SG: Welcome to this episode of Realm Talks To. Today, I’m really pleased to welcome John Jones, Head of Conveyancing at Jackson Lees Group. Good morning, John. How are you?
JJ: Good morning. Very well. Thank you, Sarah.
SG: Great. Thanks for joining us today. So you joined Jackson Lees, I believe, with four decades of conveyancing experience under your belt. So congratulations, I think, first of all, for such a milestone! Why did you decide to make the move at this point in your career?
JJ: Well, it’s quite interesting really because I joined Jackson Lees shortly after my 60th birthday. I hope to retire around 65/66 and one of the plans that I had for my own development, was that I wanted to join a firm where hopefully I could pass on my knowledge and experience and help develop and build on what was a very successful residential conveyancing team that was already in place at Jackson Lees.
I also hope to identify my successor and spend the next few years helping to mentor them and develop them into taking over from me and pushing and building the team to go forward.
I’ve always enjoyed conveyancing and I’ve always enjoyed teaching people about conveyancing. So it was the right mix for me. And Jackson Lees was a firm I knew with a great reputation. I knew people who already were working there and it was, it was just an ideal fit.
SG: It sounds perfect. You mentioned your love of conveyancing there. On the Jackson Lees website, you describe yourself as a conveyancing fanatic. What do you love about the practice area? Why do you think it’s such a great area to practise?
JJ: Well, as I say, I’ve been doing it for a long time. My love for conveyancing was engendered by the first person I went to work. He was a chap called Bernie Bennett and he was very forward-thinking and innovative and he encouraged me to go off and qualify. He paid for me to go to qualify, he paid for me to go to night school to qualify which was always wonderful. I think I love conveyancing because it covers practically every area of law that you can think of. Most people think of conveyancing as some sort of process but you do have to have an understanding of you know contract law and, believe it or not, elements of criminal law and tort and all those different areas that you can bring together.
And I like the diversity and the challenge that that brings. Because I am fascinated by it, I’m constantly learning and trying to develop and understand it. And you know, I don’t know everything and the reason I don’t know everything is because there’s always something new to learn every day.
SG: I was just reading this morning about the proposed reforms with leasehold and I don’t pretend to understand it in the way that you would. But yeah, I guess it’s always an arena that’s always changing, as you say, there’s always something new to learn.
JJ: Yeah. And you’ve got to try and look at it as a challenge and not a negative. OK, they might be adding something else to the process but how can how can you adopt that and make it a positive thing?
SG: Absolutely. I’ve never thought about conveyancing actually in the way that you’ve put it there. You know all the kind of different aspects of law kind of pulled into one and it’s very client-facing as well, isn’t it? So you’ve got to have all the other skills as well as the technical skills, those interpersonal skills as well.
JJ: Well, we we are helping clients make the biggest financial decision of their lives. There’s lots of talk in the press about how the public expects us to be able to deal with conveyancing as if they were ordering a book or a CD from Amazon. I don’t think the public are like that. I think they understand that this is a big decision. They obviously want it done quickly and they want it done right but I think they understand that this is a legal issue and it has to be done correctly and hopefully, what we do as conveyancers makes that difference and helps them achieve their goals and their dreams.
SG: Yeah, absolutely. Jackson Lees is powered by MAPD group and mapped stands for Making a Positive Difference, doesn’t it? How does that mantra play out day-to-day for you in your role?
JJ: Well, one of the attractions of joining Jackson Lees of course was that, you know, making a positive difference is their war cry. And it ties very well into my own personal philosophy about conveyancing. I’ve got three things of my own that I like to adopt, which are to try and make it right the first time and try and take pride in what I’m doing. And that pride element is about having integrity and having the energy and the commitment to do the job well.
And thirdly, that I strive to continuously improve. I think those three things linked to making a positive difference means that I’m actually, to a certain extent, exemplifying that, that’s what I try to strive to do every day. And I hope that’s reflected in the feedback that we get from our clients and how they see what a good job we’ve done for them.
SG: Yeah, that makes absolute sense. And you’re actually on the board of The Society of Licensed Conveyancers. Please could you tell us a bit about your role on the board and what that entails?
