During the interview, Maria explained how moving from a traditional law firm to Bexley Beaumont a boutique firm with a hybrid fee-share model has allowed her to take control of her career, how the flexibility offered by the firm allows her to have a fantastic work-life balance and what she finds most rewarding about being a private client solicitor.
You joined Bexley Beaumont earlier this year – how are you finding things so far?
Karen and Anna know their business inside out. They are discerning when it comes to those they bring into the team, both in terms of selecting the best talent and identifying those with the psychology, personality, acumen and drive to make the model work.
Whilst clearly heading into consultancy carries risk and overheads don’t stop just because you’re building up a caseload, those with the right attitude, resilience, determination, ambition, energy, and drive are tooled up to make this model work. The supportive and collaborative environment at Bexley Beaumont also helps the transition. The rest is hard work and taking good care of clients and contacts alike. I was fortunate to have been exposed to business development and generation in my early years of qualification and alongside the many years I’ve spent doing a good job, doing the right thing and caring for people without making it all about fees, I feel like I have spent my career pre Bexley Beaumont gently laying the foundations upon which my caseload is now building far quicker than I could have expected.
The transition from traditional partnership (latterly in a top 100 firm) to Bexley Beaumont has been a revelation. There is definitely a period of adjustment and acclimatisation – enlightenment even. The positives are many – from avoiding a daily commute and office politics to choosing who you assist in what way, when and on what terms. Not every part of traditional practice is left behind and sometimes work dictates late evenings and weekends, but when you’re doing it for yourself, it doesn’t feel nearly as bad.
That is not to say this is an easy option. A similarity can be seen within those in the Bexley Beaumont team – they are experts in their field with fierce intellects and work ethics to match. You are wide open; you are your business and there is no one to hide behind.
After spending most of your career at more traditional national and regional law firms, why did you decide to move to a firm with a hybrid business model?
I was ready to break away from the bureaucracy and politics inherent in traditional law firms. I was ready to take control of my career and the environment in which I work, to strip it back to its essential parts – producing high-quality work for clients of my choosing. It wasn’t just the hybrid model that dictated the move, it was the Bexley Beaumont Hybrid model and the qualifying factor is the magic Karen and Anna bring.
What does your role look like day-to-day as a self-employed Partner at Bexley Beaumont?
Lots of the elements mirror the good parts of traditional practice. Whilst there is variation in any given week, I can usually predict speaking with clients, professional contacts and colleagues on a daily basis. I try and stack client meetings over a couple of days each week and another couple of days for desk work. The final day is for urgent appointments and any other business (including life administration).
How does the flexibility you enjoy at the firm help you to have a healthy work-life balance?
Avoiding the stress of rush hour traffic and getting back at least 3.5 hours each day for the things I choose to do has been life-changing. Further, although I try and keep my day 9 – 5, a huge amount of stress and resentment is avoided knowing I can easily work my day around a call to assist with friends or family or general life administration. There’s no need to worry about someone in the team already being away or there being a policy requiring minimum notice and secondary approval.
In terms of a requirement to be in the office – there isn’t one. Whilst we are welcomed into the office with open arms, there is no expectation either way.
You’re STEP Qualified and a full member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners – what does this mean and how does this impact the service you provide?
STEP qualification is a benchmark of quality, excellence and expertise aligning fully with the standard of service Bexley Beaumont provides as a whole. Fully STEP-qualified solicitors are the best of the best in the field of private client law and clients appointing those who are STEP qualified are guaranteed to have a practitioner who has studied to a specialist degree (no tick boxes here – 4 separate closed book 3.5 hour exams) in the area of trusts, trust and estate administration, taxation of trusts and estates and trust and estate accountancy.
STEP qualification guarantees that Bexley Beaumont has the necessary expertise to assist all clients in every state, size and quandary – those with the largest of estates, the most complicated of assets and the most unusual of family circumstances.
STEP qualification provides external validation of Bexley Beaumont’s private client specialism to other Bexley Beaumont Partners, their clients and to our new and prospective clients.
The other way it impacts the service we provide is by being able to assist clients to unpick and regularise drafting which has been carried out by those who are not qualified nor specialists. We have saved thousands of pounds in tax and more importantly family relationships by assisting in this way, and whilst we would rather clients receive correct advice and assistance in the first place, we are here to help when required.
What do you find most rewarding about your role as a private client solicitor?
Being a keeper of secrets; assisting clients to solve problems which had otherwise given them sleepless nights; taking stress and pressure off those in need; helping people prepare and put their affairs (and wishes) in order when their time is short and enjoying the mental gymnastics offered by the (sometimes curious and antiquated) laws of wills, trusts, tax and probate.
About Maria Lonergan
Maria is a Private Client Partner at Bexley Beaumont. She joined the firm in April 2023 with over 13 years of experience in all areas of estate planning and administration including wills, trusts, tax, lasting powers of attorney, Court of Protection applications and post-death estate administration.
Maria is STEP qualified and a full member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners.