Essay Route – Case Study

Caroline Shelton shares her experience of the Essay Route to membership.

“I would recommend the Essay Route to colleagues; even the most experienced practitioners could learn, and gain from the experience.”

Caroline Shelton, Irwin Mitchell LLP
Cross-Border Estates Essay Route Student of the Year 2018

Having completed the Essay Route in 2017, Caroline Shelton achieved the Cross-Border Estates Special Interest Group Award for Best Essay, following her submission to the Cross-Border Estates International Issues question. She spoke to us about her experiences.

Why did you decide to join STEP?

Since I qualified as a solicitor in 2001 and chose to specialise in private client law, STEP has been integral to my work and development; from the excellent training and support it offers practitioners, to its influence in shaping change and improvements in the legal and fiscal landscape.

Why did you choose the Essay (Qualified Practitioner) Route?

With almost 14 years’ PQE when I enrolled as a STEP student, the Essay QP Route was, for me, the most appropriate and relevant route to acquiring full membership.

When did you begin your studies, and how long did it take you to complete the route?

Just over two years. I submitted my first essay in July 2015, my second a year later, and my final paper in the summer of 2017.

How much time did you spend studying per week?

An average of three hours a week over a 12-week period.

You chose the Cross-Border Estates International Issues essay question. What sparked your interest in this area, and/or drew you to this particular question?

During my years in practice, I have frequently encountered cross-jurisdictional issues when advising even the most ‘UK-centric’ of clients. Our world is shrinking in the sense that more of us have international connections, whether as a result of our work and studies, our personal relationships or choice to invest outside the UK. As a consequence, it is no longer enough for a private client lawyer to be an expert in domestic law, and it’s essential to have a basic appreciation of potential conflicts of law when advising clients whose interests span one or more international borders.

What did you find most beneficial when you wrote your essays, and what was the most challenging?

For me, the most beneficial aspect was consolidating, developing and expanding my knowledge of the subjects I chose to research and write about. All of them provided ample mental stimulation! The most challenging was perhaps having the discipline to balance my studies alongside a very busy and demanding job.

Would you recommend the Essay Route to colleagues?

Yes; even the most experienced practitioners could learn, and gain from the experience.

What has STEP done for you, individually, or as a business?

For tax, trusts and estates practitioners, STEP membership is perceived as a validation of one’s technical ability, and an important credential in winning work from clients and referrers. Over the years, my firm has won and been short-listed for a number of STEP Awards, including Regional Private Client Team of the Year and UK Contentious Trust and Estates Team of the Year. As a business, we greatly value such recognition from STEP, as it supports our profile, credibility and position in the market.

What do you consider to be the biggest benefit of STEP membership?

Its global network.

How does the STEP member network help you in your day-to-day job?

As an affiliate member of STEP Sussex, it is of huge benefit to be part of a local network that supports its members’ ongoing development through its excellent seminar programme, and raises awareness of key issues and events. Importantly it encourages involvement to consult and lobby at both a regional and national level to uphold our high standards, improve our service, and drive through change, for the betterment of our profession and society.



Caroline Shelton
is a Partner at Irwin Mitchell LLP and leads the Tax, Trust and Estates Team at the firm’s Gatwick Office. With more than 16 years’ PQE, she specialises in advising UK resident and/or domiciled individuals and families with complex requirements and assets (both in and outside the UK) on the legal, tax and practical aspects of their wealth and succession planning.

Caroline Shelton

The Essay Route to STEP Membership

The Essay Route is a research and thesis based route to full STEP Membership. The submission of three successful essays enables applicants use of the TEP designation. It is suitable for trust and estate practitioners who have established themselves in their field and have a recognised professional qualification or vocational degree, plus five years’ industry experience.
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