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Stories from our qualified lawyers

Contents

Georgia Collier

Solicitor – Private Capital – Bristol

Alice Finlow

Solicitor – Employment – Manchester

Kristian Johnson

Senior Associate – Commercial Property – Southampton

Charlotte Lord

Associate – Commercial Property – Cardiff

Fiona Rendell

Partner – Commercial Property – Birmingham

Robert Ridd

Partner – Corporate & Commercial – Bristol

Claire Smith

Chartered Legal Executive (Associate) – Home Sales – Taunton

Georgia Collier

Georgia Collier - Private Capital Solicitor - Clarke Willmott SouthamptonGeorgia is a solicitor in our Bristol Private Capital team. 

I’m at the beginning of my career. I joined Clarke Willmott as a solicitor one week before the first lockdown in 2020, so I have only ever (really) known working from home since being here. Lockdown was tough as a didn’t know anyone and unexpectedly had to find my feet remotely. Everyone was friendly and forgiving in my countless questions and, because working remotely was new for them too, there was something of a comradery in the team. We set up a WhatsApp group where we would (and still do) share IT happenings and goings wrong, remote working ‘hacks’ and personal life events etc. It was our equivalent of ‘making a coffee in the kitchen’ chat which I think has also helped get to know one another a bit more.

Describe your typical workday at Clarke Willmott

I tend to log in for 7:30am/8am whilst working at home. I log in early in the knowledge that I might unload the dishwasher or put a wash on throughout the day, which will cause me to be away from my desk more. I generally reserve the morning for calls, emails and drafting and then meetings will be booked for the afternoon. I will sometimes try and go for a walk around the block on a lunch time, but otherwise tend to eat lunch at my desk and plough on until about 6-ish when I will call it a day. On Thursday mornings, the Private Capital team meet on Teams with a cuppa and have a catch up, mainly non-related topics like sport or pets! Now that restrictions are easing, I am looking forward to being back in the office perhaps one or two days a week and socialising with the team again.

Tell us about your experience of learning and career development at Clarke Willmott

I have been supported to attend courses to aid my development and sat two STEP exams whilst at Clarke Willmott, meaning that I am three quarters of the way through my STEP qualification. CW provide study days that are matched with annual leave. For example, I take half a days’ holiday so that it can be matched with half a day study leave. I support this entirely as it makes sure that the individual uses study leave wisely and at the right time, meaning that more consideration is given to the day or days leading up to an exam. I am a firm believer that success does not come without sacrifice.

What do you value most about working at Clarke Willmott?

I value the team I work with and find that of huge importance to day to day. I also value having the resources to deliver a high standard of work. Our area of law is extremely broad and so having a researcher and non-practicing solicitor on hand to assist with any legal queries is fundamental to job satisfaction in a Private Capital team. With this support, I know that I (or Clarke Willmott) will have provided a top-class service for the client. Clarke Willmott investing the time and money in this role where other firms don’t, speaks strongly about their ethics and client principles.

What keeps you at Clarke Willmott?

It has taken time for me to settle into life at CW, perhaps a little more than it would have done in normal times, but I have been here for nearly 18 months now and feel very much at home. I work closely with Carol Cummins and, with Carol’s wealth of experience, I am finding that I am learning more and more as the weeks go by. I have a brilliant team, good support from business services and I am encouraged to work 9-5.30. Receiving good client feedback is rewarded and because treating clients with respect and as humans is a key aspect of my personality, I feel proud to be part of a firm where great client service is so highly valued. I’m happy here and my aim is to apply for associate in 2022.

Alice Finlow

Alice Finlow - Employment Solicitor - Clarke Willmott ManchesterAlice is a solicitor in our Manchester Employment team.

I joined Clarke Willmott in December 2017 as a paralegal in the Employment team. I started my training contract in September 2019 and completed seats in Employment, Intellectual Property and Corporate before returning to the Employment team in February 2021 where I am now a qualified solicitor.

Tell us about your experience of learning and career development at Clarke Willmott

My experience at CW in terms of learning and development has been really positive. CW gave me the confidence I needed to achieve my goal of becoming a solicitor.

