Virtual Coffee Date: Olivia Holden

By Ben Carey on 16 March, 2021

The Business Exchange recently joined Solicitor Olivia Holden from Goughs for a virtual coffee to find out more about her and the current climate for commercial property in the South West.

How long have you been practicing law?

My route into law was slightly unconventional. I read English Literature at university and following a summer of work experience with my Great Uncle (a criminal legal aid solicitor) I decided that I would undertake the law conversion course to pursue a career in law after finishing university.

I was lucky enough to be awarded a scholarship from one of the Inns of Court and qualified as a barrister in 2014. As many law students well know, it can take several years to secure a position as a pupil barrister, or a trainee solicitor and you have to be thick skinned to enough to keep applying.

I worked in publishing for two years as an editor for an international trade publication and it took me all over the world, but I always knew I wanted to return to the legal profession.

In 2017 I obtained a training contract with BPE Solicitors in my hometown of Cheltenham and qualified as a solicitor in 2019.

My advice to any law student or career changer is don’t be afraid of rejection or having to take an alternative route, it pays dividends in the end.

What drew you to working at Goughs?

I was drawn to the fact that Goughs are Wiltshire’s oldest law firm with strong values that have stood the test of time. I met Gemma Sumsion and Andrew Given initially over Zoom and was inspired by their progression from trainees to equity partners at the firm.

One of the things that is key for me is that at Goughs we don’t just see ourselves as lawyers, we seek to become long standing trusted advisors to our clients.

How would you describe the commercial property market in the South West currently?

At the moment I am (and continue to hopefully remain) very busy which is a good sign! While there may have been an initial slow down when the pandemic first hit, we are continuing to see movement. In terms of the landlord and tenant work I carry out, I have no doubt the next few months will be critical when the current government ban on evictions for commercial tenants comes to an end on 31st March 2021.

How is lockdown affecting you, your clients and your work?

We are all having to embrace new ways of working, and adapting to these changes remains key to maintaining strong client relationships.

I always prefer to meet with clients in person if I can. With this not being possible at the moment I am encouraging clients to call me directly if they need to discuss their matter.

In terms of changes to the profession and our workloads, the Stamp Duty holiday has significantly increased the workload of residential conveyancers who may also undertake commercial conveyancing.

Are you working on any particular deals which you can talk about?

I have just finalised a new lease for our client The Peacocks Veterinary Clinic Limited at the Martingate Centre in Corsham. The practice is due to open next month and I hope to be able to visit to see the end result once the current lockdown restrictions are lifted.

What do you love most about your job?

I am really driven by our clients who continue to remain positive despite the challenges the pandemic has presented. Since joining Goughs I have assisted a variety of different clients in the retail and hospitality sectors in securing new business premises and it’s great to be a part of that. It’s not all doom and gloom as the news headlines report.

Is there a piece of work that you’re most proud of?

We have recently acted on a high value residential property purchase for a long-standing commercial client. The deadline for exchange was extremely tight and there were vast amounts of reporting to undertake. It was great to call the client and inform them that we had met the deadline and exchanged. When I first qualified a senior solicitor told me, ‘if you don’t get a buzz when you’ve exchanged, you’re in the wrong job,’ and I can safely say they were right!

What are your five top tips?

  1. When instructing a solicitor, pick an individual who you want to actively work with. Our role is to guide and advise a client through a transaction, but the best outcomes are always when it is a two-way process.
  2. If you are considering buying a property at auction always have a solicitor review the auction pack first. Programs like ‘Homes under the Hammer’ or ‘Escape to the Chateau’ make for good TV, but they fail to show the reality of the legal due diligence a solicitor should undertake first.
  3. To any law student reading this, don’t be disheartened if you don’t obtain a training contract or a pupillage the first time around. Ensure that you build up as much work experience as you can and develop transferable skills.
  4. Do speak to a local surveyor or commercial agent when you are looking to buy, sell, rent out or take on premises.  We are not surveyors and valuations and lease terms are best talked through with an agent. Run the terms past a surveyor before agreeing to proceed and appointing solicitors as this will save time and costs at the outset.
  5. If you require finance don’t think the usual high street banks are the only lenders, talk to us. We can refer you to a broker to ensure you get the most appropriate deal and that you can borrow what you require before spending too much money on legal fees and surveys.