Sarah Bolt, Managing Associate (Private Client Dispute Resolution – Wills, Trusts, and Estates) at Freeths LLP, pens the first of entry to her “Diary of a private client lawyer”
I spent a long time thinking about how I wanted to start this column and frame what I wanted to discuss each week. So here it goes…
- I have been a solicitor for just over ten years (which feels like no time at all) after qualifying in 2012 with Irwin Mitchell out of their Birmingham office.
- Qualification in 2012 was a bit like a ‘dog fight’ as it followed the recession, when firms reduced the number of training contracts, and in some cases offered their trainees an incentive to delay their training.
- Qualification was by no means easy (as I am sure a lot of people trying to enter the legal profession will be well aware).
- I was the first in my family to go to university, and I had no ‘connections’ in the law.
- It took me to step sideways to act as an advocate with LPC Law before I was very fortunate to be offered a training contract. Since then, my legal career has gone from strength to strength (which also included a stint of working in the Caribbean) before heading back to the much cooler climates here in Bristol to work with Freeths LLP.
My message for those of you reading who are feeling deflated, or are receiving rejection after rejection, please keep plugging away. You are not alone. Perhaps consider looking at an unconventional route into the profession. This has the added benefit of bringing different skills with you, that others may not have to shape your career. As with so many things, “one size does not fit all” and that is as true in the legal profession as anywhere else.
For me, I have always been fortunate to know that I wanted to be a litigate. This probably doesn’t come as a surprise to those that know me. However, picking the area I wanted to specialise in happened because I was in the right place at the right time. Who knew there were so many different areas in litigation alone? I hadn’t considered working in disputes after death until shortly after I qualified, I ended up acting for the executor for a high-profile TV star, who had committed many heinous crimes during his lifetime. I appreciate for some this baptism by fire may not have been for them, but it was genuinely an exciting case and helped shape my appreciation that I could help people, rather than companies, and that even within one specialism there was so much to learn.
Fast-forward to where I am now: over 10 years into my profession and fortunate to have worked on a whole range of different cases. Disputes arising after death (or in some cases during a person’s lifetime) may not sound “sexy” but it is something I love doing and I have met so many inspiring people who work in the same industry.
One final thing that I have debated long and hard about whether to share here only happened to me recently. At the grand old age of 38 years old, and after much discussion (and frustration) from the loved ones around me, I took the step to obtain a diagnosis of ADHD. Why was this missed when I was a child – it seems that because I was not hyperactive and was able to (somehow) tune in to teachers, that I slipped through the gaps. Why do I raise this here? It seems that this is a topic being raised more and more at the moment – Sue Perkins and Johnny Vegas have also been interviewed with their recent diagnoses. However, I think it is important to share our differences and also to show that solicitors are human (I know this is hard to believe), but also it is genuinely a diagnosis that has changed my life. I have read so many books and articles about ADHD since then to help my understanding, but it has been my lightbulb moment, in which I could finally finish the jigsaw puzzle because I only then had all the pieces to do so.
I am keen to share this, because if only to see if this is an issue that also affects you, or those around you, it is important to advocate that being different is not a bad thing. We are diverse in our strengths, and we can harness our ‘superpowers’ to be a benefit, not only to you, but to those around you. Every team benefits from its differences and life would be boring if we were all the same.
How has this impacted my career and life? Being able to understand some of my actions, and why I struggle in some areas of my life, has haunted me my entire life. It may not be obvious, with some of the activities I have undertaken in the last few years, such as the Ironman Triathlons, but I have become very good at hiding it. Now that I can connect the dots, I can see that this has been something I have struggled with for a long time, if not my entire life. However, with some education I am now starting to implement some meaningful change, at work and at home, which I hope will shape my future (and my loved ones around me) for the better, I am, and always have been, a strong believer in being open and I want to be able to follow the paths of others diagnosed with ADHD – I mean Albert Einstein, Michael Jordan, Agatha Christie, and (even) Zooey Deschanel (my favourite from New Girl) were all diagnosed, and their achievements speak for themselves.
So that is me in a nutshell. Hopefully I can provide a refreshingly different view of the law, particularly of solicitors, and I am hoping to show you that life is never dull where disputes arise after death, especially where money is involved. It should surprise me (but it no longer does) what people will do to get their ‘rightful’ share even if this means causing a family rift. This trend seems to be getting ‘worse’ (for want of a better word) as there seems to be a lot more on the line for people, and there is a lot more inheritance in the pot, particularly as people seem to feel entitled to family money, and factored it into how they will afford things in the future. I am not saying this change of views is great, but it is certainly keeping me (and many solicitors up and down the country specialising in disputes after death) busy.
If there are any queries arising between my columns, please do feel to reach out to me. My contact information is firstname.lastname@example.org and 0345 166 6287. I have intentionally chosen to write in my name rather than anonymously so that I can try and provide some funny stories (and sometimes tragic stories) without breaching confidentiality (of course) and so anyone can reach out if needed. Hopefully this may encourage some of you to consider this area of work in the future (or at the very least it doesn’t put you off).