My choice to study law at university was based on the fact that I am a naturally curious individual. I like to know how things work, and I reckoned that law might provide the kind of career which I would genuinely enjoy. It is a decision which has paid off.
I have worked in commercial property law for the last 20 years, even though property law was not my favourite subject at university. Having spent two summers working at a local personal injury firm, I actually finished my law degree at Birmingham University certain that I was going to pursue a career in medical negligence litigation. It was not until I took the conveyancing and advanced property modules on the LPC and started to see the practical applications of property law that I gained the interest that has defined my career.
In 1999, I returned to my hometown of Manchester to undertake my training contract at Pannone & Partners. Having enjoyed my seat in the commercial and property litigation team, I thought that was where my career was headed. At the start of the second year of my training, I went to the commercial property department to do the non-contentious seat needed to qualify. Once there, I stayed.
Technology could help to streamline due diligence. The software we use at Land Law can already ‘read’ pdf scans of documents far more quickly than a person
I enjoy the diversity and practical nature of the work. Commercial property often involves challenges and problem solving, and no two real estate projects are exactly the same. My training covered all aspects of commercial property, giving me a breadth of experience and skills that has served me well throughout my career.
Definite highlights included acquiring land for the extension of the Manchester Metrolink tram network. I assisted with the development agreement for Kingsway Business Park in Rochdale. I was also part of the corporate support team that acted for Manchester Airport when it purchased Bournemouth and East Midland airports in 2001 – a project that involved several months working weekends, piecing together title and lease information for the airports. It was a stressful but amazing experience.
Pannone was not a typical large law firm – and I have never been a typical kind of lawyer. When the time to move came after a decade at Pannone, I knew I would need to find a firm with a difference – one which was also committed to doing things its own way. Land Law, a boutique commercial property practice based on the outskirts of Greater Manchester which combined legal excellence with quality of life, was the perfect fit.
I have seen many changes in the commercial property sector. Technology has had the greatest impact, improving the methods and speed with which we conduct transactions. Emailing drafts with typed amendments replaced exchanging hard copy travelling drafts, whereby a document was sent back and forth by post, with each lawyer adding amendments in a different coloured pen, until the document was either agreed or fell apart and had to be copy-typed.
Information is more readily available now online. Google Earth and Streetview mean I can carry out virtual site visits, which is particularly helpful when an actual visit would cost too much.
Looking to the future, the development of artificial intelligence is an area of interest. Technology could help to streamline due diligence. The software we use at Land Law can already ‘read’ pdf scans of documents and find information far more quickly than a person.
As well as advancing my career, leaving the city centre enabled me to move out of Manchester’s suburbs. I moved into a beautiful and Grade II* listed water mill, complete with water wheel, in the Cheshire countryside. Property lawyers often attract houses with issues and mine was no exception. It took nine months to complete the purchase which involved various issues and a trip to court to retrieve the title for the master bedroom, which had inadvertently vested in the Crown. Being a property lawyer and understanding the process helped – otherwise I may have given up and looked for something else.
My house purchase also reminded me why we do not do residential conveyancing at Land Law. While the law is mostly the same, the skills required for commercial and residential work can be very different. The lawyer who handled my purchase was fantastic in difficult circumstances. I wouldn’t want to swap jobs.