Carol-Anne Baker is a Consultant Solicitor who has worked for Bridge Law Solicitors over the past two years. Below, she provides us an insight into her career and how she got there:
Tell us a bit about the company and what you do there
The firm is quite a newly established company, which started in Marple Bridge in 2016, but has since expanded to include offices in Holmfirth, Knutsford and London. The company is headed by our Director Claire Stewart, who founded the business. We help individual clients and businesses with many areas of legal work. Client care is foremost in our work and increasing use of technology and flexible ways of working to help clients are key. My role is carrying out the full spectrum of family law work as well as private client work across our offices as the need arises.
How long have you been working in the law?
I commenced my articles as they were in 1989 and qualified as a solicitor in 1991 following completion of my law degree in Birmingham, and my Solicitors Final Exams, as they were then in Chester. Things have changed a lot over that time in the law, not always for the better. Certainly delays in many areas of the system are worse now than they were 30 years ago.
Which part of the job are you most passionate about?
I am passionate about helping people get through often very difficult circumstances and being able to move on with their lives with the least stress possible to the client and their family. I pride myself in making clients feel welcome and putting them at ease, dealing with their matter in as down to earth, straightforward a way as possible. Coming to a solicitor is a daunting experience, often at a very stressful time and trying to take some of that stress away at the first opportunity is really important to me. This can range from someone going through an acrimonious separation to someone who is terminally ill wishing to make a will urgently. It is so satisfying to have clients coming back time and time again for help with different issues through their lives and their children coming for help as well. I think I am onto the third generation in some instances which makes me feel very old!
Why did you choose to work in the law?
My parents went through a very acrimonious divorce. I saw how stressful this was, the impact on the whole family and how impersonal and lacking a lot of the support was. This was back in the 1980’s and walking into a solicitors office was like walking back into the Victorian ages. This triggered my interest in the law and definitely my desire to help clients in a more friendly, supportive manner. It also helped me to see that although we are dealing with the legal aspect, there is often a need for referral to support services to help clients with related issues. My stubbornness also gave me a push in that direction when my headteacher explained how hard it was to get into law and maybe it was not the right choice. I thought I would prove him wrong and that I could do it!
What does a typical day in your job look like?
Busy! There is never a quiet day, but it is always varied from seeing clients at home or in their office, attending court, completing paperwork or travelling between offices (and the commute over to Marple Bridge is scenic). The work itself is very varied from dealing with divorces, children or domestic abuse issues to writing wills, powers of attorney or dealing with probate. No two days are ever the same. I also have a very wide range of clients dealing with children issues to client’s making wills and probate issues post death.
What skills/qualities would you say a person needs to get to where you are today?
Time management as there are always competing demands, compassion, being able to write and type quickly is a massive bonus as there is so much paperwork, and tenacity as it is a stressful job but also very rewarding. Treating everyone with respect, whether that be client’s, work colleagues or third parties is vital.
What advice would you give to someone looking to move towards a job like this?
I have worked employed, had my own business and worked as a consultant. There are pros and cons of working as a consultant as with anything but it is definitely worth considering. You need to work with the right firms and have plenty of experience behind you before moving to this role.
If you could give your younger self advice about your future, what would it be?
Think carefully about your choices rather than making quick decisions. Don’t believe all the hype about being a lawyer. Learn stress management techniques as you will need them. Make sure your choice of firm is right for you. Have some work/life balance.
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