Latimer Hinks Solicitors
Law Society Gazette - My legal life: Adam Wood
Growing up in the north-east of England with a father who worked as a solicitor in the heart of Durham, only a stone’s throw from Durham Cathedral, was wonderful. Many weekends were spent in my dad’s office, writing notes to his colleagues on a manual typewriter while he worked. I can still remember the musty smell of the old deeds and papers which inhabited the building and the myriad tiny offices which were spread over so many wonky floors.
In those days, firms in Durham had the partners’ names engraved on polished brass plaques outside the office. I loved seeing my dad’s name there. It is fair to say that from an early age I was familiar with the legal profession.
At school I had a flair for science and this led me to read marine biology at Newcastle University. I loved being a student, so when the opportunity arose for another year’s study, I did not think twice. While I studied for a master’s in clean technology (also at Newcastle University), I spent several months working for an international chemical company, which is where I developed a fascination for environmental law. Wanting to pursue that interest further, I completed my GDL, my LPC, and then started my training at a regional firm in its Newcastle office.
Being thrown in at the deep end aptly describes the first six months of my training contract. It resulted in many hours at Newcastle Crown Court nervously rehearsing what I would need to say to one of the judges, whose authority seemed to be remote and severe. Litigation was not for me.
The firm where I trained had a large commercial and agricultural property team. The work was varied and of good quality. I qualified into that team and spent a great deal of time assisting with agricultural property matters. Indeed, given my interest in environmental law, I soon became the go-to person if a matter had even the most tenuous link to environmental law.
'Many weekends were spent in my dad’s office, writing notes to his colleagues on a manual typewriter while he worked. I can still remember the musty smell of the old deeds and papers which inhabited the building'
It was not long after qualifying as a solicitor that I started thinking about what I would need to do to qualify as a notary public. I knew that notarial practice was the oldest legal profession in the UK and governed by the Faculty Office of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The possibility of having a second profession appealed to me. Because notaries are primarily concerned with legal documents for use overseas, the practice does not form part of the training for solicitors and barristers in England and Wales and, therefore, remains something of a mystery to most British lawyers.
Notaries are often described as a rare breed. I am one of around 875 notaries in England and Wales. The reason there are so few is because it is a stringent qualification procedure which involves at least two years of additional part-time study at University College London (it was Cambridge University when I did it) followed by a two-year supervision period once qualified. However, I think most notaries would agree that it is well worth the hard work as it is a pleasingly collaborative profession and the source of very interesting work.
I am now a director, specialising in commercial and agricultural property, at a long-established law firm in Darlington in the north-east of England, which has a heritage in such matters. An integral part of my job is to broaden and further develop my understanding of the law of agriculture, the environment, food and other related issues.
I recently passed the Agricultural Law Association (ALA) Fellowship exam following an intensive training course. This covered the relevant law, taxation, business structures, diversification and policy issues in a detailed scenario-based environment. The ALA is the UK’s largest inter-professional organisation devoted to the law of agriculture and business of the countryside. The fellowship is designed to build strategic and technical competence, enabling those who qualify to better advise those in the rural sector. I have already put some of the things I have learned into practice. I am proud to be one of only 200 professionals in the country able to call themselves a fellow of the ALA.