Insider view: Edinburgh solicitor Laura McFadzean, a director of ELP Arbuthnott McClanachan
Job title Solicitor, and a director of ELP Arbuthnott McClanachan. We undertake conveyancing and estate agency with three offices, two in Leith and one in Davidsons Mains. We also carry out private client work with wills and power of attorney, we have an employment law team and we deal with commercial leases and civil litigation.
I specialise in residential conveyancing and at any one time I can be dealing with around 40 to 50 clients buying or selling, remortgaging or transferring a title, plus those who are looking to buy.
How did you get started? I decided in high school that I wanted to study law, but it wasn’t until I got to university that I narrowed it down to property law.
I worked as a temporary legal secretary for my first job in a conveyancing firm. And when I finished my diploma, in 2001, I did my training for the next two years in a firm that also dealt with residential work before I qualified in 2003, so I knew that it was an area of the law that I was interested in and enjoyed and that was suited to me.
What is your typical day like? It can be pretty varied – it is a mix of speaking with clients, dealing with offers and closing dates.
With all of that, I sometimes find it difficult to get the time consuming parts of the work done during the day, such as the research and the paperwork, so there is a lot of taking work home for evenings and weekends.
Giving advice is a big part of dealing with clients and we will use online resources – we have information that they won’t necessarily have access to – so we can talk about what a property is likely to go for at a closing date, for example, or if it has been on the market for some time we can advise what they might be able to get it for.
What are the main factors that affect the business? The recession of 2008 meant that business was really affected by the downturn across the board, with many redundancies in the industry, although we managed to avoid the worst of it.
It took a few years for the economy to recover, but activity feels like it is now back to what it was before.
Where do you live? In Cramond, Edinburgh, in a detached converted bungalow which my husband and I bought ten years ago. We have three children so we are settled for now, but I wouldn’t absolutely rule out moving in the future.
Does your job affect your social life? If I’m introduced to someone who asks what I do, they are likely to ask questions about the property market, but I don’t mind as I’m interested in it too.
What are the advantages of specialising in property law? The best part of the job is helpingpeople – sometimes we are dealing with people who are selling the family home after the parents have passed away, for example, or making decisions on where they will live for years, so you do get the feeling that you are working with them at key moments in their lives and so sensitively is important.
But equally, attention to detail is absolutely essential, you do need to be really meticulous in your work.
So it is a case of knowing what the issues are, and how much is needed to explain to the client or whether you can just deal with the minor issues without bothering them.
It is very much about communicating sometimes complex legal ideas – understanding the law and understanding the client and navigating their needs, so there is a wide skill set utilised.
What are the best routes in to your profession? It depends on the wider economic situation. Sometimes it is a struggle to get that first traineeship for new graduates, but at the moment there are jobs out there and the industry overall is busy.
Universities will help graduates find placements and larger firms will have established programmes which students can apply to. We have contacts with universities and look to take on trainees.
There are so many different types of law and it can be difficult to pinpoint the one that matches your skills and that you are interested in.
Exposing yourself to as many as you can will crystallise what you want to do but it sometimes takes a while to understand where you will best fit in.
What do you do in your spare time? I enjoy spending time with my husband, the children and our dog, but other than that I play hockey competitively, go to the gym and enjoy open-water swimming. And I like to go out with my friends when time allows.
How has the the firm adapted in the last two years? Working from home was something I did to an extent before, but obviously there have been major changes as the rest of the team had to start home-working at short notice.
But the property market was only really on pause for three months in 2020 and when it opened up again there was so much pent-up demand.
We still have some colleagues working from home and some in the office, or a hybrid system and with technology, that works really well.
There is a lot more flexibility now and I think that it is here to stay. Although sometimes, it is much easier to get things done quickly in the office.
What innovations do you think will affect the industry? Registers of Scotland have done a fantastic job of adapting to what were difficult circumstances when the pandemic hit, and they are continuing to build on that.
It is not something that really affects clients or that they are aware of but it has really helped us.
The more we can do with technology for ourselves and our clients the better, although we do have to be very careful as methods change and there is an awful lot of paperwork to make sure everything is compliant and safe.
But actually, the Scottish system works well on the whole.
It has always been rare for deals to fall through and that is purely down to everyone involved making it happen.
You could say that it runs smoothly by goodwill, we work collaboratively to achieve the same result and as an industry I think we have to be proud of that.
How is the market at this time of year? There is often a seasonal slowdown but while people always ask if I’m looking forward to a break over Christmas and New Year, the end of the year is taken up with dealing with sales that were agreed six to eight weeks ago so can be surprisingly busy.
January and February tend to be a little quieter, but I would not be altogether surprised if that wasn’t the case this year. There still seems to be a lot of people wanting to buy and sell.
Born and raised In Glasgow.
Education Shawlands Primary followed by The High School of Glasgow. Then Edinburgh University for a degree in law, with my third year spent at the University of Austin, Texas. One-year diploma in legal practice, also at Edinburgh, followed by a two-year traineeship.
Family Husband Duncan who is a director in the same firm specialising in employment law – we set up the company in 2003. We have three boys, aged nine, 11 and 13.
First Job At school I worked in a delicatessen, a gift shop and I did some filing in a hospital as my mum’s a doctor.
First home Duncan and I bought a flat in Leith when I was a trainee.
Plans for retirement We definitely look forward to some travelling and having more time with family and hobbies.
Personal motto Work hard, play hard – but especially play hard!
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