Employee at Warwick solicitors celebrates 45 years at firm - and looks back at how things have changed over the years

Nicola Gillett takes a look back at how the office and legal world has changed over the years

Monday, 3rd May 2021, 6:04 am
Nicola Gillett takes a look back at how the office and legal world has changed over the years. Photo supplied

Nicola Gillett is celebrating 45 years working at Moore & Tibbits, which has an office in High Street. Here, Nicola takes a look back at how the office and legal world has changed over the years.

I first started working at Moore & Tibbits on April 21, 1976, initially as a secretary to a solicitor who dealt with litigation matters.

M&T was a much smaller affair in those days – just four solicitors, a legal executive, a trainee solicitor and support staff.

There was one book-keeper and the accounts were all recorded manually on large ledger sheets for each client with a running carbon copy of each day’s transactions. The practice only occupied 34 High Street then.

Manual typewriters were the order of the day, together with a wet paper photocopier which was really smelly and I was frequently called upon to get it working again when it broke down.

This was an early life lesson – don’t find out how anything works.

About a year after I joined, I worked for Peter Freeman, solicitor, who was doing all types of legal work, including criminal, divorce, conveyancing, Wills, etc., as was normal then rather than the specialism we see today.

I had always wanted to be a secretary in a solicitors’ office. My Dad had had a very bad accident when I was 10 and we had many visits to Rotherham & Co in Leamington who were dealing with his compensation claim and that decided me on what I wanted to do.

So, in joining M&T I had achieved that goal.

Once here I realised I could further my career by training to be a Legal Executive and I started the course in 1978, qualifying as a Fellow of the - now Chartered - Institute of Legal Executives in 1984.

I still worked for Peter in a secretarial/admin role, but also acted for my own clients for conveyancing and personal injury claims.

I have occupied a number of different rooms in 34 and 36 High Street during those 45 years and the technology we can use has not stood still either.

We have progressed from manual typewriters to electric, then saving work on to floppy discs and finally our extremely versatile PC’s. Documents are now sent electronically rather than everything having to go in the post.

The buying of a property is now completed by the money being transferred electronically rather than attending at a local solicitors’ office to pick up the deeds and hand over a cheque.

The wet paper copier has evolved into a colour printer/copier/scanner, but oh how I miss colouring in all those plans.

I recall during the sale of a number of apartments in a building in Newquay, my husband and I spent a whole Saturday colouring in numerous plans so that everything was left in order, before I went away on holiday.

The practice has grown in size considerably from those early years, with staff joining us from a number of other local solicitors’ firms to a total of just over 55 so the practice now has a very different feel to those earlier days.

Another reason for that different feel is that, as I said earlier, staff are now in specialist departments, rather than the norm when I joined of everyone doing a bit of everything.

The specialist departments include arranging and paying for care, education and sport to name a few.

The departmentalisation meant that I stayed with the criminal team run by Peter Freeman and became his 'right-hand woman' overseeing the requirements of the practice’s legal aid contract and also dealing with all of the day-to-day running of the department as the criminal solicitor team were for the majority of the time, out at various courts or police stations.

I also began to help the directors with the administration required for the practice and to assist in managing the mountain of paperwork that is required in running the practice from day-to-day and all the myriad compliance and regulatory issues that need to be addressed.

I am also heavily involved in the meticulous application and assessment process to achieve the Law Society’s Legal Practice Quality Mark (LEXCEL) which I am delighted we have been awarded for the 14th year in a row.

When Peter retired in 2012, I was exclusively working in administration of the practice, and some aspects of the criminal legal aid contract.

I was then made the Practice Manager in November, 2018, putting my years of experience of Moore &Tibbits to good use in this enhanced role.

Who would have thought when I started as a secretary all those years ago, I would end up as the Practice Manager some 42 years later.

I am perhaps the perfect example of Moore & Tibbits’ willingness to assist their staff with career progression and advancement.

One of the most rewarding things about my time at Moore & Tibbits has been our involvement with the Macmillan Coffee morning.

This initially started with me making all the cakes and then everyone else eating these and making donations.

However, for the last few years, other staff have also made cakes/biscuits/savouries for the rest of us to enjoy, which has raised many hundreds of pounds for this worthy cause.

I’ve obviously enjoyed my time at Moore & Tibbits, otherwise I wouldn’t still be here.

On a personal note, I’ve had my 20th , 30th, 40th, 50th and 60th birthdays at Moore & Tibbits – what a lot of collections that will have been! I’ve been single, engaged, married, divorced, single, engaged and married and formed friendships with many of my colleagues.

I can’t believe I’ve been coming in and out of the front door of 34 High Street for all those years – it just doesn’t seem possible, but it is.

I’ve got the grey hair and wrinkles to prove it, so it’s obviously happened, but looking back it just feels like yesterday when I started and was too scared to ask where the toilets were on my first morning

You’ll be pleased to know I eventually found them!