Name: Matt Braithwaite
Degree: LLB with honours from Coventry University (1999 – 2002) Post graduate. Diploma in Legal Practice (LPC) from the University of the West of England, Bristol (UWE) (2002 – 2003). Diploma in Trust and Estate Administration from the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) (2007 – current)
Job title – Assistant Solicitor, Stone King LLP, Bath. Area of law – Private Client (Wills, Probate, Tax and Trusts)
Can you describe exactly what you do?
A typical day will involve meeting a client to discuss their Will and take their instructions. I will then draft their Will and send it to them for their approval. If they are happy I then ask the client back into the office to sign the Will.I also deal with the administration of estates which essentially means dealing with someone’s affairs when they have died. This will include meeting with the personal representatives, gathering together details of their estate, calculating inheritance tax and income tax, obtaining probate, paying legacies, drafting accounts, and making distributions. I act on behalf of trustees of trusts by preparing accounts and tax returns working closely with financial advisors to make sure they are making the right investments for the beneficiaries, and fulfilling their obligations. This is where a real grasp of equity is essential. I also draft trust deeds and other trust documentations. Part of my job involves advising elderly clients, in particular appointing attorneys on their behalf to deal with their financial affairs or, where they are incapable of giving instructions, making applications to the Court of Protection for the court to appoint someone to deal with their affairs on their behalf.
Were you always interested in law as a career sector?
Yes, pretty much. I was able to gain work experience at a high street practice where my Mum worked as a legal secretary whilst I was studying for my GCSEs in 1995. I enjoyed the diversity of private practice (as well as the photocopying and tea making!). Perhaps rather superficially my interest in persuing law as a career became stronger thanks to the cult 1990’s TV series This Life. Thinking I wanted a piece of this fast-paced, non-stop party lifetime cemented my choice of career!
What factors made you decide on your particular university/degree?
If I am honest, I was led by my A level results. Although not bad by most people’s standards, Law is a popular subject and many of the top universities demand the top grades. This limited my choice of universities. I also wanted to go to a university which offered a good course in a place which offered lots of social activities, and at the same time retained a campus feel. Attending the open day was enough to convince me that Coventry was the place for me.
Would you undertake further study to help your career progression?
I am currently studying for the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners’ Diploma in Trust and Estate Administration which is essentially the ‘bench mark’ qualification for my area of the law. The diploma involves studying four papers in different areas of practice. It was my choice as to whether to study for the diploma. The studying involves a lot of hard work and dedication of my own time outside of work, but the benefit of knowing the theory behind what I do everyday is invaluable.
What do you most like about what you do and are there any downsides?
The great thing about my job is that no two days are ever the same both in the sheer diversity of work and in the clients I meet and advise. I enjoy the contact I have with clients the most. I see people for different reasons everyday. Whether it is to make a Will, or discuss some tax planning, or discuss the administration of an estate. Being a solicitor is not just about advising clients, and I enjoy the aspect of meeting other professionals, like accountants and financial advisers who, as I am a private client solicitor, I have close links with. Social events can involve going out to lunch, or being invited to networking events.
Although not a downside, a more challenging side to the job is visiting clients, often in hospital to make Wills where they only have a matter of days to live. Often people don’t want to think about their own mortality, and what happens after they have gone, until very late in the day. I have to respond quickly to a request for a client to make a Will in these circumstances, which will often involving writing the Will out there and then.
What do you believe you gain personally from your career?
A real sense of making a difference to the clients I meet. Corny I know, but for a client to walk away feeling that I have understood their needs, and that there is a solution to their problem is incredibly rewarding.
What qualities do you need to succeed at what you do?
An inner drive. On the whole, because my work is not governed by deadlines, it is down to my own desire to get the work done and achieve results. You need to be a good listener. You need to listen to what clients want and advise them accordingly. You have to have an eye for detail. I am regularly drafting Wills and trust deeds and it is important that these are drafted accurately to ensure they are legal. Lastly, you need a sense of humour!This area of law is not known for its laughs, given the subject matter!
What would be your best piece of advice for people wanting to enter this sector?
My best piece of advice would be not to think that even if you haven’t gone to the best university you won’t succeed. If nothing else, I hope I am proof of that and can inspire others. If you want to be a solicitor you will be one.