Meet Laura Severn, Partner at LMP Law, and learn the route of her education, why property LAW and her thoughts for residential living for the future
I never thought of myself as a pioneer, but lately I’ve been asked to speak as a mentor at a few women led non-profit organizations about how I got into law, and why, in particular did I get into the property management side of law.
Learning law and the path to becoming a lawyer has become (thankfully) more democratic over the years. There I was, a child going through the state comprehensive schooling system, from a modest working class family, and living in a nice village in Nottinghamshire, if you had asked me if you had told me I was going to be a Partner if a niche law firm when I was older, well I’m not sure if I would have laughed in your face or risen to the challenge!
GCSEs – yep, didn’t take any as I was hospitalised for 3 months with severe glandular fever, it was a really tough time, at such an important age for learning, pushing for qualifications to allow me choices in life and of course for socialising. I was so poorly in hospital that I and was unable to eat or drink anything, I know in the scheme of things there are those suffering more of course, but I’m just putting into perspective my teenage education. Thankfully I was marked mostly on my predicted grades and anything I didn’t or wasn’t happy with, I retook at college alongside my A levels, because I knew, I had to work really hard, especially as a womxn, to give me a better choice in the big wide world!
I have been asked to answer some of these questions by our team, so I hope you find them useful to find out why I got into law and the journey along the way!
I’m not going to lie, many of my contemporaries had fathers in law or medicine and mothers who stayed at home. As I mentioned, I came from a modest background but what I did have were parents who were passionate in their beliefs. They grafted and they fought for their rights. My mum was the shop manager in our village and my dad was a surface engineer at the local colliery, together with being the local labour candidate AND was on the board of school governors. Dad’s a massive socialist and spent 2 or 3 years on strike with the miners! Maybe I got my bit between my teeth from him!
Who remembers Ally McBeal in the 90s? It was such a great US show, which showed a funny, sensitive and personal side to law. Women lawyers, who were great at their jobs, but exuded warmth and had fun! University wasn’t really on my radar, as I personally, couldn’t think of anything worse at the time – I didn’t want to live in student digs and I didn’t want the debt. I was thrilled to be accepted into Nottingham and Newcastle law schools, however I decided to try and get a job in a solicitor’s office to be able to study and work at the same time. This was probably from my parents’ push on getting the experience, don’t get into debt and learn within a practice. This path led me on the route to Legal Executive status where there was no going back for me!
WHY PROPERTY LAW?
Ask most lawyers where they started and the large majority will have attempted other areas of law! I actually started out in Criminal Law and did that age from the of 18 to 27, running all over the country representing people at police stations 24/7; attending court hearings and visiting people in prisons. I loved it but the hours take their toll. It certainly gave me an edge and a thicker skin.
I then wanted a change all together and made the swap to general litigation and then found an opportunity, just by chance, to jump on board and help grow a property law firm in Nottingham. That’s when I started working within this sector, which was about 11 or 12 years ago.
CONTENTIOUS OR NON-CONTENTIOUS?
Contentious has always come more naturally to me (not sure what that says about my personality) and I believe fits my skill set better! The irony is that when asked what areas of law I found boring when studying, Land Law comes to mind – rather a challenge; reality of working on a case however is very different.
Can I say Ally McBeal? Joking aside, I have just been really lucky and worked alongside many different inspiring lawyers. My first boss was absolutely brilliant, and I actually started on day 1 of his own law firm – he taught me that you can have a personality and lawyers don’t have to be boring (often we are perceived as dry and risk averse…!). I’ve honestly had some great bosses and managers. I’ve always been drawn to strong females throughout my career too, and had some great female team leaders who’ve been supportive and kind to me in many of different ways. There were also a couple of fabulous female barristers that I looked up to and instructed regularly, becoming trusted advisors and firm friends to boot.
PRESENT DAY IN PROPERTY LAW
WHAT’S IT LIKE BEING A WOMAN IN A MALE DOMINATED INDUSTRY (PROPERTY)
At first it was a shock to attend an event and realise how many males there were and probably only 2 or 3 other females in the room. However, it’s so much better nowadays. This probably isn’t the most PC thing to say but in the early days it actually made my job easier in networking because I stood out more and the males in the room tended to want a non-male dominated conversation.
WHAT HAVE YOU HAD TO OVERCOME?
