News and Insights
1 September 2020
On the 1 September 1970, at the age of 16 and having just left secondary school, I started my working life as a Conveyancer.
Having lived in France until the age of seven, I was fluent in French. My Careers Master at St. Helier Boys School, as it was called then, had a cousin employed as a secretary at the local firm of Bailhache & Bailhache. Thanks to this connection and some inside knowledge (in particular that sale contracts were, in those days, in French) he thought this would be a great career choice for me. I suppose he was right as 50 years on, I am still at it.
My starting salary all those years ago was a whole £7.00 per week (increased to £10.00 once I passed my GCSCs). In those days, the Advocates were addressed as ‘Sir’ and the legal offices were full of characters, to say the least.
In Hill Street, where most of the legal offices were gathered, life was very different back then than it is today. There was really only one ‘big’ firm at the time – Crill, Cubitt, Sowden and Tomes and the pace of life was not as hectic as it is today. In those days, newbie Conveyancers were strictly forbidden from handling any part of a transaction. I was therefore under the strict supervision of a Senior Conveyancer who was none other than Elie Caurel, a Conveyancer both before and after the Second World War. He knew the job inside out and was only too happy to pass on his knowledge.
After a five year apprenticeship, I was finally permitted to take on simple conveyances. I have learned since, that this cautious approach was invaluable as much of the practice of conveyancing cannot be learned in a classroom but rather, only through experience. It is so important that this experience is conveyed to the next generation and that conveyancers have the time and means to invest in them.
Throughout my 50 years, I have worked for many firms on the Island. I have of course seen many changes throughout that time. For example, contracts are now in English. Perhaps most revolutionary was the computerisation of the Public Registry (PRIDE). There will of course be many more changes which will invariably impact Conveyancers and the job that they do. One thing I can say with certainty with 50 years under my belt is that you really do learn something new every day. Conveyancers must be flexible and adapt to their circumstances. Not even the most seasoned of us can say that we know everything.
As a Conveyancer in today’s fast paced, competitive and commercial world, the hours are long and the workload large. Of course, the Pandemic has hit every sphere of life but the legal profession carried on right through it. We worked remotely, the Court remained open for business and transactions happened (albeit a little later than planned). This was an unexpected challenge in the lead up to my 50th year in the job but where there is a will there is a way.
The challenges are worth it as over the years I have acted for many people. Rewardingly, families have followed me from one firm to another, as have their children and grandchildren. I do of course feel very fortunate that people have placed their faith in me.
So, how does a Conveyancer keep their clients happy? There is a very simple answer. Always keep them informed and do not give out false hope. There is nothing worse than telling a client you can do something in a certain time and not meet the deadline. Honesty and truth always win.
What for me now then? Well, I am not about to hang up my boots just yet. Health permitting, I hope to work on for another five years. The job has become more demanding than it was in my days with Elie but there is still as much enjoyment in dealing with clients and doing the very best for them that I can. That has been my mantra for my entire working life.
I have been at Viberts for nearly two years, and it will see me out. I joined this firm because it has the desire to be the best local law firm, looking after local people and businesses and providing the best possible service.
I have enjoyed all of my jobs at various firms, but I am glad to be spending my purple years at Viberts. Ironically, some twenty odd years ago, our now Managing Partner, was a legal assistant in the firm I was in then. Advocate Tony Messervy (one of the most famous of the original Hill Street lawyers) used to call me ‘The Boy Duverger’ and her ‘Brain’. It’s funny how some things come full circle!
I very much look forward to working out my career at Viberts and most importantly, to keeping my clients happy (albeit getting paid a little more than £10.00 a week!).
Like Elie all those years ago, I am now training a newbie conveyancer. I hope to pass on to her everything I know about conveyancing, but most importantly I shall be schooling her in the art of providing excellent client service. She will be my legacy to the conveyancing world and a fine conveyancer she will make. No pressure Irene!