An introduction to Martin Pratley

13th July 2018

Gilbert Stephens Solicitors are welcoming Martin Pratley to their Exeter Office. Martin is a solicitor specialising in property related matters. We asked Martin a few questions so we could get to know him.

What drew you to the South West?
My fiancée was raised in Bristol. Having decided that we both wanted to escape the rat race that is London and the South East we spent some time in the Avon / Somerset / Devon area and decided that this is very much where we wanted to be for many reasons. There is access to the most wonderful countryside and scenery and people are, overall, friendlier.

From a work perspective, there is an abundance of varied, quality, matters. It is unsurprising that there is a general trend for both people and businesses to relocate away from the capital to areas such as the South West which offer far more opportunities to develop a healthy work/life balance which are becoming recognised as important factors in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Having experience in a range of areas of law what made you finally focus on property law?
I am a “people person” and residential conveyancing allows me to meet and act for a cross section of people in transactions which are wide and varied. I try to ensure that my involvement is always a positive experience for all parties in a transaction. Land Law also has a serious academic side to it which can be both interesting and challenging. In addition, I have experience in dealing with commercial property matters which has its own challenges but, again, allows me to help the parties achieve something that is important to them whether it be the acquisition of a small shop or restaurant, offices or other commercial premises.

What do you like to do to unwind?
I have been involved in Rugby Union in many capacities over the years. I have coached, played, refereed and administered the game and still thoroughly enjoy watching it! (The fact that there is a premiership club in Exeter had no bearing on my decision to move here. Really). Other forms of relaxation usually involve a motorcycle and a guitar although not both at the same time.

We note you are a motorcycle enthusiast, are there any routes you enjoy in the South West?
I haven’t had much of a chance to get out and about yet but I do enjoy a ride up onto the Blagdon Hills from my present home in Taunton. The view from there across North Somerset is amazing. Having been raised on the Isle of Man, home of the annual TT races, I would really like to return to the Island and ride the TT course (slowly!)

Is there anything in your career you are particularly proud of?
I was once involved in a scheme which provided pro bono work for community groups and organisations. The work included acquiring a community centre on behalf of a residents group as well as premises for a charity dealing with homeless persons. The groups were run by individuals who gave up a lot of their time for their community and for disadvantaged persons. These projects were among those which resulted in my firm at the time being “Highly Commended” at the Law Society Excellence Awards. The real reward, however, was seeing how grateful the groups were for the help that had been provided.

Is there a case/client that stands out in your memory, can you share?
Totally non-property related. During my formative years I did undertake criminal advocacy. I only ever conducted one trial in the Magistrates Court. This involved defending an individual charged with being “drunk in charge of a motor vehicle.” Basically, the lad had been drinking and fell asleep in his car which was parked in a car park. There was a defence available which I used and which was successful. My client was naturally, quite pleased and I saw myself as future “Rumpole of the Bailey”. Unfortunately, a cut in the Criminal Legal Aid rates meant that such work was no longer viable so I ended my criminal advocacy career with a 100% trial record. (Played 1: Won 1)

Can you explain a bit more about your expertise and the areas of property law you specialise in.
My expertise is based upon my experiences over 30+ years of practice, not only property related matters but in other areas of the law too. Property law is quite dynamic at present both in terms of the law and procedure which govern it and in the way that individual practices run their property teams. Property practitioners must have a sound working knowledge of the relevant law as well as being excellent communicators. It is important to be able to help clients understand all aspects of a transaction and to explain some quite complicated matters in comprehensible terms. I have been fortunate enough to work with practices which have allowed me to both “hone” my client-facing skills and to develop my knowledge and working practice.

Good communication within the property team here is also a factor in the development of the team. Across the firm there is a combination of extremely experienced lawyers as well as some more recently qualified team members and assistants. It is important that knowledge and experience is shared between the team members in order that all may benefit.