Much has been said over the past year about the ‘new normal’ and for one local solicitor, the benefits of embracing a different, flexible way of doing things, soon became obvious.
Commercial property law specialist Ruth Burrell found herself at a crossroads soon after lockdown began and took the leap to become self-employed, anticipating that 12 years of experience practising in the local area should stand her in good stead.
Relishing the prospect of being able to work for herself and with a focus on being responsive and flexible at a time when clients were facing incredible daily pressures, Ruth’s research resulted in an arrangement with Nexa Law, and so began a new chapter in Ruth’s career.
“When I was faced with making a new start, I really felt that setting up on my own would be the answer,” said Ruth. “I have practised as a solicitor locally since 2008, specialising in commercial property law, so I have many contacts with whom I have built very good relationships.
“Nexa Law is a new model law firm where the administration and compliance are covered centrally, leaving solicitors free to concentrate on working for their clients. So, after a great deal of research into the best way forward, I decided to go down that route.
“It was an interesting and exciting time to become self-employed but, despite the challenges we’ve all faced over the past 11 months or so, it’s all gone very smoothly and I’ve built a healthy client base.”
On the commercial property side of the business, Ruth’s services include:
- Sales and purchases
- Option agreements and conditional contracts
- Planning and infrastructure agreements
- Small business sales and acquisitions, including public houses and restaurants
Ruth also handles residential lease extensions, freehold purchases and sales and Right to Manage cases, as well as general issues such as adverse possession, dealings with easements, rectification of registered titles, first registrations, purchases from the Crown Estate and auction properties.
Interesting times for commercial property
“Commercial property is going through an interesting stage at the moment,” said Ruth. “There’s maybe not as much transactional work as usual because people are sitting tight until they are more certain about the future, but there are still many businesses seeking advice on their properties – especially around leases.
“I have spoken to a couple of businesses who, as tenants, have had break clauses which they could exercise, but they were in a dilemma. Ideally, they wanted to stay in their premises, but the terms of their leases were no longer working for them, with the ability for home working likely to be something that they would be introducing for their employees beyond the restrictions of the pandemic.
“From surveyors and other solicitors I have spoken to, this is a recurring question. In cases such as this, an upcoming break clause can be used to open negotiations between landlords and tenants allowing them to agree an arrangement which benefits both parties. The tenant remains in the premises, so the landlord continues to receive rent, and the tenant gains a bit more flexibility, for example, they are able to sublet part of the premises.
“Although they can be used in this way, break clauses are notoriously tricky and one of the most litigated areas of Landlord and Tenant law. So, if you do wish to either exercise a break clause or use it to negotiate, please speak to a solicitor first. And, as with most things, seek advice early – at least six weeks before your break date.”
Flexible and responsive
Free from corporate processes, Ruth relishes the fact that she has control over the way she works. Most important to her is the flexibility and responsiveness that she can offer in a way not all large practices can. She also works on fixed fees so her clients can effectively manage their budgets, and know that they can call her without worrying how much it will cost them.
Many of her clients have found her through word of mouth, recommended by others who have found Ruth’s approach perfectly fits their business.
Where necessary, Ruth works outside of normal office hours, something that is increasingly attractive to those who are trying to juggle working from home with childcare and home schooling.
“I love the idea that I have full control over the way I do things,” said Ruth. “Over the years, working in bigger practices, I’ve often thought that there are ways to make a process smoother or improve the experience of instructing a solicitor for clients, but changing corporate procedures is not a simple task.
“Now I can respond to clients’ needs and, particularly in these times, they seem to appreciate that. If someone needs to chat at 8pm because that’s the earliest they are free, so be it. Maybe they find it more comfortable doing that when they know that I’m my own boss and I’ve chosen to work around them.
“My clients can rest assured I’m there for them and can respond quickly and efficiently.
“There’s been a shift in people’s attitude to one another. Everyone is under so much pressure, and if you can be flexible, more helpful, kinder, more understanding, then now is the time to do that.”
Contact Ruth Burrell, Consultant Solicitor on 07312 825787 or email firstname.lastname@example.org