A fond farewell to Jane Gawn

29th March 2018

It was a day of mixed emotions at Gilbert Stephens today as we said a fond farewell to our conveyancing solicitor Jane Gawn. We are of course very happy for Jane who is off to enjoy a well deserved retirement but we are very sad to see her go! Jane has been an invaluable member of our team since 1992 when she qualified as a solicitor. We enjoyed a gathering at our Exeter office to wish Jane well and Terry Bastyan presented a beautiful bunch of flowers. We’ll miss you Jane!



Cheryl Bolt – Trainee Solicitor Blog

19th March 2018

As a trainee solicitor I am required by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority to undertake a period of recognised training (more commonly known as the Training Contract). I am very fortunate that Gilbert Stephens offered me a training contact as these are traditionally very competitive with not many places on offer. I had been with Gilbert Stephens for 3 years before beginning my training and as the firm hadn’t had a trainee in over 4 years they certainly put their faith in my abilities by agreeing to provide a training contract.

The period of training usually consists of training in four distinct areas of law, each known as a different “seat” of the training contract. One of those areas must be contentious, meaning relating to an area of law which is contested.

My first was my contentious seat in our Litigation Department. Litigation is a term used to describe proceedings initiated between two opposing parties to either enforce or defend a legal right. Each of our litigation fee earners have expert knowledge of specialist areas of civil disputes.

I was very fortunate to be able to spend my time in the Litigation Department shadowing each of our litigation fee earners. I gained valuable experience in a wide range of specialist civil matters such as employment law, personal injury and debt recovery to name a few.

Some of the core areas of law, such as contract law and tort, were familiar to me from my law studies and it was very interesting to see how these core areas of law are applied in practice. The area that interested me most whilst in the Litigation Department was employment law.  Employment law is a key area of law that affects and ultimately protects anyone who is employed and yet from my experience it seems that many people (both employer and employee) are not in the know about these rights.

The most challenging aspect of my time in the litigation department was the court deadlines that we have to adhere to. Whilst many civil disputes become resolved and do not end up in court there are some which do not and ultimately end up going through the court system. When going through the courts, the judges set very strict timescales and deadlines that all parties and their respective solicitors must adhere to, which is challenging to meet whilst also undertaking various other work.

Whilst television programmes like Suits focuses on the American legal profession, these shows tend to glamorise the idea of going to court and it certainly does not happen like that in practice. The lead up to Court is very time consuming, hours of preparation are needed to prepare the court bundles. Court days can be very long, with little time for breaks, and can go on past normal working hours – although luckily I only had to experience this once whilst in the litigation department!

I certainly enjoyed the variety of challenging work the litigation department provided me. From gaining experience in critically drafting (some rather long) letters of claim to researching guidelines on the compensation levels for injuries in order to quantify in money’s worth the damage caused it is safe to say that not one day was the same in litigation.

Halifax – First Time Buyers event

16th March 2018

Gilbert Stephens Solicitors are supporting the Halifax’s First Time Buyers workshop at their High Street Branch on 22nd March 2018.   Our expert in conveyancing, Partner John Brindley, will be speaking and will be on hand to ask any questions about the legal process of buying a property and any concerns you may have.  Sarah Heath and Hayley Martin-Herkt will also be attending to offer assistance.  If you have any questions about buying your first home this will be an excellent event to attend and starts at 5.30pm – be sure to register your attendance.

Inspirational Women at Gilbert Stephens – Kim McDonald

13th March 2018


There are plenty of inspirational women at Gilbert Stephens and in celebration of International Women’s Day and Mother’s Day we will be featuring 3 in the month of March.  Today we are featuring Kim McDonald, Kim is a partner and works in our Civil Litigation department.

Kim obtained her LLB law degree from Reading University following which she successfully completed the post graduate Legal Practice Course at Exeter University. Kim joined Gilbert Stephens in 2006.

Kim deals with all aspects of civil litigation matters including debt recovery, neighbour disputes and Landlord and Tenant matters. Kim also has experience dealing with a wide range of personal injury claims including road traffic accidents, accidents at work and occupier’s liability.

Kim advises on employment issues and acts for both employers and employees

Here’s Kim’s answers to our questions:

Who has been the most inspirational woman in your life and why?

My Mum who is hard working and has devoted her life to ensuring her family are happy and well cared for.

Who inspires you the most professionally?

Working Mothers who are successful in their career as I know how difficult it is to juggle a busy and very demanding job with being a mum.

Have you got a favourite inspirational quote?

Not one that is suitable to write down!

What drew you to working in law? 

My father was a policeman and the law has always interested me.

What do you love most about your job?

The client contact and helping people resolve difficult situations

What advice would you give to a woman just leaving education

Never get disheartened or give up your dreams due to knock backs. To achieve something to be proud of it will never be easy to get there but the journey will ultimately provide you with the experience and confidence to excel once you are there.

If you could have any super power what would it be and why?

To hear other people’s thoughts, I imagine every one of my cases would settle quicker that way!

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Stubborn, hardworking and fair

What does being an inspirational woman mean to you?

Being successful doesn’t make a person inspirational to me but their positive attitude and hard work it takes to achieve their goals is the inspiring story

What do you enjoy doing outside of the office?

Spending time with my family

And finally…….. if there was a zombie apocalypse how would you survive?!


