Solicitor, Greenswitch, Burscough and London
Years before studying law, I had taught myself to draft particulars of claim and found myself putting those skills into practice while litigating for some reason or another. My first case was against Hill Dickinson in respect of a pet insurance policy gone wrong. In hindsight, now that I am also in practice and appreciate the constant struggle for a 25th hour, I sometimes wonder just how many far more important things the solicitor acting for the insurer had going on that day, rather than arguing with a disgruntled teenager before a somewhat bemused county court judge.
Within weeks of starting my training contract at Hanne & Co in London, somehow having managed to say the right thing at the wrong time, I garnered the attention of the partners. For the remainder of my training contract, I worked alongside the partners in developing the firm with new business and systems ideas.
Upon qualification, I took a management role overseeing the development of a 60-strong team of solicitors, and found myself presented with challenging commercial decisions very early on.
There is nothing more valuable than a good teacher. In particular I recall the property seat of my training contract. The solicitor I assisted set an exceptionally high standard. My introduction to high-value commercial property and development came some time later, having jumped in at the deep end with a niche corporate firm in Birmingham a year or so after qualification. A relatively small transaction involving Network Rail opened my eyes to development as a unique area of law.
Clients and fellow solicitors perhaps expect to meet someone a little older from time to time. Through a series of coincidences and career leaps, I gained substantial experience early on in my career and, as a lifelong learner, having qualified as a mediator in two disciplines as well as a land agent in two disciplines, my experience and practice continue to develop.
Having moved in-house, the hardest challenge will always be adapting my legal practice and case management in tandem with other professions such as engineering and construction, whereby each industry has its own unique approach. But it is invigorating to work alongside professionals from other industries and learn about niche issues that crop up. For example, while I was previously able to appreciate the legalities of the planning process, having attended many public consultations and committee hearings for developers I have developed an impressive knowledge of the many twists and turns of the planning system including, for example, paleoenvironmental assessments and sequential testing.
At Greenswitch, I am overseeing nearly 1,500 acres of land currently in the planning system for development; the management of a land bank in excess of 30,000 acres with opportunities for new development arising on a daily basis; while also working in a relatively new market where innovative technologies are leading the way for investors and developers. Every technology has its own risk and every development site has its own tale. There are often aspects of property, agriculture, litigation, planning and construction to address. A significant part of my current caseload revolves around renewable technologies and highly contentious developments, often attracting negative attention.
At the time, I felt that revitalising a firm with over 100 years of history was an exciting career moment. Developing power that will light up homes for generations is a far more significant achievement in the scale of things.