I joined Newmanor shortly after graduating with my Law degree from the University of Birmingham. Having thoroughly enjoyed Real Estate at university, I decided to reach out to Newmanor in my final year, in the hope of gaining some legal work experience. I was delighted when Karen responded to my email, and after sending over my CV, she arranged an interview with me and her Partner and Co-Founder, James.
Having never had a legal interview before, I was admittedly nervous and anticipated being faced with technical and obscure questions. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I was warmly welcomed, and I soon felt at ease, quickly bonding with James over a good cup of coffee, and with Karen over shoes! After the initial excitement, we had a conversation (not an interrogation!) about my motivation to have a legal career, what I enjoyed doing in my spare time, and what transferrable skills I had from my previous work experience. It’s safe to say I came out feeling like maybe not all lawyers were as intimidating as I had led myself to believe.
My first few months
Joining the firm virtually during lockdown, I thought I may have difficulties getting to grips with my new role and getting to know my colleagues. However, from my first day, the whole team were incredibly welcoming and took the time to call me individually to introduce themselves and make it known that if I had any questions, I could pick up the phone to them. The twice-daily Microsoft Teams calls also helped me to get to know everyone better, particularly during our weekly coffee catch-up sessions which we use to virtually replicate that office catch-up by the coffee machine.
For my first couple of months at the firm, I worked closely shadowing Anne, an associate who has been at the firm since it was founded. She explained to me what our role as the lender’s lawyer is, and the steps we need to take to get from instruction to completion. The rest of the team also took turns training me up on the various aspects of a deal, and I slowly built up an understanding of the process. This involved me helping on all aspects of a transaction, from the initial quoting stage and obtaining our fee undertaking, to agreeing security documents, reporting on the property, and eventually completing and moving funds.
I was slowly given more and more responsibility under Anne’s supervision, and after a few months, when Anne went back to part-time work, I would keep an eye on the deals we were working on together on her days off. I was thrilled to be given more responsibility and it was great that I was trusted to keep the plates spinning on a deal, but at the same time, not feel like I had been left on my own.
The morning and afternoon Teams calls with my colleagues, and calls and emails in between, if needed, were excellent for keeping me on the right track. I was also pleasantly surprised by how much ‘Partner access’ I had, and I felt as comfortable calling a Partner to speak through an issue, as I did any other member of the team. It very quickly became clear to me that my previous notions of a law firm’s strict hierarchy and culture of legal assistants primarily tasked with admin are not the case for all firms!
Focus on early responsibility
After a few months at Newmanor, I was trusted with managing three of my own finance transactions, under the supervision of the Partners. This was an amazing opportunity for me to put into practice the knowledge I had built up. Newmanor focus on lots of early responsibility, but with continued support and supervision. As a recent law graduate, this was perfect for me as I was very keen to get to work and start putting theory into practice. This training structure enabled me to learn and develop much quicker, tackling tasks myself, rather than trying to learn vicariously through a colleague.
I was responsible for drafting the first drafts of security and ancillary documents and managing completion checklists. I had to manage my time effectively to ensure I was chasing up and receiving the correct documents, at the right time in a deal, and that I was making sure the deals were all progressing towards their targeted completion dates. As the main point of contact, I was also responsible for regularly circulating updated checklists, sending out draft documents and dealing with any comments or queries from the other side or the client. Getting all my transactions over the finish line in time was a great confidence boost for me, and the whole process gave me an even better understanding of the key milestones in a transaction, and how best to stay on track to achieve completion by the targeted date, if not sooner.
Learning from mistakes
Despite the firm believing in me enough to give me this responsibility, this is not to say that I did not make mistakes along the way, or that I wasn’t given the space to make mistakes and learn from them.
Shortly after joining the firm, it became apparent that the daily internal calls were for more than asking questions, but to discuss how best to go about a difficult situation or overcome roadblocks. We were all able to learn from one another by regularly sharing what went well, what could have gone better and the solutions which were reached to solve hurdles in a particular transaction.
Being exposed to this open culture of everyone sharing all sides of the work, both the difficulties and the successes, meant that when another member of the team made me aware of a mistake I had made, I was not ashamed, nor made to feel it, but instead was able to learn from it and knew I would never make the same mistake again.