JJ: Licensed conveyancers are one of the forms of authorised persons or lawyers out there who can conduct conveyancing. They’re regulated by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers. But the Society is its representative body and there’s a number of well-established and experienced conveyances on that board. I tend to be involved more on the learning and development and the education side. For example, the Society has its conference in November and I’ll be delivering two training sessions to conveyancing students. I also used to help do external verification of college providers who were delivering the training courses to potential conveyancers. So like most things, you need to have a voice in the marketplace so that people understand where we’re sat.
I think it’s also helpful in my day-to-day role because obviously, I’m keeping abreast of new and exciting innovations that may be coming along so I can make the experience much better for clients.
SG: Absolutely. I mean that sounds fantastic. You must be so busy all of the time. There’s a real thread running through your career and your role, which is, as you said at the beginning, passing on that knowledge. Maybe it comes from the experience you had with your predecessor who you said was your inspiration for your career.
I’m getting a real sense that you like to pay it forward in a way and kind of give people the opportunities that you had.
JJ: Yes and I think that’s important. One of my sons and my nephew and niece are all lawyers and I have to have to be honest and say that when they were doing their land law elements of their training courses and degrees, they didn’t enjoy that. But that’s an area of law that I find fascinating because it’s all linked to conveyancing. I think that it’s important for those of us who have been doing conveyancing to encourage, mentor and develop people who are going to take over from us. All this knowledge and experience can’t be trapped inside your head, it needs to be let out and it needs to be there to to support people.
Conveyancing has changed dramatically since I first started, just the the pure digital aspects of it are completely alien from what I did when I first started. We were still writing out forms with a pen, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t pass on and share that knowledge and experience. I think it’s that whole thing isn’t it, that history teaches the future. And I enjoy it, you know, and I get a real buzz out of helping people better understand what they’re doing. And that bounces onto the clients because the clients get a much better experience from their lawyer if that lawyer is as well-educated, well-trained and well-skilled as they possibly can be.
SG: I know that one thing that Jackson Lees is particularly focused on is giving its team members a very clear progression framework with lots of opportunities to develop. There’s an in-house Training Academy at Jackson Lees, isn’t there? Can you tell us a little bit about that?
JJ: The Training Academy has what we call the learning hub. It’s a dedicated space within the business where every member of staff, regardless of what they’re doing and which department they’re in has the opportunity to develop and and grow their career.
Jackson Lees supports staff members who may want to qualify as a solicitor and who are looking to become Chartered Legal Executives or Licensed Conveyancers. And I think it’s that whole gambit of there are lots of routes to qualification and the training Academy provides that service and that support. So for example, as well as being a Licensed Conveyancer, I’m a Chartered Legal Executive, so I am, if you like, the training ambassador for Jackson Lees for those people wanting to go through the CILEX route.
It’s well-led, there’s a good structure and policy to it and there’s an openness and transparency about what people want to do and what the firm will be willing to support and help them through. Linked to that is that the Academy itself also offers all those value-added such as personal skills courses, the kind of stuff that you need to understand. e.g. how to communicate with clients and how to deal with difficult conversations. But also, being conscious that Jackson Lees very much supports the areas of social justice, the Academy also delivers courses on mental health, neurodiversity, and things of that nature.
It’s there constantly, every month there are dedicated courses both to help you move on and qualify but also to broaden your knowledge and experience about more personal matters.
SG: So for the people that like you, who enjoy continual self-development and have, he firm, I imagine Jackson Lees is a great place to be because that’s always available.
JJ: It is, and the firm very much encourages staff members to suggest things that should be brought in and discussed. One of my favourite days was a session supporting World Vision Day or World Sight Day and someone from the Guide Dogs for the Blind turned up. Staff members with visual impairments got the opportunity to discuss what they did and what the firm could do to support them. And that came from the staff members themselves not not necessarily from the Academy but The Academy is willing to look at that and promote these types of courses. It’s brilliant.
SG: It’s great, to see a law firm demonstrating that real commitment to making that positive difference – clearly, it’s not a tick-box exercise or a slogan, you live and breathe it as a business.
