Marathon not a sprint for law associate Fiona
THIS week's My Kind of Job is Fiona McFall, a senior associate at Mills Selig, a corporate and commercial law firm based in Belfast.
What’s your job?
I am head of private client in Mills Selig. My job is to provide legal advice to individuals and families on wills, trusts, estate planning and probate.
How did you get there?
I joined Mills Selig in 2014 following 12 years spent in leading private client teams in law firms in England and Northern Ireland.
Do you have a typical working day?
A large part of my day involves making myself available to speak to my clients about their affairs. The nature of my work means that this can often take me to my client’s home or hospital bed. To keep my day free for clients I tend to draft the essential paperwork that flows from those discussions in the quieter part of the day.
Every morning I set out a plan for the day to ensure work is prioritised so that I can meet client’s expectations and deliver the high level of service that Mills Selig clients depend on.
What qualifications do you have?
I graduated from Queens University, Belfast with a law degree following which I successfully achieved my qualification as a solicitor at the Institute of Professional Legal Studies at Queens University, Belfast. I am also a qualified member of the Society of Trusts and Estate Practitioners in Northern Ireland and a Solicitor Advocate.
What other skills do you need in your role?
Good communication skills are a must. Much of my time is spent advising clients on sensitive matters and so being a good listener is also essential.
As a senior associate it is equally important to be commercially aware.
What’s the best thing about your job?
The best thing is achieving a successful outcome for clients and feeling that you have made a difference. It may be a client who has lost a relative and you are guiding them through the legal process dealing with the deceased’s estate or advising a client who has a relative with Alzheimer’s or Dementia who require to be court appointed to deal with their financial affairs.
And the worst?
I find it very sad when I witness the breakdown in family relationships.
What do you think are the greatest challenges/pressures of the job?
I believe the challenge comes in dealing with client’s expectations regarding what can be achieved by court proceedings. I strongly believe this challenge is better met by obtaining legal advice at an early stage. This provides the client with various options which do not always require costly litigation and can achieve a more satisfactory outcome for the them and their wider family.
What did you want to be when you were at school?
I always wanted to be a lawyer but wasn’t sure whether I would choose the career path of a solicitor or barrister. The actress Calista Flockhart in the American TV series Ally McBeal certainly made the role of a lawyer look very appealing and a lot of fun.
What advice would you give someone considering a career in your profession?
Work hard and persevere. I would also say only choose law if you believe it is something that you will enjoy as there is a lot of time spent in the office working long hours.
What’s the most common question people ask when they find out what you do?
‘Do you ever go to court?’ Or, ‘Have you ever defended someone who was guilty?’. I usually respond by telling them that I do sometimes attend court but luckily, I do not advise on criminal matters. Instead I act for many high net worth individuals on estate planning and tax saving strategies which I find extremely rewarding.
How do you like to relax outside work?
I am a keen marathon runner which helps me unwind when I am not in the office. I also have two young energetic boys who are always so cheerful after a busy day in work.