When I first joined CW as a full time paralegal, I was studying my LPC and masters part time. My manager was really understanding and made it possible for me to take study leave when I needed to and even gave me guidance that assisted me in my employment law module!

After I completed my studies, my manager fully supported me in applying for a training contract. I completed my training contract earlier this year and was thrilled to be offered an NQ role in the Employment team where my manager continues to support and encourage my career development.

How have you been involved with community or charity projects with Clarke Willmott?

CW has a great corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative and I was keen to get involved. I joined the Manchester CSR team and helped organise fundraising events for our office charity, St Ann’s Hospice. I helped organise a charity bike ride where we “virtually” cycled around all of CW’s national offices on static bikes. We managed to raise just over £6,000 for St Ann’s. I also ran the Manchester half marathon with some of my colleagues from the Manchester office to raise money for St Ann’s.

How has Clarke Willmott supported your wellbeing?

CW has supported my wellbeing by encouraging me to take regular breaks from my desk during the working day and to keep working hours to a reasonable level. CW has trained mental health first aiders based in the Manchester office (and other offices) who I know are on hand should I need to discuss anything. I enjoy taking part in CW’s remote yoga sessions, which have encouraged me to take a break from my working day to focus on breathing and stretching. This has done absolute wonders for my mental and physical wellbeing!

What keeps you at Clarke Willmott?

There are many things that keep me at CW but the main thing is its people who create a wonderfully positive and friendly working environment. Everyone I have come into contact with at CW, whether in the Manchester office or further afield, has shown an incredible keenness to help with whatever issue I am dealing with. I have found this to be particularly the case with the national Employment team who feel very much like a close-knit team despite being miles apart.

Kristian Johnson

Kristian Johnson - Commercial Property Solicitor - Clarke Willmott SouthamptonKristian is a senior associate in our Southampton Commercial Property team.

I joined Clarke Willmott as a paralegal in the Commercial Property team in November 2012. I’d previously completed my LPC and chosen to work for two years outside of the legal sector to expand my commercial experience. Having completed my training contract with Clarke Willmott, I have since progressed to senior associate.

Tell us about your experience of learning and career development at Clarke Willmott

In my experience, the firm rewards hard work and willingness to develop your knowledge. Senior fee earners are always happy to run through matters and explain points of law. The firm offer regular training sessions and are happy to support you should you find relevant courses that would complement your development. Now that I have progressed into a more senior role, I enjoy assisting the junior fee earners with their development so they can fulfil their potential.

What is your experience of working flexibly at Clarke Willmott?

Over the last 18 months Clarke Willmott has worked incredibly hard, firstly to react to remote working as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic but also to adapt to the challenges facing working parents. The firm are keen to assist staff in balancing the demands of work and family life. My wife and I had our first child in lockdown and I have been able to be involved far more given Clarke Willmott’s flexible approach.

What advice would you give to someone looking to build a career at Clarke Willmott?

My advice for this is fairly simple – if you work hard in developing your knowledge and client care skills, it will be noticed and rewarded.

What keeps you at Clarke Willmott?

Simply, it is the people at and ethos of Clarke Willmott. Everyone, no matter their seniority is approachable. As cliched as it sounds, the firm genuinely cares about its employees. You are made to feel like a valued member of not only your team, but of the wider firm.

Charlotte Lord

Charlotte Lord, Commercial Property solicitor, CardiffCharlotte is an associate in our Cardiff Commercial Property team.

I joined Clarke Willmott in 2017 following a career break of 15 years, during which time I had two children and also set up and ran two family businesses with my husband. My original position at Clarke Willmott was maternity cover for one of the solicitors in the Social Housing Property Finance team. My background was in commercial property and a large part of my work had been secured lending. However, it was still a bit of a learning curve! The CW team were extremely supportive, from admin staff and IT support, paralegals to partners. I quickly slotted back into working life and was delighted to be offered a permanent position at the end of the year. In 2019, I was promoted to associate.

