Winner Spotlight: Young Practitioner of the Year

On Tuesday 25th May 2021, professionals from across the conveyancing sector came together to celebrate the successes and achievements of the industry at The British Conveyancing Awards 2021. 

The inaugural awards took to the virtual stage, and were led by the fabulous award winning broadcaster and journalist Samira Ahmed. If you want a re-cap of the action, the recording is available to view here.

As part of our winner spotlight features, we want to shine a light on those who have been crowned in first place at this year’s event. 

Today we profile Laura Vanstone, from Coodes LLP who won the Young Practitioner of the Year award.

About the award

This award recognises an exceptional individual who has shown a high level of involvement and development within the sector or area of practice. We classify young practitioners as being under 30 years old and regulated by the SRA, CLC or CILex.

This individual must have demonstrated over the last 12 months:

  • Exceptional client service
  • High levels of skill and technical ability
  • A flair for innovation and championing best practice
  • Initiative in challenging situations

Laura was commended by the judges, who stated:

“[Laura] stepped in for the Tea, Head of New Build, writes blogs on HTB, referrer moved work to follow her to new firm. Laura’s really impressive journey from PA through to paralegal to qualifying as a licensed conveyancer stands out here. She held the fort in the Covid emergency for her boss and grew in the process. She has developed into a practitioner of complex legal work that many shy away from. She shows business development talent alongside this by winning serious commercial clients.”

Jessica Harvey from Thomas Legal was highly commended in this category, with  Abbie Kirton from PM Property Lawyers and Rebecca East from Dutton Gregory Solicitors securing third spot.

We spoke to Laura and the team at Coodes shortly after they found out that Laura had won and the firm were also highly commended in the Technology Team of the Year category.

How did you feel winning the Young Practitioner of the Year award alongside being highly commended for the Technology Team of the Year?

We felt very honoured, particularly given that there was a lot of strong competition and some very worthy firms and organisations participating in the awards. To receive highly commended for a technology award against some pure technology organisations is amazing.  It demonstrates that law firms are embracing new systems and recognising that they need innovative ways to streamline the conveyancing process.  You can have all the tech in the world, but you will only see the benefits if you get your conveyancing team to engage with it and have internal support from a systems team to assist with implementation, development and training.

Tell us about your team and the services you provide

We provide legal advice across the entire spectrum of business and personal needs, delivered by highly-experienced lawyers, organised according to the needs of our clients.  In terms of Conveyancing we handle all types of property matters ranging from your traditional transactional sales and purchases to more complex easements, covenants and adverse possession.  We have 8 specialist teams dealing with Later Living (equity releases, sheltered accommodation, deferred payment agreements, retirement homes, etc), Auctions, Buy to Let, Affordable properties, complex Leasehold and Matrimonial Conveyancing.  We also have a dedicated Newbuild Team which is headed by the winner of the Young Practitioner of the Year Award, Laura Vanstone.

How has your firm developed in the last 14 months and navigated the added complexity of the coronavirus pandemic and SDLT holiday?

We have seen a vast amount of change in the past 14 months.  With an 8 branch network and working with paper files in quite a traditional way, we swiftly had to come up with a plan to work remotely and we went fully electronic almost overnight! We could not have achieved this if we did not already have excellent technology in place which could support these changes we needed to make. We also created centralised onboarding and post completion team and now operate in ‘bubbles’ with lawyers and support rather than 1:1.

It quickly came to light that the opening of the property market in May 2020 and the subsequent SDLT holiday was causing a mini boom of work.  In June, each lawyer maintained a spreadsheet which was analysed by the Department Manager and the Finance Manager to analyse work levels.  Wellbeing was at the forefront of our minds here and we wanted to look after our staff as well as our clients.  These were reviewed every 2 weeks to ensure our clients, lenders and staff were not put at risk with being overloaded and the work levels are continued to be monitored and controlled. We are pleased to report that this was successful, and we have had sensible levels since September 2020 and the backlog was cleared by December 2020.   Communication has been absolutely key here with ensuring client’s expectations are managed and to keep our referrers and contacts continually updated as to the national average time for transactions and our capacity levels and maintaining our relationships with them.

What’s next on the cards for you?

We’re continuing to grow to meet increasing demand for high quality conveyancing. We are currently recruiting for 3 lawyers (one with management experience), a paralegal and 2 support staff. We will continue to work hard to improve the way we help clients with the home buying process, so we can continue to deliver excellent customer service.

What advice would you give someone thinking of joining the conveyancing sector?

There are many opportunities available in the conveyancing sector, whether it be as a lawyer, secretary or in the wider industry such as for search providers, technology companies or marketing.   If you want to make a difference in a forward thinking business that delivers great customer service coupled with a desire to innovate and improve the existing home purchase customer journey then the conveyancing sector is a great opportunity for you. You will be a success if you are a team worker and collaborative, but personally tenacious, organised, resilient and energetic and you get a great deal of satisfaction from delivering great outcomes in a fast-paced environment and enjoy working as part of a supportive and dynamic team who will delight the customers at every opportunity. There is great job satisfaction when you tell your client they can pick up their keys and you hear the excitement in their voices.

This is the very first British Conveyancing Awards, which recognises the herculean efforts of the industry, why do you think these awards are so important, especially after the last 14 months?

Being recognised for the excellent service you provide to clients is really rewarding for the team and motivates them to continue to develop and improve. Conveyancing is a very competitive sector and being able to show to potential clients that our service levels and staff are award winning, is great.

The whole sector has been through a challenging few months so these awards came at a good time, giving us the chance to reflect on what we’ve all achieved and celebrate our success. Receiving national awards is exciting at any time but it is especially rewarding after such a busy few months. The whole firm has really pulled together to maintain our high standards, so being recognised for what we’ve achieved is just brilliant.

Everyone at Today’s Conveyancer congratulates all those who entered this year’s awards.

Join in the conversation #BCAwards2021

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