21 April 2000


Whats it like to work in

agricultural law? Tim Relf

asks a solicitor

IF youre the sort of person whose idea of redecorating is just slapping a gloss coat over the top of the existing paint, then law is not the career for you.

Its hard work, demands attention to detail and doesnt allow corners to be cut, says Jeanette Dennis, a partner with Cambridge-based solicitors Taylor Vinters.

Dealing with tenancies, family partnerships and land deals are all in a days work for 35-year-old Jeanette, who grew up on a pig and arable farm. "Its fascinating," she says.

Indeed, the variety of work was one of the factors that prompted her to swap her original aim of becoming a vet for a career as a solicitor.

It meant studying a three-year law degree at Hull, followed by a one-year full-time course at Guildford. After that came two years practical training or "articles". With her interest in horses, Jeanette chose to do this with a firm in Newmarket with a strong bloodstock section – the firm that later became Taylor Vinters.

University was fun and stretched you academically, she recalls, but the hardest bit was the "rote learning" of law school. "Its incredibly dull."

Michaelmas is the busiest time, working on tenancies and land transactions. The working day can start before 7am and finish after 7pm. "Were fairly exhausted by November."

Drive is one of the most important attributes needed by a solicitor, she says. "Youve got to push yourself. You have to be prepared to go the extra mile for the client. You have to like people, too."

Jeanette is, she admits, predominantly "desk-bound" in her dealings with clients. So is it like in land agency, where people can be seen as either a "landlords agent" or a "tenants agent"? "Ill work for anyone who pays me as long as theres no conflict with an existing client."

Its "providing business solutions" that she considers her job to be really all about. "You have to find out where the client wants to go – and get them there."

But does it involve sleepless nights? "There are sleepless nights all the time," laughs Jeanette. "You worry about how you will get through the next day because youve got so many meetings. Or you worry because you havent got enough work."

Dont automatically expect big bucks if you go into agricultural law, she warns. "Dont see it as a meal ticket or a quick earner. Youll never be on a fantastic salary – like, say, an accountant in the City."

As for Jeanettes aims, she wants to develop new skills and expand the firms rural department. "Balanced with going to Tesco and walking the dogs."


Pay is about £14,000 in the

first year of articles at Taylor Vinters and about £16,500

in the second year.

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