JJ: It’s very much part of the fabric of Jackson Lees and certainly very much part of the MAPD Group philosophy.
SG: Something that people also might not know about you at this point is I think you used to work in private client as well, didn’t you? You had another previous life working within that team?
JJ: Yeah. As someone who started conveyancing such a long time ago, you used to carry out conveyancing and wills and probate work and they used to run side by side. So as well as being a Licensed Conveyancer, I’m a Licensed Probate Practitioner. I don’t get to do as much of that as I used to because I’m heading a conveyancing department and Jackson Lees has a very well-established and really good wills, trusts and probate department of his own. What I like is that Jackson Lees is the sort of firm that can offer a holistic level of legal services to clients. This means that if in the conveyancing department, the client suddenly has an issue about wanting to raise a will or you know sadly there’s been a death in the family and they need probate, then I can literally walk down the corridor and have a conversation with a colleague from that department and then you’re working together to get the client’s needs met. And it’s really good because again, with my kind of learning and development hat on, what my colleagues in wills and probate are doing has some bearing on conveyancing, my staff get to learn from them and they get to learn from us. And you’re also keeping that client’s wishes within the business because you can offer that service. Collaboration in that sense is really good.
SG: Absolutely. And if someone else was maybe getting to the same stage of their career that you were at before you joined Jackson Lees and were thinking, OK, you know this all sounds great. I’d love to have that experience of coming in, in the final stage, potentially, of my career before I retire and have the opportunity to pass on that knowledge, I’m guessing that you would recommend Jackson Lees as a great place to do that?
JJ: Yeah. Obviously, my decision was kind of individual to me, I don’t think it matters what age you are – if you’re thinking of joining Jackson Lees and at what stage you are in your career. If you are looking to develop in your specialised area, whatever that might be, the advantage is that at Jackson Lees, there are very few areas of law that we don’t cover. If you have got the opportunity to come and, say, work for our Court of Protection Department or immigration team, (there’s lots of things in areas that we do, not just the conveyancing and private client stuff and that ties in with that holistic approach to clients), Jackson Lees’ is a genuinely good firm to work for and you’ll get a much broader experience once you join than I imagine you would get in any other firm.
SG: Yeah absolutely. And I think that point you made earlier about the different routes into the profession at the moment. Here At Realm, we get so many questions from people, potentially law graduates or those studying law at the moment about those routes because I don’t think even now there’s that much information out there that clearly sets out as to what those routes are, how you access them and what’s involved. So I’d also encourage anyone who was thinking about different routes into law to get in touch with Jackson Lees as well because it could be that there’s an opportunity there for them or more certainly some information there for them.
JJ: It’s definitely worth them having a conversation with my colleagues in our Training Academy because they really understand the procedures and the processes for qualifying down the different routes. And while mine has been mostly a vocational route, I’ve got family members who have gone through university and then gone you know down the academic route as well but the Training Academy are the right people to speak to. Even if there’s not a vacancy yet, ring them up and have a chat with them because we’re always on the lookout for good people to join us.
SG: Sure. Finally, John, tell us tell us something we don’t yet know about Jackson Lees.
JJ: This is a bit of a strange question because, for me, I probably want to reverse it because I think Jackson Lees is one of the few firms that I’ve worked with where actually what you get is what you see and they’re exceptionally good at letting the public know, letting members of the industry know what we’re up to. On social media, everyone’s encouraged to kind of say what we’re up to and all the rest of it. So I think actually Jackson Lees is quite an open organisation. I think I would really struggle to come up with something that people wouldn’t already know about Jackson Lees, but I think that’s a good thing.
SG: That’s a good thing. Yeah. Absolutely. So, yeah, everyone can go and follow you on LinkedIn and find out more about the firm. Well, it’s been an absolute pleasure talking to you today, John. Thank you so much. And I know we’re filming this on a Friday, and I know conveyancing is super, super busy on a Friday, so we’ll let you get back to your clients and Making A Positive Difference. So thank you so much for joining us.
JJ: And you, thanks very much, Sarah. Cheers.