Working in Bedford Row real estate: expectations v reality

Brooke Clarke, Trainee in the Russell-Cooke Solicitors, charity law and not for profit team.
Brooke Clark
4 min Read

If I’d previously thought going through the Russell-Cooke vacation scheme as a second year law student was one of the most difficult things I would ever do, I certainly underestimated the difficulty of explaining the appeal of real estate to my family and friends. With alarming frequency I’ve faced off against common misconceptions – property law is too boring or too technical – and, over the past five months, I’ve developed a robust framework of defence against these accusations. Because, looking back to September 2021, these were the very same assumptions I carried with me when I walked up the stairs of Bedford Row for the first time and took my seat.

Bedford Row

Is Bedford Row the centre of the legal universe? Walking down the street and passing barristers nonchalantly balancing stacks of papers with coffee cups at 9am, it certainly seems so. But I wondered whether I would meet the right kind of colleagues – and by that, I meant my trainee cohort. As a smaller office than Putney’s sprawling campus of meeting rooms, open plan desks and even rooftop beehives, the trade-off of space for scenery could, I worried, compromise the opportunity to meet the trainees and develop the kind of inter-personal relationships other trainees write blogs about.

Yet, for me, I’ve been given the chance to live in two worlds at once: the traditional, cultural vibe of Chancery Lane, and the corporate, social centre of Putney. Here it is law as I had never seen it before from crowded lecture halls and, later in my academic career, in Zoom breakout rooms and Teams chats. And, of course, seeing that familiar street appearing in Netflix’s The Crown (then subsequently telling this anecdote to anyone who would listen) infuses my time in the office with a sense of history befitting the long-standing practice of law.

Property law

But enough about the building. Now, it’s time to talk about… buildings. More specifically, setting commercial property law apart from its second year counterpart, all covenants and easements, is the central challenge of selling property law to a newcomer to the sector. From the outside in, it’s hard to justify the charm of leases, licences, and deeds. Which is good because commercial real estate is so much more than the sum of its administrative and drafting tasks: it’s self-contained without being over-simplistic, it’s methodical without being mundane, and it’s nice to see my work manifested in the physical shape of the buildings and streets of London.

My day-to-day

It’s these aspects of property law which make it the perfect candidate for the way of working I’ve grown to love. That is, being able to see Russell-Cooke’s ethos reflected in my day-to-day working life: “Responsibility from Day One”. Perhaps naively, this seemed to me an exaggeration of the trust which associates and partners would have in a fresh graduate, or alternatively, an underestimation of the preparation which the LPC provided me with for the training contract. But, as the proud owner of several of my own matters, as well as a drawer full of scribbled-through notebooks, I’ve found the cadence of the operations within real estate to be something which continually pushes me to improve myself and my work.

A lot of the work I’ve assisted with in corporate real estate is on discrete tasks which provide a snapshot into the transaction, without revealing it in its entirety, so it has been fascinating to watch the numerous discrete tasks I have worked on come together to form the backdrop against which large deals are completed. From drafting transfers, deeds and notices to wading through boxes of deeds, I’ve been able to watch the multi-faceted nature of real estate play out in all its complex intricacy from my seat on the top floor.

I don’t have an answer. For those who hope to take up a position within Bedford Row and practice property law, but fear the burden of facing off common misconceptions, I don’t have an answer. But (and I wouldn’t admit this freely) it’s always nice to have the opportunity to tell other people about my seat here. It’s a way to benchmark my own progress as a trainee at Russell-Cooke, and reflect on all I’ve learnt in the last five months – and acknowledge just how far I’ve come. (And I’m not just talking about my commute.)

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