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Can You Live Your Best Life As A Property Lawyer?

View profile for Steven Petty
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Death has stalked us all for the last two years and it has made me think about how best to use the time given to us before we pass.  Inevitably, I have questioned whether I can live my best life as a property lawyer.  The common perception of lawyers is that we are pompous, argumentative and make everything more complex and consequently long-winded.  Can anyone engaged in this work really say they are making best use of their life?

What is your ‘best life’ anyway?  It will mean different things to different people.  For some, wealth, fame or being recognised for your achievements may be the measure by which they assess their life.  I’ve always thought that the best assessment of anyone’s life is whether they leave their small part of the world better than they found it.

I have always had an extremely strong sense of fairness and from a very young age identified the law as a career where I could help fight injustice.  So how on earth did I end up as a property lawyer rather than a human rights lawyer?  The short answer is that having tried it during my training contract, I really enjoyed it but the reality is that what I discovered during my training was not so much a passion for campaigning for justice for others but rather a simpler pleasure in just helping people with their problems.

I started my career dealing mostly with residential conveyancing transactions.  Moving house is one of the most stressful times in our lives and I found there was genuine worth in simply helping relieve some of that stress by putting clients at ease and making the transaction proceed as smoothly as possible.

Over twenty years later, the transactions are larger and more complex but my underlying purpose hasn’t changed.  I have reached the conclusion that I am less of a legal expert and more of a combined therapist/fortune teller.  Very little of my time is spent advising on the law.  I now advise clients on strategic matters, including whether to proceed with a transaction at all and, if so, how it should be structured.  The rest of my time seems to be spent simply asking the question ‘What If?’ and then using my imagination to think of all the things that might go wrong so that I can ensure my client is protected against every eventuality.  Crystal ball gazing can be pretty stressful (especially as I don’t own a crystal ball) and there is always a nagging doubt that there will be something I have failed to anticipate.  By doing lots of the worrying on behalf of my clients, I hope that the transactions become less stressful for them though.

One of the best ways to reduce the stress and anxiety a client often feels is to make complex legal concepts and documents understandable.  Ideally, I will make the documents as simple as possible in the first place as there is nothing worse than a document that has been drafted in such a convoluted way that even the lawyers aren’t sure what it means.  Very often, once I’ve discussed the documents on a transaction with a client, they are then able to negotiate changes direct with their counter-party rather than my having to have an argument with their lawyer.  I’ve learned through bitter experience that the quickest way to agree terms is take the lawyers out of the negotiations.

So does that mean that you can live your best life as a property lawyer?  It’s easy for lawyers to forget this but work is only part of your life and I would argue you can still live your best life as a partner, parent, friend or mentor irrespective of your career.  I think it was Jackie Kennedy who said “If you bungle raising your children, I don't think whatever else you do matters very much.”  Even if you only assess your life through your work, though, if you approach your career with helping others as your primary focus then yes, even as a property lawyer you can live your best life.

If you would like to help me try and live my best life as a property lawyer then please get in touch and I’ll do my best to help.  You can call me on 01926 629005 or email me at