“I really can’t believe I’ve been here for 15 years,” says Tom. “It has absolutely flown by.”
While at school, going into law as a career was definitely on the agenda.
“I had a very scientific brain and studied for A levels in science and double maths, thinking that I’d either be a doctor or a lawyer,” he explains. “In the end, I opted for law. Law can be technical and I believe that having a mathematical approach really helps.”
He read law at university but admits it was ‘pretty dry’ and that he enjoyed applying it far more in practice.
Asked how he ended up specialising in commercial property, Tom explains that he went to do his articles at a ‘top charity firm’ in Westminster, whose clients had very large property portfolios.
“Once I’d qualified, there was a vacancy in the commercial property team and the rest, as they say, is history,” he adds. “The firm in Westminster where I trained wasn’t a massive City firm; the Partners had the time and were also interested in sharing their knowledge with trainees. I feel I really benefitted from that. I had friends at the time who had ended up with far larger firms and they got thrown in at the deep end with very little support.”
He continues: “My time in London provided me with a fantastic introduction to law. I was exposed to a huge number of different clients and worked on transactions of a high value, which were often extremely complicated.”
Having been involved with the charity sector from the beginning, Tom has kept up his interest in this area. He has become an expert in advising charities and care home owners particularly on site acquisition, disposal and finance.
“I feel that through working with charities, I am in some way ‘putting something back’,” he says. “In the UK, the charity sector is such an important part of our infrastructure. I feel particularly strongly about working with lay trustees and supporting them, as they shoulder a huge amount of responsibility.”
Tom provides pro bono support to a local Tunbridge Wells charity, The Pickering Cancer Drop-In Centre, which helps people with cancer and their family and friends.
In his day-to-day work, Tom also advises on all aspects of leasehold enfranchisement, including lease extensions and also specialises in property transactions involving a bankrupt individual or a company in liquidation. He supports clients with problems such as rights of way, restrictive covenants, contamination and planning, as well as on taxes specifically affecting commercial property.
It was 15 years ago that Tom received a call from a recruitment firm asking him if he’d consider a position with CooperBurnett.
“The firm’s commercial property partner was retiring and they were looking for somebody to fill her shoes,” remembers Tom. “I’d never visited Tunbridge Wells. I drove over to the town and had a look round and thought what a pleasant place it would be to work. I was impressed by the quality of the work CooperBurnett was involved with, so I decided to take the step.”
Over the past 15 years, Tom says that, in many ways, the nature of his work hasn’t changed that much although, what has is the regulatory compliance involved.
“I believe the additional ID checks and compliance are good and that clients really benefit,” he adds. “The amount of work with care homes has also increased over the years though and, as we are living longer, I can’t see that slowing down. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve also seen the market in large industrial buildings booming – as online shopping has increased and companies need these large distribution hubs.”
Tom says that around 30 per cent of his work is involved with leasehold extensions and leasehold enfranchisement.
“It’s an area I’ve been very familiar with for a number of years,” says Tom. “In fact, back in 1993 when The Leasehold Reform, Housing and Urban Development Act arrived, my head of department at the time gave me a copy of the Act to read and told me that I would become the firm’s expert in this field!”
Fifteen years since joining CooperBurnett, Tom says he still appreciates the firm’s ‘very friendly, collegiate atmosphere’.
“The ethos here is to find a practical, commercial solution to a client’s legal problems, whilst providing them a first-rate service at a reasonable price,” Tom explains. “We always put our clients first.”
Tom says that he has clients he’s supported for the whole time he’s been with CooperBurnett.
“In fact, some of my clients go back more than 20 years, as they followed me from my old firm to CooperBurnett,” he adds.
When he’s not at work, Tom enjoys getting out into the hills of Surrey, where he lives, on a road bike.
“I’ve turned into one of those middle-aged men in Lycra,” he says.
In addition, he enjoys spending time with his family, gardening, and playing the piano.