Promising Devon paralegal achieves childhood ambition

9th November 2017

Gilbert Stephens has strengthened its Litigation Department and helped a young Exeter woman achieve her childhood ambition in the process.

Trainee solicitor Cheryl Bolt joined the Exeter branch as a legal secretary in the Commercial Property department three years ago. She quickly progressed to the role of paralegal and has just become a trainee solicitor with the firm.

Cheryl explained, “The law has always fascinated me. I did well academically at school and wanted to test myself with an ambitious goal. When I was 14, my mind was made up: I wanted to practise law as a solicitor.

“Everyone kept on telling me how competitive the profession is, but that only made me doubly determined. Mind you, mum and dad knew better. They always said I was driven.”

A perfect example of what early ambition and hard work can achieve, Cheryl is now committed to helping other young people through her work with the Young Professionals’ Network. Set up by Gilbert Stephens in 2010, it enables the firm’s younger members to build up their own contacts and connections. It now has over 300 members from industry, professional services and the charity sector.

Cheryl said, “Apart from when studying law in Bristol, I’ve always lived in Exeter. YPN aims to support new businesses in and around Exeter by working with them to host events. There’s a real synergy when you get young people together in this way. They’re all keen to climb the career ladder or run their own businesses.”

Evidently in her stride, she continued, “It’s the ideal occasion to meet like-minded people from other professions. In my professional life, I deal with accountants, architects and surveyors every day. The YPN events mean that I get to know them socially.”

Cheryl joined the YPN committee in 2015 and, along with its three other members, organises the monthly events, which include sit-down meals and talks, along with activities as diverse as sushi making, bowling and laser tag. Cheryl said, “YPN events are always relaxed and fun. We don’t do stuffy. Laser tag and bowling have been my favourite events recently. It’s nice to be active after a day behind the desk.”

During her Training Contract, she plans to move to Private Client work and then qualify into Commercial Property in February 2019. But there is no shortage of variety in her present work in the Litigation department, where Cheryl deals with Employment, Personal Injury and Property Disputes.

On the transition to Commercial Law, Cheryl said, “I really enjoyed practising in Commercial. There is a huge sense of achievement with every completed transaction. I’m learning all the time. It’s a fast-paced environment. I like working closely with clients. I love being involved in an important part of people’s lives, when they are making big decisions and taking big steps, such as buying a business. It’s a stressful time but it’s also exciting, and I hope to ensure the experience is as smooth as possible.”

Cheryl clearly has no regrets about her choice of career or, indeed, her choice of firm: “I couldn’t have done it without the support and encouragement offered at Gilbert Stephens. It’s well-established. All the solicitors there are really experienced, but they haven’t forgotten what it’s like to be a trainee like myself. There’s so much to learn but they’re always there to help.”

Managing Partner Terry Bastyan said: “We are proud of our long tradition of encouraging the ambitions of our staff and supporting their professional development.   Perhaps one of the best examples of this is that I joined the firm as a junior clerk in 1971 and, after being given every opportunity to progress, ended up as managing partner. There are also two others who began their careers with the firm and are now partners.”

Things are on the up for Gilbert Stephens as well. Their Exeter practice is busier than ever and they also have branches in Crediton, Ottery St Mary, Sidmouth, Budleigh and Okehampton, employing over 120 people.

Unlike Cheryl, they’re hardly the new kids on the block. Gilbert Stephens can trace its history back to a firm which was founded in Exeter in the late 1800s by Henry William Gould.

In 1938, its original offices in Bedford Circus relocated to 17 Southernhay East and since then the firm has undertaken a series of mergers and acquisitions to extend its presence across mid, east and west Devon.

And what does the future hold? Cheryl said, “I am hoping to be Associate in five years, with Partner being the end goal. In the long term, I would like to eventually become more involved in charity work and look at becoming a trustee of a local charity.”