Posted on Wednesday 4 September 2019 by Ulster Business
Name: Kathryn Collie
Position: Commercial property director, Cleaver Fulton Rankin
How did you start out in your business?
I followed the fairly well trodden path of completing my legal practice course at the University of Law in Guildford, having graduated with a degree in law from university in England. Before starting as a trainee solicitor in a City of London firm, I initially worked as a paralegal for three months in a law firm in Perth, enjoying the lifestyle and different culture of life in Australia, and then spent a further three months travelling in Australia, New Zealand and Asia. After returning to London, I qualified as a solicitor and then spent eight years working in the real estate department of a London law firm. With two young children, we decided to move back to Northern Ireland in 1998 when I joined Cleaver Fulton Rankin as an assistant solicitor. I have been here ever since and was made a director in 2001.
What have you found the most challenging during your years of business, so far?
As we will all be aware, the real estate market can be a bit of a rollercoaster. Having been involved in some fantastic deals here in Northern Ireland, largely courtesy of the peace dividend, this all came crashing to a halt in 2008. For real estate lawyers in particular, this presented a fresh challenge in terms of expanding client base and ensuring that our teams were kept busy. For a number of years I spent more time advising clients on restructuring, acting for administrators or receivers in selling off assets and working on refinancing transactions. This proved to be a huge contrast to the positive and very visible growth in the economy seen in the previous years. Thankfully, the real estate sector again currently seems to be enjoying good growth with high rates of return for investors. However, it has to be said that the lack of political leadership here does still give cause for concern.
How would you describe your management style?
The most important resource that we have is our young people, so I hopefully lead by example and seek to encourage them. In my view the carrot is always better than the stick.
What would you change if you could go back and do it all again?
I have spent over 25 years now practising law, but if I could go back to university again, rather than doing a law degree, I would have studied history. It would have meant an extra year spent in training, but I think it may have kept my interest slightly more than lectures on tort and equity.
Have you done it all on your own?
No, absolutely not. One of the main reasons for coming back to Northern Ireland was, with a young family, we had the benefit here of family support. My parents in particular, played a key role in helping with child care at a time when I was trying to establish my career. I never underestimate the difficulties facing working parents with young children who deserve all the credit and support that they can get. A strong support network is also very important in the office and I am lucky to have the benefit of some great lawyers around me to whom I can turn to for help when needed.
How would you like your business to be remembered?
As a leading commercial law firm in Northern Ireland that is independent and innovative; provides high quality legal advice to its clients; conducts business in a socially responsible and ethical matter; has a strong commercial awareness and specialist legal professionals.
What piece of advice would you give to a 20-year-old you?
Believe in yourself, be flexible and above all when opportunities present themselves to you, grab them.