Last month we welcomed Kirsty Allen to Jacksons. Here is what she has to say about her journey to becoming head of Private Client in our Newcastle office.
If you had told me 20 years ago that I would work as a Private Client Solicitor at a city centre firm I would have, well, I would not have been listening. I would have been far too busy riding my horse around the farm or at a show jumping event, or grooming my horse, or cleaning my saddle or basically doing anything horse related. I was going to be a vet. An equine vet. That’s all I wanted to do. But then I did work experience with a real live equine vet and realised that it was not at all like I imagined it to be. Yes, it was horses galore, but it was horses in pain, being stitched up, or worse, being put down. Suddenly, my future career was uncertain. Flicking through my career options report that I received from school, a law degree caught my eye. Having always worked hard at school, and secretly always having loved paperwork, I did some work experience, which I thoroughly enjoyed and decided that was the direction I was headed so off I went to University.
Being an empathetic person, I was immediately drawn to family law, and imagined that would be my area. Even through the Legal Practice Course, I pictured myself helping families through difficult relationship breakdowns, with romantic visions of helping to reunite parents with children who they had not seen for months.
After the Legal Practice the fierce competition for a training contract began. I had always enjoyed books by authors such as Patricia Cornwall, Karen Rose, Jo Nesbo, Lee Child etc and, fancying myself as a hardened crime junkie, I accepted a role as a Caseworker with the Crown Prosecution Service in Greater Manchester. Let me tell you, it can be exactly like in the books, and I quickly realised that a real-life career in the criminal justice system was not for me.
I then moved home to Alnwick and started work at a city centre firm in Newcastle, where I was offered a training contract. I still had my sights set on family law, but sadly, there was no vacancy in that department when I qualified. I really liked the firm and wanted to stay there, so I accepted a role in the personal injury department. To my surprise, I really enjoyed the work. Helping people who had been injured through no fault of their own gave me immense job satisfaction. There was no ambulance chasing, just genuine people who had been injured and deserved, and sometimes desperately needed, compensation, particularly where their injuries had been life changing.
Fast forward seven years, and the opportunity arose to transfer to the private client department. Having been only too aware of the mounting sense of doom in the personal injury world, I jumped at the chance. At the time, I had never drafted a will, or administered an estate, or even been aware of what a Lasting Power of Attorney really was and how it could be used. I decided to complete the STEP Diploma, with the aim of becoming a Trusts and Estates Practitioner. Even then I knew what a respected qualification that was. I firstly completed the Certificate in Trusts and Estates and achieved a Distinction. Spurred on by such a good result, I completed the Advanced Certificate in the Administration of Estates, and the Advanced Certificate in the Administration of Trusts. It was a lot of work, especially with two young children and a husband at home, but the work paid off and I achieved Distinctions in both.
Throughout my studying, and in my day to day practice of this area of law, I became increasingly aware that I was incredibly drawn to working with the vulnerable and/or elderly. People who I could not only advise on the law and the best option for them, but really help and protect. In my spare time I found myself reading Court of Protection judgments. So, I decided that I would specialise, and so I completed the Advanced Certificate in Advising Vulnerable Clients Part 1 in June this year. I loved every second of that course. I realised I had really, truly found “my area” of the law. I will be completing the Advanced Certificate in Advising Vulnerable Clients Part 2 in early October and I cannot wait. Early next year I will be able to apply to become a Trusts and Estates Practitioner, and I will be awarded the Diploma in Advising Vulnerable Clients. This is a relatively new qualification as this area of law is developing, partly as a result of us all living longer. Most private client solicitors dabble in this area, but few truly specialise.
To be trusted to help those who are unsure how, or unable to, help themselves is a huge privilege. I can help people make sure their assets go to the people they love, not the people who are pressuring them, or even financially abusing them. I can make sure that people create Lasting Powers of Attorney that are truly tailored to them, and their circumstances. A one size fits all approach is not appropriate and yet so many use it. I can help families who need to make a deputyship application, and I can continue to assist the deputy once the Order is in place.
My litigation background means that I am used to dealing with Courts daily. Now I deal with the Court of Protection and the Probate Registry instead of the County Court or High Court. But I am used to working to Court imposed deadlines and guiding and representing clients through the Court process.
Accepting the offer to head up the private client department in Jackson’s Newcastle office felt like the right opportunity to take. I am very much looking forward to working with such a respected firm, who’s approach to client care mirrors my own and that of my specialty.
If you would like to speak to Kirsty about issues relating to wills, trusts, probate please email mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org telephone 0191 814 0909.