. Many people have parents or relatives in law who inspired them. But my inspiration came from a love of reading. As a child, I had a particular fondness for crime and mystery novels. I recall that when I was around 15 my school challenged us on what careers we wanted to pursue. Once I realised I was not going to cope with being a vet, and I was not interested in the creative avenues despite being musical, I started to lean towards the law.
Once I had chosen law as a career, it was relatively straightforward. It was a linear and methodical journey to achieve the right qualifications. I read law at Exeter University, followed by a year at the law school in Chester, where I undertook my Law Society Final exam.
I then joined Townsends in Swindon as a trainee solicitor. Every six months, I changed departments and explored different specialisms. From the outset, I knew I wanted to be a solicitor. I wanted the personal element, building relationships with clients, and seeing things through from start to finish while resolving their problems.
I always preferred litigation which involved the courts. There are deadlines to meet, whether it is limitation, a court hearing, or a process. I work well to time pressures.
Beginning as a commercial litigator I could see it was progressive. I experienced many different areas of law. I liked being kept on my toes. It was a big learning curve. But it became a double-edged sword – I was a jack of all trades and a master of none.
'Law is a service industry and you get such a mix in this role, from landlords to tenants to letting agents, the list goes on. The industry has evolved hugely since I first started my career. I can now train and educate on the subject'
I found myself looking for a new role and came across a residential landlord and tenant team leader position. I worried it might be too specialist but knew I wanted to hone my skills. I was nervous about the opportunity, but it has kept me going for 22 years now.
Specialising in residential landlord and tenant work enables me to work with different people. Law is a service industry and you get such a mix in this role, from landlords to tenants to letting agents, the list goes on. The industry has evolved hugely since I first started my career. I can now train and educate on the subject.
It is not common to act for both landlords and tenants because it can raise conflict issues. At Dutton Gregory we initially focused on working with insurers as this is high-volume work which means you always get the opportunity to work with landlords. We also operate a telephone helpline for letting agents who work with landlords. However, if a tenant comes to us with a landlord issue and there is no agent involved and the landlord is not known to us, we can take it on.
Working in this way enables us to see the communication issues between landlords and tenants. There are common issues and situations which we can help them to address. It is important to understand the situation from both sides as it helps us to see the way forward in terms of settlement. You know the law very well from a landlord’s perspective but for tenants you need to flip it. It makes you a more rounded professional.
I published a book entitled Letting Law for Property Professionals: Your Legal Questions Answered. I created a model called the HOUSE rules and wrote the book based on those rules. The aim was to impart my many years of experience in a digestible way which would help personal and business development. I also wanted to raise my profile and become an accepted leader in the industry. Finally, as I mentioned, I love reading so it only made sense for me to put pen to paper. I enlisted on a three-month business book-writing course. This empowered you to write a book within six weeks. I was highly disciplined and wrote every day.
It was draining writing a book every day while running a department and a business. The writing is very demanding, but the actual journey is fascinating, dealing with editors, publishers, and seeing your pages come to life.