In the first of our series of Q&A’s getting to know a bit more about the PGM team…we caught up with Helen Phillips!
1. How long have you been a Director at PGM?
2. What area of legal work do you specialise in?
Family, Wills, Probate and Powers of Attorney
3. Why did you choose to specialise in this area?
Initially I only specialised in family law as I enjoyed studying that at University. I was the only qualified woman at the first firm I worked in. The men were delighted to have a woman in the firm who could take over the family work. In those days there were very few women in the profession and I was often mistaken for a secretary! Over the years I have developed my practice to include wills probate and powers of attorney.
4. What is your career highlight?
It has to be opening up Phillips Green, as it was called then, with Mike Green in September 2003.
5. What career did you see yourself going into when you were at school?
I wanted to do law from about the age of fourteen. Prior to that I fancied being a fighter pilot until I realised it was not the ideal career for someone who suffered from motion sickness.
6. What are your hobbies?
My main hobby is keeping fit. I enjoy running, swimming, Pilates and HIIT classes. I also enjoy cooking, gardening and reading.
7. What do you enjoy most about your work?
No two days are the same. You can never come into work being certain of what you will achieve that day because once the phone start ringing and emails come in your day can go in a very different direction. I find the work rewarding and I enjoy getting to know clients during the course of their case.
8. What is your most memorable moment at PGM?
It has to be the day Paula played very elaborate April Fool on me. She disguised herself wearing hideous clothes, false teeth and glasses which made her appear cross-eyed. She put an appointment in my diary and pretended to be a new client. I didn’t recognise her at all. I was very relieved when the false teeth fell out onto the desk when she tried to speak and I realised it was her. I still laugh about it today and it was nearly 16 years ago.
9. What is the most common client question you are asked (and your answer)?
Clients always want to know how long the matter will take and how much it will cost. It is difficult to predict exactly, however, I always try to give a realistic estimate coupled with a worst-case scenario.
10. What are the biggest legal issues in the industry at the moment?
As a family lawyer it has to be proposed changes to the divorce law to bring in the no fault divorce. This is long overdue. The current legislation dates back to 1973 and the requirement to prove unreasonable behaviour or adultery is outdated. Most couples want to be able to divorce amicably and the new legislation should make a divorce easier and less confrontational.
11. How has the legal landscape in this area changed over the past few years?
Technology has changed the legal landscape enormously. When I started work every solicitor had a secretary who typed out dictation which they had either taken down in shorthand or which was on a cassette tape. All the type writers were manual, not even electric. No one had a computer. If we wanted to send something urgently it went by fax. These days everyone has a computer. We no longer have secretaries as we dictate directly into the computer and it types what we say with reasonable accuracy. There have been a few hilarious moments when something really bizarre comes out. You have to proof read carefully! Most correspondence goes via email with fewer and fewer items going by post.
12. If you could invite anyone to dinner (dead or alive), who would you choose?
Tom Hanks, Rhod Gilbert and Dan Walker