60-second interview with Karen Witter

Karen Witter, 5/8/2013

Karen Witter TEP, STEP Excellence Award winner of Taxation of Trusts and Estates Student of the Year (November paper), and Partner at Davis Blank Furniss, Manchester.

Why did you decide to join STEP?   

I wanted to further my knowledge in respect of trusts and estates and I was also keen to take on the challenge of the Diploma course and also the exams – especially after such a long break from studying!

What do you consider to be the biggest benefit of STEP membership?
Taking the Diploma course has increased my understanding of complicated areas, such as taxation of trusts and estates, which means I can now do a better job for my clients. As STEP is such a well-recognised organisation, achieving the award is something which professionals from other fields, not just the law, also recognise.

What advice would you give a new member in order for them to make the most of their membership?
The biggest piece of advice would be to go to the branch meetings as they are a great way to meet people who do the same areas of work. Private client work is different from other litigious areas as you don’t get to see how your contemporaries operate, so it’s good to have friends and colleagues in other firms.

How long did it take you to study for the qualification, and how much of your time was dedicated to studying per week?
I started the Diploma course in 2010 and I’ve just taken my last exam in May 2013. I would say that on average I studied for two to three hours a week, and then my firm gave me study leave for each exam so I could revise.

What did you find most beneficial about the programme?
I definitely feel that I have a more in-depth understanding of each area covered in the Diploma course. The benefit is twofold, as I now feel more informed so am able to deliver a better service to my clients.

How has completing the programme helped you with your career?
I was made a partner in 2010, after I decided that I wanted to undertake the STEP Diploma. I think that starting on something like this shows you are dedicated and committed to your job.

Would you recommend the programme to colleagues?
Yes, if they’re prepared to put in the time and work!

What are the main challenges facing your organisation/practitioners at the moment?
Like a lot of firms, the advent of Alternative Business Structures is a big challenge. However, I do passionately believe that many consumers want to buy legal services in a more personal way that is based on the talents of the solicitor in front of them and the rapport and trust they have. That can’t really be provided by the big operators.

How will you deal with these?
We aim to carry on delivering a first-class service by taking a human and individual approach to each person or business that walks through the door. As a firm, we understand that every client is different so we tailor our people, services and expertise accordingly. This is at the very core of everything we do and that won’t be changing, as we believe it sets us apart.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Always do your best.

What’s the best book you have read this year?
I like crime fiction so probably one of Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta novels.

What’s your favourite quote?
‘Keep calm and carry on!’ It’s often said in my office...

Karen Witter TEP is winner of STEP Taxation of Trusts and Estates Student of the Year (November paper), at STEP Excellence Awards 2013. Karen is also Solicitor and Partner at Davis Blank Furniss, Manchester.

Would you like to be interviewed? Email editor@step.org