What is your experience of working flexibly at Clarke Willmott?

When I returned to work, I was keen to continue with my role as a Guiding leader. I volunteered with the Rainbows, aged 5 – 7 and our meetings started at 3.30pm. My contract with Clarke Willmott was for 30 hours, which I spread over 4 days, and my team leader was happy for me to fit these in so that I could leave early once a week to continue volunteering.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, I was equipped with a laptop and mobile phone to enable me to work remotely if necessary, whether that be for teen-care or to support my parents when my mum was ill.

What the biggest challenge you faced when returning to law after 15 years?

My concern before returning was that the law would have moved on without me. I bought some up to date textbooks and did some studying, which helped to calm my nerves! Although when I left practice, we were still sending faxes and letters, I had kept up with technology so adapting to emails wasn’t a problem. It was interesting having electronic files, but, during the COVID-19 pandemic I became pretty much paper-less in any case and now wouldn’t look back!

How have you been involved with community or charity projects with Clarke Willmott?

The most memorable time I was involved with a charity project with CW is when I took part in Llamau’s annual “sleep-out” event in the grounds of Cardiff Castle. Llamau’s mission is to end homelessness for young people and women. The aim of the fundraiser was not to experience homelessness, but to recognise and reflect upon the challenges it brings. Unfortunately, on the night of the event, just as we were settling into our sleeping bags, Cardiff was hit by a storm. The event was eventually abandoned at three in the morning, but those hours spent in the cold, wet night will stay with me forever. I was able to go back to my car and drive home, which for some simply is not an option.

What keeps you at Clarke Willmott?

The people. There is a genuine feeling that we are all part of a team, whether we are fee earners or support staff, working hard with and for our clients to achieve the best outcomes. And at the end of the day, we are friends too. Although we have mostly been working remotely since March 2021, we have enjoyed virtual bake-alongs, quizzes, a virtual Christmas murder-mystery party and tea party, and a regular Friday afternoon Jukebox session when we all listen along to our team Spotify list!

Fiona Rendell

Fiona Rendell photo, Senior Associate Commercial PropertyFiona is a partner in our Birmingham Commercial Property team.

I joined Clarke Willmott as a paralegal in the insolvency team at the very end of 2006, while studying for my LPC part time. I began my training contract in September 2008 and did seats in Corporate/Tax, Private Client and Commercial Property. In March 2010, I qualified into a position in the Commercial Property team. I’ve always been ambitious and I’ve worked hard since I joined. It’s paid off and my career has progressed steadily. I was promoted to associate in July 2012 and when I was on maternity leave in the summer of 2015, I was promoted to senior associate. I took a second maternity leave in 2016/17 and I was promoted to partner as an ordinary member in May 2018.

How do you work with other teams across the firm?

I do a lot of work with our corporate teams, both in Birmingham and in other offices. Also with my colleagues specialising in planning, construction and property litigation. This started long before the pandemic and we were therefore very familiar with working remotely from each other, liaising over the telephone and emails, with face to face meetings where possible. In the last year and a bit this has changed to add video calls and if anything I now ‘see’ them more, with many of them ‘dropping in’ to our morning team meeting to catch up with non-transaction related news and chat.

What do you enjoy about working in the CW commercial property team in Birmingham?

It’s a very stable team. Two partners have been there since I was a trainee with them in 2009 and the senior associate in our team started as a trainee at the same time as me! They’re all very supportive and we get along well.

What advice would you give to somebody looking to build a career at Clarke Willmott?

Find a work niche you enjoy and then let people know about it – you will find that people are keen to support you and you will build expertise and experience and increase your practice area as you build relationships internally and externally.

What keeps you at Clarke Willmott?

I work with a really nice bunch of people and a great range of clients and do a huge variety of work. I’ve been supported through two maternity leaves and returns to work and find the flexibility in my working patterns means I can have a great life balance – I don’t have to give up being a mum in order to progress my career and enjoy my work. As a team we value getting the work done, wherever and whenever that may be. There are also great freedoms to explore different ways of winning work and enthusiasm for even pretty unusual business development activities is welcomed.

