“The firm appreciates you for you” - Life at Ashfords
Are you curious about life at national law firm Ashfords? We spoke to a partner, associate and trainee at the firm to find out what the firm is like, from preparing to qualify right up to making partner.
Zoe Porter, partner, head of the family team
What’s the first thing you do when you get into the office?
Say hello to the lovely reception ladies and anyone in the team that’s arrived before me. Switch on my laptop and—most importantly—fuel up on coffee for the day ahead.
What's the best thing about working for Ashfords?
The people. Our lawyers and support staff are incredibly talented at what they do and we have a great working atmosphere.
Can you give us an idea of the type of projects you manage day-to-day?
Complicated and high-net-worth divorces often involving high-profile clients and celebrities. Family law is very varied but I specialise in divorce and finance and I spend my days primarily advising on suitable financial settlements, negotiating and representing clients through the process.
What aspects of this area of practice does the firm deal with most frequently?
As a team, we service all aspects of private family law, from child arrangements to divorce but also wealth protection by way of pre and post-nuptials. Our most frequent work areas are divorce and child arrangements—deciding where children should live and which school they should attend. Often clients have assets abroad or wish to return to live in another country, so our work will often involve international aspects.
What kind of clients do you generally deal with on a day-to-day basis?
My clients are very varied, which is probably one of the reasons why this area is so interesting. I act for farming families, landed gentry and celebrities from time to time—but largely business men and women. It’s fascinating to understand their businesses and we often instruct experts such as accountants, IFAs and barristers to work alongside us on a big case.
What do you do to relax outside of work?
Spending quality time with my husband and 11-year-old daughter is my favourite way to relax.
I also love horse riding and I have my own horse that I keep on livery. My daughter also has her own pony so we are often found down at the stables riding and pampering our four-legged friends!
Ian Tompkins, associate, real estate
What’s first on your to-do list on a typical day?
I check up on relevant sector news and have a scan through the emails that have come in since the day before while getting the first fix of coffee.
What's the best thing about working for Ashfords?
I could choose several things but one of the key ones for me is that the firm appreciates you for you. You’re not just another anonymous worker who could be replaced by anyone else. I feel genuinely supported by my line manager to grow my own practice and to align my work with what I want to specialise in.
Ashfords is a really personable place to work and feels like it has struck the sweet spot in terms of work-life balance—something lots of firms boast about, but very few deliver on in practice.
What projects within real estate are you typically working on?
I focus on the land and residential development sector, which means being involved in the sale and purchase of land for housing. This is a really exciting area to be involved in at the moment given the housing shortage.
Typical projects include conditional contracts, option and promotion agreements, consortiums and joint ventures and affordable housing deals. Some recent examples include advice and disposals relating to a new development of up to 3,000 homes for a joint venture between a PLC house-builder and a local authority, as well as the acquisition of land with the benefit of planning permission for around 200 homes for a national developer.
Does the real estate practice have a key focus or is it varied?
Ashfords’ real estate team is multi-disciplinary and provides a wide spectrum of real estate-related advice. As well as development work, the team specialises in social housing and regeneration, real-estate investment, self-investment pension schemes, landlord and tenant, planning and energy projects.
I have a really nice mix of clients including private landowners, land promoters and both SME and PLC house-builders. This makes for a varied and stimulating workload.
Outside of work, how do you spend your free time?
Having just got a puppy, a lot of my time outside of work is taken up with training and generally keeping him entertained! Otherwise, I enjoy cooking and have recently started making my own pasta. I’m also a huge fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Katie Gwyther, trainee solicitor, real estate
First things first: how do you start the day?
I usually get into the office at 8.45 am, grab a large coffee from our café, and then check my emails and calendar so that I know what tasks and appointments I have that day. I’m definitely a ‘list’ person so this is closely followed by a to-do list to help me stay on track throughout the day.
It sounds cliché, but the best thing about working for Ashfords is definitely the people. Everyone is really welcoming and friendly, and as a trainee, you really feel supported, both in your career and outside of work, and as though there really is no such thing as a stupid question. The copious amounts of cake are also a bonus!
What does your typical day look like as a trainee in real estate?
Real estate is very diverse—I am currently sat in the development team, dealing mainly with acquisition and sale work for housing developers and registered housing providers. This involves attending client meetings, drafting sale documents, liaising with clients and their agents, and even onsite visits (a good pair of wellies are essential!). The department is also really big on collaborative working and team building, and every year the trainees organise a weekend away for the department. This has been a really fun experience and a great way of meeting people in other offices and making new friends and connections.
What does real estate look like at Ashfords?
The real estate department is the largest department in the firm and deals with a variety of areas ranging from energy and water projects to landlord and tenant work to the acquisition and sale of land for development.
In the development team, we largely work with registered housing providers and housing developers. We also work with landowners looking to sell their land to developers, and land promoters.
How do you like to unwind in your spare time?
Outside of work, I love going for long dog walks at the beach or on the Moors as a way of relaxing. I’m also really into fitness and go to the gym most mornings before work (mostly in an attempt to wake me up!).
To find out more about opportunities at Ashfords, visit their AllAboutLaw profile.
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