I would highly recommend volunteering, as it helps to build your relationships amongst professionals within your local area and in the sharing of knowledge, says Cambridge Branch Chair Seema Solanki TEP.
What does your firm or employer do?
Barr Ellison offers a full range of legal services to businesses and individuals. We have offices at the heart of Cambridge, and at Addenbrooke’s Hospital serving the Cambridge Biomedical Campus.
Our Personal Wealth Team specialises in wills, trusts and estates, Powers of Attorney, elderly care matters, tax planning and Court of Protection. We have a broad client base which includes academics and high-net-worth individuals and families. Many of our clients have been with us for decades, and even generations.
What has STEP done for you, individually, or as an organisation?
STEP has increased my understanding and awareness of private client law, adding to my knowledge in this ever-changing area. Being STEP-accredited enables me to continue to learn and offer the best advice to my clients through STEP national conferences, local seminars, the STEP Journal and weekly digests of important updates and cases. In turn it means that my firm and I stand out amongst others, which is particularly helpful when networking with other (non-legal) professionals.
What is the most important thing STEP does, in your opinion?
STEP provides an internationally-known gold standard professional membership. This is something that I not only value, but also cherish, because being a part of STEP provides an excellent platform for developing one’s know-how, as well as enabling networking with other professionals on a global basis.
What made you decide to volunteer at STEP?
I was interested in becoming involved in our local area, to contribute towards providing the best seminars for our local members and to become a key part of a professional forum where private client practitioners can network with one another and share their experiences.
Having been Chair for STEP Cambridge for the past five years, I have instilled my passion and drive within our committee to provide seminars on a wide number of topical issues, including soft skills and technical seminars for our members.
What would you say to other members considering volunteering?
For me personally, being integrally involved in our committee and to be voted to the position of Chair has been a fulfilling and rewarding role. I would highly recommend volunteering, as it helps to build your relationships amongst professionals within your local area and in the sharing of knowledge.
Your branch has run some online events recently. How did they go, and do you have any recommendations to share?
Due to COVID-19 we, like many branches, ended up cancelling some of our sessions but were in a position to host virtual seminars, which have thankfully run smoothly. It has the added advantage that any STEP member can attend our seminars as they don’t need to physically travel into Cambridge to attend.
One key practical lesson is to ensure you have delegates’ up-to-date email addresses. We also found that having a short refreshment break after an hour assists with the focus and concentration that one needs when looking at the screen, as well as encouraging delegates to engage during the session where applicable.
Do you have any upcoming events to look out for?
We are holding a virtual AGM and webinar on 19 May in which Oliver Marre TEP from 5 Stone Buildings will be talking about the problems and solutions on gifts with reservation of benefit and pre-owned assets tax. On 16 June we are holding a webinar on digital marketing, focusing on how to use LinkedIn – both webinars look to be very interesting and topical.
What do you most like about your job, and what do you feel is most worthwhile?
I see myself as a key part in a family’s succession and estate planning process. I am able to offer advice on meeting the family’s wishes in the most tax-efficient manner, as well as being able to offer practical advice across generations of families. Each person’s and family’s situation is unique, which makes each case different and exciting. It is gratifying to look back in the knowledge that I have made a positive difference or put that family’s worries at ease.
What would you say to a young person thinking of a career in this industry?
It can be very satisfying knowing that you have helped that individual or family with legal advice to put their wishes in place or to assist the family with estate planning. Any young person with organisational skills, who enjoys meeting and talking to people from a range of backgrounds will see that this is an area where they can develop their knowledge within the legal framework. I would encourage a young person to embark upon one of the routes to become STEP-qualified, as it will make you stand out from the crowd to prospective employers.
What do you feel are the main challenges facing your organisation/practitioners at the moment, and how will you deal with them?
Life at present has been turned upside down and many practitioners will be facing challenges to which they have never before been exposed. We are, however, in this together and I personally feel it is important during these unprecedented times to maintain positivity and connection with our colleagues and loved ones. If anything, the past months have shown the varied tools of communication available with modern technology and how we have been able to use these to conduct our business with clients, professional contacts and colleagues.
Many organisations will continue to deal with new challenges as the world lives through the COVID-19 pandemic. Going forward, it will be challenging, but still interesting to see how we can continue to adapt, develop and provide the best advice to our clients whilst maintaining our professional learning and development.
Which social media channels do you use and why?
I enjoy using LinkedIn as it allows one to connect with other professionals, as well as obtain soundbites of latest developments across many areas.