Inspirational Women at Gilbert Stephens – Jane Gawn

10th March 2018

There are plenty of inspirational women at Gilbert Stephens and in celebration of International Women’s Day and Mother’s Day we will be featuring 3 in the month of March.  First up is Jane Gawn, Jane is a Partner and head of our Property Department

 Jane attended the Queen Elizabeth School in Crediton before attending the University College of Wales (Swansea) and obtaining a BA (Hons) degree in French and English. Jane then commenced working for Gilbert Stephens and qualified as a Solicitor in 1992 after attending the College of Law at Guildford.

Jane specialises in residential conveyancing and is now Head of the firm’s Residential Conveyancing Department. When not working, Jane enjoys travelling, the theatre and classical music.

Here’s Jane’s answers to our questions:

Who has been the most inspirational woman in your life and why?

This has to be my mother, who went to university and had a career (as well as supporting my father and bringing up four children) at a time when this was unusual and when being a “career woman” was rather frowned upon in some quarters. She managed to achieve what many find difficult even today and always encouraged the girls in the family to do likewise.

Who inspires you the most professionally?

Baroness Brenda Hale of Richmond is something of a trailblazer for women lawyers and shows what can be done if someone is determined enough, even though the legal profession has always been something of a tough nut to crack for women lawyers.

Have you got a favourite inspirational quote?

“If you don’t risk anything you risk everything.”

What drew you to working in law?

I left University with a French and English degree and it never occurred to me to work with lawyers then. . As work was scarce in Devon at that time I decided to take a secretarial course and after doing secretarial work for a few months at a local building society Gordon Rice, then senior partner, interviewed me for a Gilbert Stephens.  He explained that the firm would help me if I decided to pursue a career in law and this could  mean I would eventually become a solicitor and possibly a partner.  I was supported not only by Mr Rice but by  the rest of the partnership, in  particular  by Paul Dunn who trained me. The rest is history.

What do you love most about your job?

 As well as the legal work itself, I enjoy meeting people and get great satisfaction from helping them.

What advice would you give to a woman just leaving education?

Decide what you want to do as early as possible and go for it!

If you could have any super power what would it be and why?

Possibly time travel to prevent bad things happening, although if some of the films I have seen are right that in itself could cause worse problems!

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Empathic reliable hardworking

What does being an inspirational woman mean to you?

I wasn’t aware I was. If I am I am very flattered and glad someone has benefitted from looking at the path my life has taken.

What do you enjoy doing outside of the office?

Classical music is my great love both listening to it and playing the violin and woodwind instruments for my own entertainment.

And finally…….. if there was a zombie apocalypse how would you survive?!

Make a mad dash for the nearest shop selling DVDS to get some tips from some of those zombie films!

Launch of blog about life in the young professional world

5th March 2018

Cheryl Bolt our trainee solicitor at Gilbert Stephens is launching a blog about life in the young professional world and is looking to engage others at a similar stage in their working lives as well as helping people to understand what goes on behind a solicitor’s door.

Cheryl’s introductory blog will be about her time so far with Gilbert Stephens and subsequently she’s planning monthly updates on what she’s been up to. She will also focus on different departments within the law firm.

Cheryl said: “I don’t think people generally have much of an idea about the wide range of work that law firms undertake so this blog will be a good way of opening up the legal world to a wider audience. I’m a member of Exeter’s Young Professional Network so I’m also hoping my blog will help to add to the knowledge we’re building up about each other’s challenges and successes.”

The Exeter-based Young Professionals Network (YPN) offers members a chance to get to know like-minded professionals across a range of businesses and services in an informal setting. The network was set up by Gilbert Stephens in 2010 initially to provide the firm’s younger members with their own network of contacts. Since then it has grown and now has more than 300 members from industry, professional services and the charity sector. They meet regularly for various activities, ranging from making sushi to ten pin bowling.

Cheryl said: “The events are popular because they help to build professional and personal networks outside of the traditional routes. It’s great to be able to meet others who are at similar stages in their professional lives. It’s fascinating to see how much we have in common and how often our businesses are linked to each other.”

Cheryl’s blog will be published on the Gilbert Stephens website and shared on their social media – be sure to follow to keep up to date.

Snow Disruption – Your Employment Rights

2nd March 2018

It is important to understand your rights when adverse weather conditions and travel disruption affects your ability to attend work.


Firstly you should check your employment contract, policies and any handbook as these documents may outline you rights in these circumstances.


However if not, the general rule is you would not automatically be entitled to pay if you are unable to attend work. If however the workplace is closed and you do not usually work from home you employer cannot usually deduct pay. You could be asked to work at another location of from home but this should be stipulated in your employment contract.


Your employer could ask you to take paid annual leave if you have been given notice of this. The notice must be at least double the length of time the employer wants you to take in annual leave.


Your employer may ask you to work flexible hours to make the time up. Unless your employment contract provides for this your employer cannot insist on it.


If you have children and their school is closed or your usual childcare arrangements are disrupted you have the right to take a reasonable amount of time off work as it is an emergency situation however it would be unpaid unless you have agreed differently with your employer.


If you require further advice contact our employment specialist Kim McDonald on 01392 424242

Office Closures

1st March 2018

Please note our offices are shut today due to the snow! Keep safe ❄

What does a Tree Preservation Order mean and what can I do about it?

28th February 2018

Tree Preservation Orders are made to protect particular trees and an Order will be made to prevent lopping, topping, felling or uprooting without the consent of the Council making the Order.  The Council will usually give its consent provided there is a good reason given for the work and this would include safety reasons or if the tree is diseased. Householders should always approach the Council before carrying out work on the tree affected.