Fiona Reid Solicitor
Good for the soul
Having a baby is supposed to be the best time in your life ...or so they say.
Baby number one - It's 2007 and Northern Rock collapses, the housing market crashes and I can tell you that a lot of Solicitors firms land in trouble. Conveyancing was hit hard and Ascroft Whiteside had to make redundancies. We fought through it and we recovered.
Baby number two - It's 2014 and bit by bit Ascroft Whiteside starts encountering one problem after another and all the effort we put in from the housing market collapse onwards began to unravel. Looking back, I wonder if we ever did truly recover from 2007?
Three years of hell was how it felt. Inside.
Shiny and rosy. Outside.
Walking through a door on a dreaded Monday morning. Just breathe. "Morning!", "Did you have a good weekend?". Thankfully, the Directors were friends and by 2018 the team at Ascroft Whiteside were a decent, supportive bunch. That's how I got through.
I'm one of three siblings. My mother once said,
"Girls have to be hard, strong and stand on their own two feet".
On the plus side, I'm fiercely independent and thankfully, resilient. On the bad side, I push people away and don't ask for help.
Three years crying buckets of tears, stress and terminal unhappiness. Trapped. In a cage which we tried to open by growing the business but always two steps forward, five steps back. It was impossible to contemplate closing the business. I don't think many people in the non-legal world realise how difficult it is for an owner of a small Solicitors firm to close the business. It's not as simple as closing a shop. It's a thing called Professional Indemnity Insurance run off cover. Cost for us was £35,000 (Our annual premium) x 3 years - over 100k. It's a LOT of money to find. The firm either closes and the partner pays that money out personally or they merge with another firm and the PI cover gets sorted or they just carry on and on and waiting, always waiting. That's why someone recently said to me,
"You never see Solicitors going under".
The reason? It's so that if there is a negligence claim by a client within the following six years, the client will receive compensation.
Where there's blame, there's a claim...
We tried, unsuccessfully, to merge with others and to convert with outside backing into an ABS. It didn't happen. Other people have other plans. Other people have their own issues to contend with. In the meantime there's a spiral ever whirling and getting out of control.
'The Greatest Showman"
January 2018 and my husband, who never watches musicals, says he would take me to see the film. I jumped at the chance. I love music and I love musicals. When I was a teenager I used to create my own musical stories on cassette by recording and combining together pop songs which had meaning. Have you ever felt that a song was written for you? The words cut so deep that they touch your emotions and (this sounds crazy) speak to you? Music to uplift, empower, cry with you, keep you going, gets angry with you or makes you smile. Not long after, I swear that it felt like the majority of the music in this film was written for me. Ascroft Whiteside was placed into voluntary administration following a meeting on the 5th February 2018...
"Stay in the cage, or you'll finally take the key
Oh, damn! Suddenly you're free to fly
It'll take you to the other side"
"But you would finally live a little, finally laugh a little"
"There's something breaking at the brick of every wall
It's holding all that you know, so tell me do you wanna go?"
"Cause you're just a dead man walking
Thinking that's your only option
But you can flip the switch and brighten up your darkest day"
And if you think that's crazy...
When my Co-director was emptying a spider and cobweb filled storage facility of old files getting them ready for shredding, he discovered a client file which had an original document in it which he needed to show me. I looked at it and to my surprise, of all the hundreds and hundreds of files, it was a file for Edith Bellingham's Power of Attorney file. It,
"didn't matter", I said,
"That's my nan's. She has been dead over ten years. I doubt she needs it now".
If I needed a sign that I was making a right decision, that was it.
Dedicated to the creators of 'The Greatest Showman'. Thankyou.
We've all been there haven't we? You know, that time when we were young and we wondered what we wanted to be when we 'grew up'. Well, I loved art - my pictures were always placed on show by my teachers at junior school and a picture of mine was placed on display at the Grundy Art Gallery in the 'Young Seasiders' exhibition - and I really wanted to be a graphic designer. Well, that was until senior school when my art teacher kept giving me 20% marks for my art work. That was it. In my young teenage mind, I suddenly thought I was rubbish at art. One day, crying and devastated, I asked my mum what I should do now as a career?
'Be a Solicitor, there's money in it' So, that was it. The stone was thrown and I never did art ever again. Two older people in 'authority' had put two messages in my head which would shape the next thirty years of my life. A few years later a message by one more man the same age as my Mum in substantial 'authority' would also make a huge impact on the shape of my life.
'The Solicitors' Room'
Aged 16 doing work experience, I was sat in a filthy, orange coloured, cigarette smoke and tea stained den like a scene from 'Life on Mars' (the 'Solicitors' room' at the Magistrates court) with a bunch of male Solicitors. These were the 'old school' guys who had qualified in the 70's and they were moaning about the job not being what it was (yes, it's true that they did once earn a lot of money charging like rhinos because people were quite fond of their Solicitors prior to the 90s) yet talking about the horses they owned and one Solicitor having a fight with another Solicitor. They told me to go and sit in a particular Court room as there were some interesting cases that morning. They weren't wrong about that. I ventured into the Court room and sat listening about the police doing a raid and man after man was being charged for committing indecent acts with other men in the toilet at the town's bus station and then pleading to the magistrates they would pay any fine they were given 'just so long as the wife didn't find out'. Nice....
Even that didn't put me off, so after not getting Grade As in my A-Levels and inadequate for university (I admit I didn't really put enough effort in as I spent most of my spare time with my older boyfriend who worked at a supermarket and didn't quite understand me needing time to revise) within half an hour of getting my results, I rang the first Solicitors firm I came to in the phone book and took up a job as an office junior on £50 per week. On the 5th September 1994 I began my progression up the legal career ladder. From tea making to secretarial, walking into gay 'saunas' to deliver post and running errands - I've done it all from the bottom to the top and this was just the start.
I can't say that my Mum was wrong in suggesting that I should be a Solicitor - she was wanting the best for me and quite rightly so - but as a parent is it perhaps better to coach the child and get them to extend their own thinking so they personally consider their future career instead of 'suggesting' or 'telling' them? When I was younger, I was easily led and never wanted to let people down so I always just did what I was told. I don't know how you were when you were a teenager but would this make you think about what you say to your child? Would you want your child to look back and think that they only did a job because their mother or father suggested it? I know what I will try to do
And I've never painted a picture since.