Financial & Legal News

How to become a Will Solicitor

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Zoe Johnson joined the Wills, Trust and Probate team at Pearson about four years ago and we’re pleased to share that she has passed her law masters with distinction and is qualified as a solicitor, she now joins our very talented team of young legal advisers.

She studied part time alongside working full time at Pearson Solicitors in Oldham and then embarked on a training contract working in various specialities to get a feel for how a full service law firm operates.

Zoe is based in our Wills, Trust and Probate team in Oldham, helping clients to draft Wills and Lasting Power of Attorney and is also looking to specialise in Probate law. We caught up with her in between clients to see how it has been:

Why do you want to be a solicitor?

Being a solicitor, was never my ‘dream job’ as a child, I always wanted to act, I went to Oldham Theatre Workshop for many years and that was it for me. After school, I studied at Oldham Sixth Form College and picked ‘Drama, Sociology, Psychology and English literature’. On the open day, I decided English was not for me and I came across Law. I thought it could be interesting and it all felt very exciting and I suppose the rest is history. I loved Law and it was never something I expected to do, but I soon knew it was what I wanted to do.

I did not know what type of law I liked the most and wanted to qualify into. I liked family work as it felt I was actually helping people, individuals, those who need it Books don’t teach you what day to day life in a firm is, or what information is relevant and so after university I started as a secretary in Private Client at Pearson Solicitors and I knew this was the area I was meant to be in.

What do you enjoy about being a Will Solicitor?

By nature I am a caring person and I felt that working in the Private Client team allows me to be myself in my job. Meeting people daily, chatting, getting to know them and their family and of course giving the advice that will better their lives and seeing it through to completion.

I enjoy meeting different people in my job and it’s a very rewarding role knowing I am helping families. Knowing that they have confidence in me as a person, is a very warming feeling and keeps me wanting to progress even further and expand my knowledge to provide even better service.

What challenges have you faced?

Being a Will Solicitor can be an emotional job and my greatest challenge is accepting that I cannot help everyone. Sometimes clients do not have the capacity to make such essential documents like Wills and Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA) or build in care home fee protection and it is difficult to tell the families that I cannot help and that it is too late!

Probate clients have just lost family members and this is a very emotional time for them which of course does affect you.  It is extremely emotional for all involved and I definitely feel it with them. I suppose I haven’t ‘hardened’ to it yet, but I don’t think I ever will.

How did you manage to study for a qualification whilst working?

I never imagined I would be able to do the two but you just do it, when you know there is a qualification at the end it’s all worth it. I always want to challenge myself and progress and of course impress my clients and colleagues by doing so.

I am very family orientated and extremely close to my mum, knowing she is so proud of me definitely pushed me to work harder.

How do you wish to progress your career?

I foresee starting the STEP qualification this year, which is an additional important accreditation for Private Client Solicitors, it lasts 2 years, 4 modules, 6 months each! So just when I thought studying was over – think again! That being said, I love learning and I am ready for a new challenge.

Long-term progression would be becoming a more senior solicitor, perhaps being a team leader in the future. The possibilities are endless but I am trying to keep to a 5 year plan for now and review then!

Best part of the day

Every day is different and it’s difficult to pinpoint the best part of my day. I am a naturally talkative person and so catching up with clients and colleagues is always a pleasure.

Outside of work, I would definitely say the evenings when I can sit down after a long day, spend some time with family and watch rubbish TV!

How might the pandemic have changed legal advice and how do you see it developing in the next ten years?

The pandemic has been horrendous and sadly many lives have been lost. At the same time it has forced the legal position on Wills to change and bring it into to the 21st century. Since 1837 when the Wills Act came into effect there have been very few amendments and it has become outdated. The Act specifies that the person signing a Will must be in the physical presence of two independent witnesses. As you can imagine this was impossible from March 2020 but many people wanted to make Wills during this period.

The change was needed quickly and thankfully the Wills Act was extended to cover virtual signings through video means. This was a monumental change and allowed us to continue providing our full services to clients, whilst ensuring people were kept safe and not putting anyone at risk by meeting face to face.

Unfortunately, this amendment to the Act is only in place until 2024, when it will be removed and the traditional singing method will return. Private Client practitioners, including myself believe that this change needs to be implemented permanently allowing potentially vulnerable people, or those far away to sign their Wills in their own homes or where they feel safe.

Prior to the pandemic, I would have never done a Zoom call or initial telephone appointment as it was just not the normal thing to do and our clients were almost always local and appointments were always face to face. The introduction of video appointments has had such a positive impact on us and clients, and I believe this is something that should and will remain in place. It allows us to meet clients nationally and even internationally. I’ve had clients from Spain and Belgium, which would have never happened before the introduction of new technologies. It is great to widen our possibilities and help clients that are in need but perhaps were not able to ‘meet’ us before.

How can we help

Contact our Wills, Trusts and Probate Solicitors for help and advice on making a Will or if you are considering a Lasting Power of Attorney.  Call 0161 785 3500 or email enquiries@pearsonlegal.co.uk

Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers Ltd or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.

Written by Zoe Johnson

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