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Consultant Solicitor and Notary Public, Sarah Thomas, reflects on her 40 years at Downs Solicitors.
I had always fancied working in Dorking and could not believe my luck in finding an item in the Law Society’s “Situations Vacant” column for an Assistant Solicitor doing residential conveyancing in the late summer of 1977. There was however a problem - I had spent the last two years in the Family Department of a Central London firm where I was articled (no training contracts in those days) and could put what I knew about conveyancing on less than one side of foolscap (what's that I hear you ask?)
However, the Gods were with me as I was interviewed by former Partners, Brian Carr, David Rea and David Ing who spent the entire interview chatting about amateur dramatics (both the Davids had trodden the boards and Brian Carr’s wife was an opera singer) and never quizzed me about property law. Needless to say I was astonished to be offered the job.
Downs has always been a very friendly firm even in those early days. Lydia Hazelden (Downs’ longest serving staff member had been at Downs all of 10 months when I joined) and the other secretaries were very welcoming so I instantly felt part of a team. There was a staff of 35, all based at 156 High Street Dorking. Now we employ over 125 staff. In those days, things were very different as we all mucked in. I did the occasional probate or divorce and even went to court – we kept our fingers crossed that the dust did not need to be blown off the firm’s negligence policy! Brian Carr’s motto was “Take a chance every day” and by and large it has served me well.
Downs was very modern – electric typewriters all round (except for one employee who would have nothing to do with them!). We were the first firm in Dorking, possibly even in Surrey, to have a word processor and Beverly Joste (another long serving Secretary) was one of the first to operate it. It was a great technological advance for the firm and all quite exciting. How things have changed with computers being a normal part of our working (and personal) lives.
There was further astonishment to come when I was offered a partnership in 1981.
Although many things have changed, I still like that we are a friendly firm, keeping up with technology and less mucking in as we all now have our own areas of expertise. Am I still taking a chance every day? Now that would be telling.