As time goes by…
28 October 2019 by Guest Author
As I come to my retirement on the 31st October it is only natural to cast my mind back to the start of my career and ponder some of the changes that have happened over the years.
When I began my career it was normal to have a degree then have an intensive year at Law School followed by a two year “apprenticeship” as an articled clerk to gain experience in various departments.
I still remember my apprenticeship time from 1983 to 1985. Highlights included me persuading a Court Official to drag a High Court Judge from his car in order for me to Appeal a Judgment and attempting to measure a field with a Senior Solicitor hampered by a horse which was determined to eat the plan that we were working from.
In 1985 I qualified as a Solicitor. At that time a lot of people had a preconceived image of a Solicitor as a middle aged man in a grey suit. In my particular case I replaced a man in his seventies, it was a big culture shock for the clients in two ways – I was female and young! Clients then were often in awe of Solicitors and went to see them in their Sunday best clothes and accepted everything that they were told without question. For many clients things are somewhat different today.
With internet technology clients can be much more informed and many are not afraid to ask searching questions when being advised. The whole pace of life is quicker these days due in no small part to this. Everything is therefore much more immediate and long delays are often unthinkable unless there are justifying circumstances.
There have been lots of social changes in recent decades. More people live together than marry, people marry more than once, people live longer and perhaps have concerns regarding how their care can be paid for. As a result Wills and other aspects of advice to clients have often become more complex to take account of situations which nobody would have unduly worried about in the 1980’s.
Similarly financial and physical abuse of the vulnerable are much more in people’s minds today. Perhaps there was a time when these sorts of things could be swept under the carpet but today this should be unthinkable.
Some things however have not changed. I still like to think that I can explain things to clients in a clear and simple way and go out of my way to avoid legal jargon. A sympathetic ear especially towards the bereaved is as important today as it always was.
At the other extreme there are times when the simplest advice is the best. One particular client who I knew very well asked how he could arrange for his girlfriend to avoid paying inheritance tax after his death – my simple advice was to marry her! However there was one occasion (again with clients I knew well) when I was asked on a bleak and rainy afternoon whether a Will beneficiary should inherit at the age of eighteen or later. I said that the age of eighteen was fine but warned that the beneficiary could spend the inheritance on something unsuitable such as a red Ferrari. I sensed that I was in trouble when the clients started to stifle giggles and one of them asked, with a fairly straight face, whether I would like to guess the colour and make of car that they had driven to my office in – if I say it was red … !!
Written by Diane Rudd, Solicitor at FJG’s Billericay office. Diane Rudd retired from FJG in 2019.