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A Forest

View profile for Steven Petty
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In my mind’s eye, a forest is a dark place.  The trees crowd together blocking out the light; the branches block your progress at every turn; and the paths slowly disappear the deeper you get leaving you hopelessly lost.

I imagine that is how the Law seems to non-lawyers.  The tangle of regulations, the impenetrable contract clauses, the language that seems to bring darkness and confusion rather than illumination and clarity.

Being lost in a forest is a frightening experience and I try to remember that our clients’ encounters with the Law can cause at least anxiety if not outright fear.  Our first job is to act as our clients’ guides through the forest to ease their apprehension and shine a light where there is darkness.

There are plenty of tools in our armoury to help our clients navigate the forest. 

The perfect approach is to stop unwary clients getting themselves into difficulties in the first place as Harvey Gibbs  did when he warned of the dangers of freehold estates rent charges and service charges

On other occasions, we need to check out the forest on our clients’ behalf to see where the dangers lie.  That’s why Sophie Read and all our other lawyers need to have a pair of wellies handy.

Sometimes, a path through the forest looks clear but leads to a false sense of security due to hidden dangers. Bethan Blackburn explains that what is mine isn’t as straightforward a question as one might think.

I’ve recently finished the inspiring ‘The Shepherd’s Life’ by James Rebanks and as I read his description of life as a shepherd I was struck by how similar his job was to my own.  He spends his life, caring for creatures who seem to wilfully find ways of getting themselves into difficulty and at certain times of year is in a state of near constant anxiety as he rushes from one crisis to another trying to make sure every one of his flock is kept safe.  No matter how much they infuriate him with their ability to constantly find trouble, his very livelihood depends on keeping each one safe.  He also becomes increasingly attached to the older ewes as he gets to know them and is also conscious that the future of his business depends on the judgment he exercises in breeding from those ewes to increase the value of his stock.

Now I’m certainly not about to embark on a client breeding programme but I’m conscious every day that the judgment I exercise in advising my clients may have a material effect on the success of their business. 

I’ve acted for a number of my clients for twenty years now and over the years we have sought both personal and business advice from each other.  One of the most rewarding aspects of my career has been seeing the businesses of my clients grow and their pleasure at helping me to grow the business of Feldon Dunsmore.

There are certain times of year (months with an ‘r’ in my case) when I’m rushing from one client matter to another trying to keep everything on an even keel, constantly aware that if I let up for one moment, a file can suffer and my client’s business with it.

That’s when I can find myself lost in a different forest.  Each job is a tree in that forest, crowding in on me and leaving me feeling anxious and alone.  Lockdown has undoubtedly made these feelings worse as the sense of isolation is much more marked.  The solution, as it is for our clients, is to seek a guide to help me out of that dark place and that is why we have recently introduced a buddy system so that when the work seems overwhelming, we have a colleague we can chat to and share our troubles.

We also need to remind ourselves of the simple things we can do to improve our mental health as Amy Stoddart does in her recent blog post.

If you find yourself lost in either forest then remember you are not alone.  Call me on 07974 713897 or email me at

Author: Steven Petty 

19 February 2021