What to expect when moving from a traditional law firm to a fee share model: Q&A with gunnercooke Real Estate Partner, Justin Neal

April 21, 2022

Some may find joining a fee share model a daunting prospect. Moving away from what you have always known for a new challenge can be a big change. Yet all of our lawyers have been through the same thing.

gunnercooke Real Estate Partner, Justin Neal discusses how he found the transition, what his clients said, and whether gunnercooke met his expectations.

How did you get into Real Estate?

‘As a trainee solicitor, I worked for a property specialist, mainly dealing with the largest outdoor advertising company in Europe handling its property portfolio, which was very diverse. This gave me a lot of experience in real estate, and led to me becoming a go-to advisor.

‘As such, I have been involved with many interesting clients and matters/properties throughout the UK and, indeed the World – advising on a Caribbean hotel was one of the more exotic, and it even included a trip over there!’

When and how did you hear about gunnercooke?

‘A friend of mine was working for gunnercooke and had told me about them several years ago, perhaps 18 months before I joined. They urged me to take a look, which I did.

‘I think working from home during the pandemic, gave me an insight and feel for how the model could and would work. It also gave me confidence in the technology.’

Is the firm what you expected? How has gunnercooke differed from your previous law firm, and what changes have you enjoyed?

‘I was at an expanding City firm, that had been listed on AIM. My day was a series of KPIs and targets that were forever increasing to satisfy the management board and shareholders.

‘It was never enough and the constant pressure to do more, and bill more was not in the best interest of, either my health or the clients, which were increasingly leaving as the bills grew for no added benefit!

‘I was once told the best asset of a services firm is its staff, which leave the building each day! Well, gunnercooke doesn’t just have buildings, but work environments, and if I did leave in an elevator each day, it’s one straight out of Willie Wonka, as it doesn’t deliver me to the city street, but immediately to my home life and family. What better balance could you have?

‘I also have the best of the city world, in that I am able to be in the city office and visit my clients throughout London, as necessary.’

How long did it take you to transition to the firm and how would you describe the first few weeks/months?

‘The transition of being able to work and function was very quick, no longer than a week.  The gunnercooke team was very helpful in training and answering questions.

‘The challenge is the generation of work, in that, on day one, you have no open files!  That’s scary, particularly for a highly pressurised lawyer!

‘The first step is to call and speak to your clients, the ones you know and like, then be surprised! You can do the same as before, but provide a more proactive service, at a better price. It doesn’t take long for the first and then the second and third files to be opened!’

How would you describe the gcTrust team and your colleagues in the area?

‘Friendly, approachable people who care. To quote a TV show, you’re not just a number!’

How did your clients feel about your move? Has the way you worked with them changed and where/how do you meet with them?

‘All clients are nervous about new things, perhaps a better word is apprehensive, but to be innovative and grow, you need to change!  Be innovative and remember, you are the trusted advisor that they were using, not the name of your law firm before. It is your skill, personality and trust that they were using and will, hopefully, continue to use.’

Do you ever refer work to colleagues and is there any benefit in doing so?

‘Yes and yes!

‘As with any team, you need to trust the people around you and know they can deliver.  Once you meet those people, and your teammates, and develop those relationships, you will have a fertile cross-referral group.’

How would you describe the social life at gunnercooke?

‘There is a style of event for everyone, take those opportunities that you enjoy, from a social walk, a glass of wine or a pint of beer, it’s all there, or simply a coffee at the machine and a morning chat, which is probably the thing I enjoy the most.’

Find out more about the benefits of working at gunnercooke here. Or contact our recruitment team below for a confidential chat.

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