A morning in the life of a Shulmans paralegal: Joanna Oakes

I’m a paralegal within the Shulmans residential development team. We deal with large housebuilding businesses, assisting them all the way from the purchase of the land to the sign-off of the site’s last house to a buyer!

As a paralegal, my role within the team is two-fold:

  • I assist the senior lawyers with the site acquisition process, taking an active part in dealing with the site itself; this includes looking into the Land Registry title, going to visit the site and dealing with any construction issues that may arise over and underground;

  • I also deal solely with all the infrastructure agreements for each site. This is basically all the utility services needed to furnish the houses of the development (i.e. gas, electricity and water).

Being part of the residential development team is very exciting - no parcel of land is the same and there is no such thing as a ‘straight forward’ land acquisition!

9.00 9.30

Today I am going to Doncaster to carry out a site inspection, I will be going with a trainee solicitor who has recently joined the team and is learning about the site inspection process.

We meet up and check that we have all the plans for the site as well as our pre-prepared checklist, as we do not want to miss anything that might interfere with the client’s development plan.

Whilst travelling to the site we discuss the potential issues, if any, which might exist with the site and which we need to pay particular attention to - for example if there are any electricity cables that pass over the site, or any poles which carry cables positioned within the site.

The site is in a small village and on the way we have to cross a couple of very small bridges, making us wonder how any developer would manage to get all their trucks to the site!

10.00 10.30

We arrive at the site and start by walking around the outside boundary. The site contains a now unused office building and a car park, and has fencing all the way around. We need to establish if there is any access to the site and any evidence of trespassing. 10 minutes in and we hit our first obstacle: there is no unlocked gate and no obvious way in, so we have to climb over the fence (which we have permission to do)!

We enter the site and continue looking at the different features. We notice that there is a discrepancy over the boundary: the physical boundary does not match up with the Land Registry plan (a square of land is being used as access to the land next door). This is something we will flag up to our client and it may mean that they will have to negotiate with the neighbouring owner.

11.30

We finish inspecting the site and head back to the office, where we will discuss our findings with our supervising solicitor and prepare our report to our client.