In our latest ‘meet the staff’ profile, we speak to solicitor Irene McGraw, who joined us earlier this year to work in our Private Client Department.
Tell us about your journey into law?
I grew up in the south side of Glasgow and when thinking about a career I narrowed it down to law or accountancy, but the more I thought about it, the more I realised I didn’t fancy looking at figures all day long. I applied to Glasgow University and Strathclyde University and got accepted to both and then couldn’t decide which one to attend. The advice I got was that both were equally good so I opted for Strathclyde because I could get a direct bus to the university from home!
Did that turn out to be the right decision?
Of course! I loved my time at Strathclyde and would always recommend it. I do remember when I was applying for jobs after graduating that there were some firms totally perplexed that I’d not opted for Glasgow and I’m sure that cost me an interview or two. But it also helped me realise the sort of firm I wanted to work for were the ones more interested in people than places.
How did you end up in Private Client?
I’ve been a general practitioner for most of my career, although in the last decade I’ve worked primarily in conveyancing – buying houses – and Private Client – wills, powers of attorney and executory – work. I really like dealing with people and I used to get a big kick out of phoning clients to tell them they’ve been successful with an offer they’ve made on a property. Now I concentrate on Private Client work, which allows me to get to know more about my clients and it can be very fulfilling helping families sort out estates at a really difficult time in their lives.
What does a typical day involve in the Private Client Department?
There is a typical day but never a typical client. When I’m writing a Will, every client has different wishes and different needs, so I must work out how to present that in a document that will give them a voice after they have passed away. Executry work, which is the process of carrying out the instructions in a will and winding up an individual’s estate can be a time consuming and emotional experience for people, so that needs careful consideration.
We imagine there must be some detective work in finding all the people named in a will – you must have some interesting stories?
Sadly, I have never been up the Amazon in a canoe looking for a beneficiary! The real detective work comes when somebody hasn’t prepared a Will or doesn’t have immediate family and we must track down the people entitled to a share of an estate. That occasionally can involve Private Investigators, but thankfully if a Will has been prepared properly and updated regularly, we don’t have to go to extreme measures.
What are the challenges facing the profession today?
With Private Client, the biggest challenge has always been the same – getting people to engage with the concept of their eventual death and prepare for it. Not having a Will in place can further compound a spouse or a child’s grief and it is so straightforward to prevent it. Whether you are 16 or 116, the best time to prepare a Will is right now.
What do you do to switch off away from the office?
Like many women, I took a career break to have a family and now I have three beautiful granddaughters aged three, seventeen months and four months, so I get a great deal of pleasure out of spending time with them. I like walking, which these days usually involves pushing a pram around a park! I also like reading.
What are you reading right now?
Adam Kay’s “This is Going to Hurt – Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor”. It is very funny, very dark and very well written.
Any final thoughts for us?
Just to repeat the most important message of our conversation – whether you are 16 or 116, the best time to prepare a Will is right now and I’m here ready to help!