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Meet the lawyer

Elizabeth Fielding

Elizabeth Fielding

University: University of Sussex
Degree: Law
Year of qualification: 2017
Position: Solicitor
Practice area: Real estate

What attracted you to a career in law?

I’ve always been quite inquisitive and love solving problems, which is what law is all about. I attended a law fair, and the idea of working in the profession appealed to me from there. I completed some work experience and knew that I wanted a challenging career. I initially thought I would pursue the criminal, family law route but after doing some commercial law work experience, I changed my mind because I found commercial law to be really varied.

How did you decide which firms to apply to?

I always wanted to push myself, so I applied to firms that offered high-quality work in the City. I specifically identified firms that seemed to be working on corporate social responsibility (CSR) and diversity – I wasn’t attracted to the generic, corporate law firm, so I did some research into various firms’ ethos. Another characteristic I considered was the number of practice areas each firm had – I liked the idea of having a lot of variety to choose from.

What practice areas did you sit in during your training programme?

I sat in investment management, real estate, litigation and dispute resolution and finally corporate and M&A.

Please outline your area of expertise. What might you do in a typical day?

The good thing about real estate is that the work is so varied. If you’re working on a big development site, you could be looking at complex development agreements, carrying out title due diligence and preparing title reports for your client, for example. You might also find yourself working for a seller, working on data rooms and sale documents, as well as replying to enquiries. The transactional nature of the work means there are lots of client meetings, client calls and all-party calls to try to get documents agreed.

I also do a lot of asset management, which involves landlord and tenant work, including working on leases.

Each day is very different – the consistent point of each day, though, is that you will inevitably be problem solving and dealing with challenges which means no day is boring or repetitive.

Please discuss a current/recent specific deal/case, outlining your role in the matter.

We were recently acting for a client on a large development site in the south of England.

I was working on the complicated transactional documents, which envisaged what each party would do and their obligations relating to the development. I was also coordinating the team who was doing tax and title diligence, planning diligence and construction diligence of the site that they were acquiring.

We had a lot of client Zoom meetings and then an in-person meeting, which was the first one we’d had since covid-19. There were many moving parts on the deal, so the work was very varied.

What makes your firm stand out from the rest?

Macfarlanes is an established firm so we have lots of high-quality clients with whom we have loyal and stable relationships. We are also really good at bringing in new clients and seeing new talent come through. There is quite a good mix, which makes it feel like a stable and supportive place to work.

In the past five to 10 years, the firm has also really worked on its CSR, diversity and agile working policies. I’ve seen a shift since I’ve been at the firm – there’s been a huge move forward in those areas. In particular, there’s been a real focus in improving the diversity at partnership level. We are also really focusing on sustainability and our Green Network and we are always encouraged to do pro bono work. I work for a refugee law clinic, which is hugely supported by Macfarlanes.

What is the wider culture like – for example, are there sports teams/trips out/firmwide events, employee network groups or mentoring programmes?

The pandemic reduced some of the activities and events we could do but these have started up again recently. There are various sports teams (eg, football and netball) and a lot of team socials. We also have The Macfarlanes Green Network, which hosts events like plant buying in the office, and the firm also really encourages the celebration of different religious festivals.   

We often get to listen to guest speakers (most notably, Jon Snow) – this was a particularly prominent feature during lockdown.

Our mentor/mentee programme is also great as it allows employees to request a mentor from a different practice area who they can chat to. There are also development mentors, which are practice area-based mentors, who are there to help you develop yourself and your career.

Does your practice area largely work independently, in support of other practice areas or is it routinely supported by other practice areas?

We used to do a lot of corporate and M&A and finance support. So, when a big job comes in and needs property diligence, for example, work will come through from the corporate and M&A and finance teams.

However, more recently, clients that have been coming in are increasingly more real estate clients, which then gives work to other practice areas. There has been real development in the real estate team because of this.

Whether the work is coming from our team or another team, we work closely with the investment management, corporate and M&A, finance and tax and reward teams. Sometimes we might need commercial input if a commercial agreement has arisen in a property transaction.

What’s the biggest opportunity you’ve been given since joining the firm?

Being given the chance to lead a couple of big teams on two sites for different clients has been great leadership and asset management experience. At a lot of firms, you often have to be fairly senior to lead matters on big, high-profile sites.

There is so much support from the partners, which makes it easier to give more junior lawyers these opportunities and extra responsibility. As a result of these opportunities, I’ve had lots of client contact too, which is not only great for my personal development, but also for my relationships with these clients.

What’s your favourite TV show?

I have a guilty obsession with reality TV shows. I hate to say it, but I’m a Married at First Sight fan as it’s a great way to switch off.