Finalist Interview: Lucy Shepherd
the Solicitor of the Year – Private Practice Shortlist: Q & A with Lucy
Shepherd, Professional Support Lawyer, Shoosmiths
What is your background before working at Shoosmiths in property litigation?
My cousin is a barrister and I spent a week following her around London for work experience when I was fifteen, sparking my interest in law. I went on to do A Level Law but thought I shouldn’t necessarily ‘pigeonhole’ myself into a set career by doing it as a degree so I did History instead at Nottingham University. But having left and seen some of my friends do the conversion course, my interest was reignited. I did a conversion course in Birmingham then did my LPC in Oxford. I trained at what is now Gateley plc in Birmingham, spending two of my four seats in property litigation so I was quite keen on the subject at an early stage! I moved to Eversheds upon qualification in 2007. I later moved to Shoosmiths in 2011 and became a Professional Support Lawyer in January 2015 after having my first child. I now support the national property litigation team here at Shoosmiths, comprised of around 25 legal advisors spread over 5 main offices. My role is centred on acquiring, building and disseminating knowledge, straddling property law and litigation. Recently I have expanded this role to include quality and risk responsibilities and by undertaking a major project to improve working practices across the real estate division comprising some 230+ legal advisors.
What is your ultimate goal for the successful outcome of a case?
I no longer do client facing work but assist my team with their cases instead, keeping them up to date with the latest cases and legislation and doing research and answering tricky queries when they arise. Litigation is never straightforward and ‘success’ can look very different depending on the exact situation and what the client wants and needs. The majority of cases we deal with in property litigation do not reach trial and it is instead about finding a commercial solution which enables the client to overcome their specific obstacle in the most time and cost efficient way so they can get on with business as usual.
What is the most rewarding work you have undertaken in your career?
Having said most cases never reach trial, winning at trial after having worked on a case for several months/years is very rewarding! At Eversheds I acted on a case concerning a storage company’s rights to park on a private road, rights which were essential for the running of its business. We were successful at trial in confirming the client has a prescriptive right to park. Another case involved acting for a major pub owning company in defeating a claim for adverse possession over some of its land. The detail in that case was really important; I worked with the client to find historical evidence showing that there were gaps in the claimant’s alleged period of possession. Outside these cases it is rewarding to simply be an everyday problem solver and to get the odd ‘thank you’ from a client or colleague! We have a system at Shoosmiths where colleagues can nominate each other for ‘above and beyond’ awards when we feel they have gone that extra mile. I have been lucky enough to receive five awards over the past year with some lovely comments about how I have helped my team and sometimes it is really simple things, such as helping a new starter get to grips with a new area of law, or helping to deliver a presentation at a training event. I also get real satisfaction from distilling complex judgments into brief articles for our website and then seeing the variety and number of people that read them.
What are your interests outside work?
I am a mother to two children aged two and five and stepmother to a seventeen-year-old so life outside work is pretty hectic! My ultimate career goal is to become a judge alongside being a PSL and so I am devoting any spare moments to reading up and shadowing judges to prepare for that. I also sit on the local School Admissions Appeals Panel helping to decide appeals from local parents concerning infant, primary and secondary school places for their children, which can be emotional but is very interesting and rewarding. Otherwise, when I get time to myself I love patchwork quilting, walking and reading.
Is there a law in existence today that you would like to see changed or reformed?
There are several. But what I would like to see more is change and reform being done in a fully thought through, steady manner. Part of my role is to collate responses to government and other consultations about proposed changes to law and these have been coming thick and fast in recent years. For example, the proposed changes to assured shorthold tenancies, leasehold ownership, commonhold, fixed costs, whether there should be a housing court, court reforms generally – and that is just the last 12 months or so and just in my area. Such huge changes need really detailed thought in advance, careful drafting and time to bed in before further change comes along.