Whether it’s residential conveyancing or commercial property law, the number of property law vacancies has risen exponentially over the last year. Principal Property & Regeneration Solicitor Rita Bange explains the reasons for the rise and how to make the switch into the industry.
It has never been more desirable to be a property lawyer, within local government or private practice. Well, desirable maybe a stretch but it is evident by the volume of live vacancies on the Law Gazettes Jobs Board we have never been more in demand, so the real question is why?
As the country takes tentative steps out of lockdown and a return to ‘normality’, it is clear that the agenda of central government is to ‘build back better’. With my local government lawyer hat on I believe that this centres around large scale development and revitalisation of towns and cities. Many local authorities have ambitious targets to deliver housing and create business opportunities. From a residential perspective, figures published by the Office for National Statistics in May showed house prices rose 10.2% in the year to March, the highest annual increase since the lead-up to the financial crisis in August 2007. Many are trying to take advantage of the stamp duty holiday which has been extended to until the end of June 2021 and then tapered until the end of September in order to smooth the transition back to the original rates. With so much movement within the property landscape there is a real drive for property lawyers both within local government and private practice. So, why apply?
I have had the experience of working both within private practice and within local government. As a junior lawyer rising through the ranks of local government, I found my experience inhouse to be invaluable. I was given exposure to a wide range of property matters. Moreover, the experience I gained was not only ‘property related’, I also advised clients on authorities for transactions and provided strategic advice. I developed a greater understanding of my client, local government and developed a great relationship with my instructing officers from working so closely with them so when the time came for me to take on more complex work, I knew I had their full support and they trusted me. Today, I am my authorities’ legal lead for property and regeneration matters and provide specialist legal advice on high-profile, novel, complex and transformational projects linked to the Council’s growing property portfolio and regeneration agenda.
For any junior lawyers who are looking to develop and progress, I cannot recommend a career in local government enough. When I took my first role in-house, I didn’t necessarily have all the experience required for the role, but I demonstrated at interview my eagerness to learn and develop. For any lawyers who are looking to switch to property, I would say it is possible, but you must take an active role to upskill yourself outside the role, attending training and seminars, reading articles and practice notes. There is an abundance of free training and webinars out there to delve into.
From working within private practice (serving the local government sector) I had exposure to an expansive client base and a variety of work which was challenging. I enjoyed this because it pushed me. I had the comfort of working with a great team and was able to bring in the support of other departments such as construction to provide the best service to the client. I developed my skill to ‘shapeshift’ to the needs and wants of the client. No two clients are the same and it was key to adapt my approach to each client. Whether you are in private practice or local government it is fair to say that no two days are the same and our roles are so much more than ‘colouring a plan’ or form filing (I could never keep within the lines when colouring).
My tip to anyone who is thinking of applying for a role or exploring the opportunity to become a property lawyer is simple – apply apply apply! Many local government roles include the contact details of an officer to speak to about the role. I would really recommend doing this, you are able to have an informal chat about the role and identify any areas you need to work on for your application. You may not have the experience but by stating you are attending courses, reading, and trying to upskill you demonstrate an eagerness and it may be enough for someone to take a chance on you, I am forever grateful for those who have taken a chance on me.
Finally – good luck!