Part Two- Manpreet Ark shares her experiences of being a property solicitor at Else Solicitors.
I ease myself into Monday by checking emails that have come in over the weekend over a strong brew. I am in the office today, so I catch up with my property colleagues and then briefly prioritise my tasks for the day. We managed to complete the assignment of a lease of a dental practice just before the weekend, so my first job is to prepare a post-completion handover for a colleague. Tasks include applying to register the transfer at the Land Registry, notifying the Landlord of the assignment and filing a Stamp Duty Land Tax return.
Later in the morning, I discuss a file with a very helpful property colleague. I am acting for a lender, and we recently completed a deal involving their borrower purchasing the business and assets of a pharmacy company. Unfortunately, the borrower’s solicitor failed to comply with completion undertakings, so we consider the best way to protect our client’s unregistered Legal Charge. As a relatively newly qualified solicitor, I am grateful to work in an open plan office with colleagues who are happy for me to draw on their experience when I am facing an unfamiliar issue.
My next task involves assisting a client with providing replies to Commercial Property Standard Enquiries. If a seller provides incorrect or incomplete replies to pre-contract enquiries, there is a risk that a buyer could establish that there has been some misrepresentation. It is important, therefore, that these are answered accurately and honestly. My client has already made a start with providing some of the replies, but I telephone them to provide guidance with the enquiries they are struggling to answer.
My day ends with our marketing department alerting me to the fact that a client has changed their company name. This is helpful, as it gives me the opportunity to a amend a lease I am in the process of drafting. I make the relevant amendments and then send the lease and my report on the terms of the lease to our client, for their review. I am pleased that this matter is making good progress!
Tuesday begins with my usual cup of tea, but today I have traded my work shoes for slippers. If you haven’t guessed already, I am working from home today.
I start the day with an email to a solicitor acting for a tenant on a new matter I am involved with. My clients are the trustees of a SIPP, purchasing a freehold property, while simultaneously granting a lease to a new tenant. SIPPs have very specific requirements and often provide precedents that they require us to use. I spend some time reviewing their lease template and identifying potential issues that should be dealt with at the outset of the matter. I consider that I will need to discuss the tax implications of this transaction with my client’s accountant and make a note to get in touch with them as soon as possible.
In the afternoon, I work on a new lease of another property used as a dental practice. My client owns part of the land with “Title Absolute” and part of the land with “Possessory Title”. The Tenant’s solicitor raised concerns about the possessory title ownership and the risk that the ownership could be challenged. As a solution, we agreed to grant a supplemental lease of this land to the Tenant, on the same terms as the lease for the main property, but with a “peppercorn rent”. I spend much of the afternoon finalising both leases and then emailing them to the Tenant’s solicitor for their approval.
I am back in the office today and begin my Wednesday catching up with our Head of Department and our lovely secretary. We decide that it would be useful to take some time out of our hectic fee-earning schedules to review recently completed matters and close some files.
While this part of my job isn’t the most exciting, it is always satisfying to see my matters list shorten, which puts me in a better position to take on new files. It is also imperative that we ensure that post-completion matters have been dealt with properly and from an accounts perspective, that any unbilled disbursements or residual balances have been identified.
The next part of my day involves replying to enquiries made by a buyer’s solicitor. I am acting for a client selling a small parcel of bare land and the buyer’s solicitor has identified unknown restrictive covenants registered against the registered title. I take my client’s instructions and they agree to contribute towards an indemnity policy to protect the buyer against the risk of the restrictive covenants being enforced. I spend some time obtaining quotes for the policy and advising my client on the policy terms, before forwarding a draft to the buyer’s solicitor.
In the afternoon, I carry out some work for a client who is involved in a rather unfortunate land dispute with their ex-wife. I telephone a colleague in our Litigation department, who is assisting with this matter and we discuss the best course of action going forward. I then telephone our client, who is happy to hear that we believe he has a good claim against the relevant land. I advise him that I will be introducing him to my litigation colleague, who will draft a letter to his ex-wife’s solicitor. I enjoy working closely with the Litigation department and find that clients appreciate the individual expertise that each of our departments offer.
My Thursday starts with setting up a file for a new client. I have been instructed to provide Independent Legal Advice to this client on the terms of a personal guarantee they will be giving in respect of a loan from a well-known lender. Given that the client is not local, I arrange an appointment with the client via Zoom. Meeting clients virtually has become the norm during the pandemic and I enjoy the ease and efficiency of meeting clients this way. Flexible home working could not be simpler!
In the afternoon, we have a property team meeting. As well as our informal chats in the office, I find that these meetings are an invaluable opportunity to discuss any areas of concern and to learn from listening to my superiors. We use this time to bounce ideas off each other, discuss ways in which we can improve the department and to discuss each of our workloads to see how we may be able to help one another.
Fridays tend to be busy and this Friday was no different. I start my day discussing a property my client is selling, which is affected by every property owner’s nightmare, dreaded Japanese Knotweed. Japanese Knotweed is well-known to cause damage to buildings and hard structures, and many lenders are unwilling to lend on affected properties. My client instructs that his buyer is reluctant to proceed. Luckily, my client advises that he has a surveyor friend who is interested in the property himself and will be a cash buyer…”phew!”
As it is the end of the week, the team decides to go out for lunch together at a small local café. Now that we are mainly back in the office, we try to take some time to catchup for lunch together weekly so that we can reflect on the week, discuss our weekend plans and begin to unwind before the week ends. I am looking forward to a weekend of Netflix, spending time with friends, and enjoying the perks of our firm’s corporate gym membership…or rather, the pool and spa!
In the afternoon, I carry out some more work relating to the sale of a dental practice. We work closely with our corporate team on these matters, so I spend some time discussing various aspects of the sale with my corporate colleague. We work on the disclosure letter and Asset Purchase Agreement together, which is invaluable experience for me as I had far less corporate involvement in my last firm.
As 5pm finally arrives, I turn off both my computer and lawyer-brain for the weekend, pleased with yet another productive week at Else!