Interview with Stephanie Brobbey, lawyer at Goodman Derrick
Are you or your child considering a career as a lawyer? Stephanie Brobbey, Senior Associate at Goodman Derrick LLP and one of eprivateclient’s Top 35 Under 35 reveals what it’s really like pursuing a career in law, and how her work enables her to do good.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in law?
I decided to pursue a legal career when I was 16. I was attracted to the fundamental and pervasive nature of the law which governs our behaviour and affects every aspect of our lives, from relationships to work to travel. I also loved a good debate and was particularly interested in the area of human rights.
What challenges did you face?
My training contract was a demanding but extremely rewarding experience. I spent six months in four of the firm’s departments. As someone who is naturally quite risk averse, after I qualified as a solicitor, I sometimes found it difficult building up the confidence to give a definitive view on something or recommend a particular course of action.
Anyone who has been to law school and has received solid training can be a decent lawyer; but it is really important to remember that clients want your advice and not just an explanation of what the legal position is.
It takes time to gain experience and develop expertise in certain areas, which can at times leave you feeling outside your comfort zone. Luckily, I have a very supportive team who helped me navigate that process.
I also undertook further professional studies (the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners Diploma in Trusts and Estates. It was hard juggling the demands of my job and exams for two years, but studying my practice area in depth was useful and having the qualification under my belt has certainly helped me in my day to day work.
What does your work involve?
I help individuals and families manage all aspects of their wealth. My work generally involves providing legal advice on a range of different matters including: Will drafting, creating trusts, estate planning, administering the estates of deceased persons and advising on mental capacity issues.
I work closely with other private client professionals such as tax advisors, wealth managers, financial planners and sometimes lawyers in other countries. Since my firm is based in London there is often a cross-border element to the work we undertake, which keeps things interesting.
What has been your proudest moment so far?
In September 2018 I was named in eprivateclient’s Top 35 Under 35, the definitive annual list of young private client practitioners.
The list identifies, recognises and promotes the rising stars of the private client industry in the UK and Channel Islands. It was a real honour to receive this accolade after seven years of developing my expertise and growing my legal practice.
What do you love most about your work?
Private client law is an area which offers a great deal of intellectual stimulation and contact with a variety of clients. While I enjoy the academic discipline of private client law and its interesting technical aspects, I also find the complexity of human relationships fascinating.
What I love most is being entrusted by clients to provide a safe space for them to explore how to protect their assets and families. Each client comes with a unique set of circumstances which throw up an array of thought-provoking challenges.
My work provides me with a rare opportunity to journey alongside individuals and their families, during what is sometimes quite a vulnerable process, in order to help them achieve peace of mind in relation to their financial affairs.
I have always been interested in philanthropy and social change and there is a degree of overlap with private client law. Working as a private client lawyer has enabled me to get involved in a number of different charities, including serving as a trustee of e:merge UK, a national youth charity, and The Funding Network, an organisation which hosts live crowdfunding events for non-profits facilitating social change.
My firm has a strong history of supporting charities in various ways and I really value the way we are encouraged to get involved in pro-bono and corporate social responsibility projects.
What tips would you give to anyone considering a legal career?
1) Be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses
Hone your strengths and work on your weaknesses, enlisting the support of others regularly. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or seek help when you need it. Find someone who is great at an area you struggle with and learn from them. One of the great things about a legal career is that it provides an opportunity for lifelong learning.
2) Be a team player
I am incredibly fortunate and privileged to have been able to work at a firm that has a collaborative and supportive environment. My colleagues are very generous with their time and I have learned that it is so much more enjoyable working through problems together.
Ultimately, I think you need to work effectively as a team to build a great legal practice and career, so work out what you can contribute to your team and get stuck in.
3) Do ordinary things extraordinarily well
As a lawyer you will have to get used to juggling many different tasks, sometimes under pressure. As tempting as it might be to cut corners, or become complacent because you have done a similar piece of work several times, it will serve you and your reputation well to pursue excellence every day.
Aristotle said: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”
4) Work on your people skills
Creating strong business relationships are key to any successful legal practice.