Robert Ridd

Rob Ridd photo, Partner CorporateRobert is a partner in our Bristol Corporate & Commercial team.

I joined Clarke Willmott’s Corporate team late-2010, having qualified at Reed Smith in London and worked at a couple of smaller firms. I was looking for a balance of exciting and complex work and being able to live my life, and that’s exactly what I found. A decade on I’m a partner at the firm, and looking at the next 10 years with excitement and optimism.

What type of clients do you work with?

A real mix, which is one of the attractions for me. I can be found working for a national restaurant chain, an international media agency and an international construction company, while at the same time working for social housing providers, family companies, individuals and sole traders. We have a sector approach and you are encouraged to get involved with that, but (at least in my case) you don’t tend to get pigeon-holed.

How has Clarke Willmott supported your career development?

I joined as a solicitor and was promoted to associate in 18 months later, senior associate in 2014 and then to partner in 2017. I have always been clear about the fact that I want to progress, and what my ambitions are, and at each point I was encouraged to apply and given the support I needed to put together a persuasive business case. The criteria are open to all on the firm intranet, and clear and transparent in my view

What is your experience of being a working parent at Clarke Willmott?

My wife and I had our first child in 2011 and then another in 2015, and throughout I’ve had the support and flexibility from the firm to take an active role in family life while throwing myself into work at the same time. My wife works in a demanding job too, and so it’s a difficult juggling act. Without the CW approach, I think we’d have had to compromise a lot more.

It was keenly felt during the home-schooling phases of the pandemic lockdowns, when the firm was great in supporting a much more flexible working day.

What keeps you at Clarke Willmott?

Interesting, complex work. The chance to work with a great mix of local, national and international clients on a wide variety of transactions, while at the same time getting the work-life balance we all crave. Most of all though, it’s the friendly, collegiate atmosphere of the firm. From my first day here, I felt at home amongst the people, and while colleagues come and go just as they do at every firm, that feeling has only increased over the past decade.

Claire Smith

Claire Smith photo, Chartered Legal Executive (Associate) Private Property & AgricultureClaire is a chartered legal executive (associate) in our Taunton Home Sales team.

I joined Clarke Willmott in 2004 as a paralegal in the Private Property and Agriculture team. I was trained on the job in residential conveyancing while assisting a fee earner with a full caseload. Clarke Willmott supported me to do my CILEX course through distance learning and after getting married and having children, I finally qualified as a legal executive fellow in 2014.

I progressed my knowledge with my own files, dealing with varying aspects of conveyancing and more complex transactions. In 2017 I moved to the New Homes team where I looked at the other side of conveyancing, acting for developers and social housing clients. In 2019 I was made an associate.

How have you been involved with community or charity projects with Clarke Willmott?

The firm support different charities each year. I have participated in different events where we raise money for these charities. In particular I have taken part in the Swimathon, a yearly event with teams competing to swim the most lengths in an hour and the Dragon Boat Race, where we dressed in a theme (Star Wars) with different boat races along the River Tone. Our New Homes team also did a day helping St Margaret’s Hospice by sorting donations in their warehouse. These events are great fun and a good way of mixing with other colleagues across different teams while supporting a good cause.

What is it like working in the Home Sales team?

The Home Sales team are like a family. Team members are always willing to help each other and provide support. We work very hard and strive to build successful relationships with clients. There is always a good level of communication and we enjoy organising social events.

What is your experience of being a working parent at Clarke Willmott?

I have had two children while working at Clarke Willmott. It is not easy being a working parent, but I have always felt supported by the firm and my experience has been a key factor in my long service. The firm’s flexibility has helped me to make various changes to my working hours as my children have grown up and to find a good work-family balance.

What keeps you at Clarke Willmott?

Clarke Willmott is a dynamic and all-inclusive firm. They provide good communication and encourage me to reach my full potential and to be involved in the firm’s development internally and externally. There is a high level of support through career progression and on a personal level, which together with the flexibility in my family life and now working from home means that I can keep a good work-life balance.