Confidence is a big thing for any lawyer – you need to be able to hold a conversation and have something interesting to say! The biggest way to get over to it is just to pretend that you’re the most confident person in the world and then every time it gets easier.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO YOUR YOUNGER SELF?
Everyone else is dealing with their own lives and issues, and they aren’t solely focusing on you, therefore if you make a mistake or do something that makes you feel silly then most people probably won’t event notice, won’t remember, and ultimately really don’t really care anyway. It’s quite liberating when you realise this.
WHAT IS YOUR PASSION WITHIN YOUR JOB?
Client care – I’m always banging on about it, I focus on it primarily and I work hard to maintain really high service levels and solid client relationships.
WHERE DO YOU SEE LMP LAW IN 5 YEARS TIME?
We’ll still be here working within the property management industry – over the last 5 years we have really developed our offering in terms of different services and started to grow the team – we’re now in a solid position to keep that going and develop each area of law further. I think we’ll grow a team for each area of work that we do. Exciting times!
WHAT OBSTACLES DO YOU FIND THE HARDEST TO HURDLE OVER RUNNING A BUSINESS?
Recruitment – it’s really hard to find the right people for your business. Despite being lawyers – we are not overly interested in what it says on people’s CVs – we are a niche law firm and we can teach most of the knowledge needed to the right person but we focus a lot on personality – we are a different kind of law firm – very modern – very relaxed and it takes a lot of work to find the right fit for the next team member.
WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE MORE DIVERSITY IN LAW AND PROPERTY?
Always! Like everything in life – we need to see more people from every walk of life and background in the best positions! I’m actually a big advocate of it – particularly in law, one of the first things is better entry and progression for people from different educational backgrounds regardless of anything else.
WOULD YOU DO IT ALL AGAIN?
I never have regrets so yes “probably”, but I’d also like to be a hippy in Ibiza
WHAT ARE THE POSITIVES YOU WILL TAKE AWAY FROM LIVING IN COVID TIMES?
Actually not living life on the road so much and in hotels all the time has made me focus a lot more on health and wellbeing – which can never be a bad thing. The team and I have adapted easily to online webinars and we are still able to help our clients and maintain high standards.
FUTURE OF LAW AND DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION
WILL YOU AND YOUR PARTNERS EMBRACE DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION AS A BUSINESS?
Of course and we already do – life is so much easier even just being paperless and having digital files. We already have excellent software and technology in place that aids our various processes, which in turn helps communication, cashflow and cyber safety. Being digital also frees us up to really concentrate on adding human value to clients. Editing and signing documents, precedents, creating processes, reporting, time recording are all greatly assisted by tech. Bring it on!
HOW CAN YOU SEE TECHNOLOGY AND AI PLAYING A PART OF THE LEGAL PROFESSION IN THE FUTURE?
I think legal research will be massively transformed and more reliable. Using the assistance of AI for research purposes will help save time and money. AI could also be used to take instructions and even providing some pieces of advice. However, the advice given will only be as good as the information fed to the technology so a lot more work in this area is definitely required.
HOW CAN YOU SEE TECHNOLOGY AND AI PLAYING A PART IN THE FIELD OF PROPERTY MANAGEMENT IN THE FUTURE?
It’s already being introduced there’s lots of exciting things happening – advanced AI will be able to process requests and information from leaseholders and building managers in order to provide solutions and services to buildings more efficiently. I anticipate that it will be able to save time and costs for leaseholders in the near future (if it’s not already doing so).
PREDICTIONS FOR 2021 AND BEYOND
DO YOU HAVE ANY PREDICTIONS FOR LEASEHOLD LAW AND RESIDENTIAL LIVING IN THE UK?
Well leasehold law is going through an unprecedented period of change and consultation. There are currently many changes being recommended by various think tanks and so eventually I’m pretty sure we’ll see these being introduced. For example, changes to the RTM process or enfranchisement and lease extensions. I also believe that it’s inevitable that we’ll enter a period of testing out the commonhold concept.
Furthermore, fewer and fewer people and generations to come won’t be able to afford to purchase their own property, and so I believe the UK will fall into line with most other European countries and focus more on the rental sector – you only need to look at how fast the BTR sector is growing to see proof of this.
All in all, better regulations, productive legislation, think tanks, technology, together with excellent communication and collaborations, including online help and learning for anyone living and working in property, will be invaluable.
If you’d like to speak to Laura to find out how she and the time can work with with you, hit this button!