Karen James, Partner at Ramsdens - Overall Conveyancer of the Year & Yorkshire and North East Region winners
1. Firstly, what is your role?
I am an equity partner here at Ramsdens and I head up the residential conveyancing department. This is the largest team in our organisation with almost 60 members spread over 8 different sites. It is a full time job to manage this!
2. Why did you choose a career in conveyancing?
The simple answer is I didn't, it chose me. Land law was always a difficult subject for me at degree level and I had always expected to take on some litigious role as the thought of appearing regularly in court appealed to me. The reality, however, when working in the real world was that I was not suited to a role of an advocate but quickly became passionate about conveyancing during my training contract.
3. What attracted you to your particular specialism?
I found matrimonial work too emotional. It was very hard for me to be dispassionate, particularly in cases of domestic violence and where children were involved. Criminal work was also not as romantic as I had thought it would be particularly as a trainee covering the duty solicitor scheme at weekends. Conveyancing is all about getting a positive result for a client in a short time scale.
4. What is the most enjoyable part of your job?
I am extremely fortunate as there are many aspects of the job that I love; finding a solution to any problem, however obscure or difficult; mentoring and training junior members of staff; adapting to the economic challenges (be it recession or rapid growth); business development; the fact that even after 25 years or so on the job, there are always new challenges to face.
5. What particular challenges are you or have you faced in these tougher times?
Making valued staff members redundant back in 2009 was one of the hardest tasks I have ever had to undertake carrying out my role. I find it particularly gratifying that most have come back when we have been in a position to re-hire. The challenge today is to grow at a sensible rate and ensure we have the right people in the right positions across the board.
6. What do you think will be growth opportunities for the conveyancing profession over the next couple of years?
I still believe there will be a further consolidation of firms offering conveyancing services which means a bigger slice of the pie will be available to those who stay in business. Doing the job profitably whilst maintaining staff morale will be a challenge.
7. What’s been your most enjoyable or high profile recent piece of work?
We are involved in buying a great number of new build properties off plan in central London, principally for overseas investor clients, but also one or two British TV celebrities.
8.What inspires you when it comes to your work?
On a professional level it is reading the client satisfaction questionnaires and knowing the vast majority of our clients are delighted with the way in which we deliver our service.
9. Do you work by a particular mantra or motto in your business life?
A number – all inspired by parents. Always do any job to the very best of your ability. Never put off to tomorrow what could be done today. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. The list is endless….
10. Can you give one piece of professional advice to your peers
Be prepared to listen to constructive criticism, keep an open mind and don’t get disheartened when things go wrong, as they inevitably will.