Career Stories – Peter Slaney
Peter joined OM&M in January 2022 and is an experienced Court of Protection practitioner, having worked in the Court of Protection field for over 10 years and has recently qualified as a Solicitor.
He has extensive experience managing deputyships, and trusts for children and adults with complex acquired brain injuries, with particular expertise in cases involving high value damage awards.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your background
I come from an ex-mining town in the midlands. While I was growing up my father was a computer technician and my mother could only find work as a lollipop lady for most of my childhood. I went to University in Lancaster and did my LPC in Manchester.
Outside of work, me and my wife spend most of our time looking after our first daughter who was born this year. In previous years I would have said we were fans of theatre and cinema and amateur foodies, however that’s all on hold until we find more babysitting.
What inspired you to start a career in Court of Protection/Personal Injury Trusts?
I actually started my Court of Protection career working at the Court of Protection as a civil servant for a year, before working in private practice, although it wasn’t quite planned. I had accepted a job with the Ministry of Justice to work in the Family Court, however just before starting (after giving my notice at my last job) I found out that this job didn’t exist any more (which left me relatively concerned about how I was going to afford to eat for the next month). However, they offered me a job with the Court of Protection, and over a decade later I am still working in this area of law.
It is a challenging area of law, however I also think it is one of the most rewarding. You are asked as a Court of Protection lawyer (or as a professional trustee) to be responsible and safeguard the affairs and assets of vulnerable people. However, often the most important part of the job is not safekeeping, it is working with vulnerable people and their family and clinicians to work out how best to utilise their assets to best meet their needs and promote their autonomy.
Ultimately, I think it is the variety of work that has always kept me interested and engaged in this area. Every day you face unique challenges and never know what you are going to be dealing with, sometimes including issues that you never imagined you would be dealing with when you went to law school. I sometimes describe the job as being a cross between being a lawyer, an accountant and a social worker.
What stood out to you about OMM when applying for opportunities?
The main factor that determined my choice to accept a job with OMM was their commitment to developing their staff. I was offered a training contract as part of my job offer, and during my interview the managing director, Timothy Woolford, talked about never having turned anyone down for developing themselves professionally. I am someone that wants to always be building on my knowledge and broadening my expertise, and knowing I had an employer that would support this was a key criteria for me.
What do you enjoy most about working at OMM?
There’s a really good team structure at OMM. I work in a team with three other fee earners of varying seniority, which makes it easy to delegate work to the appropriate level, but also means that we all have some familiarity with all of our cases. This helps us work together to find creative solutions to complex issues as they arise, and also means that we can take holiday (or as I did earlier this year, paternity leave) with confidence that our clients will be looked after in our absence by people who are familiar with their cases.
What is the culture like at OMM?
I think the culture is good. Our Court of Protection department is competing on a national level, but I think approaches our clients far more like a friendly local high street firm, compared to more corporate firms.
What advice would you give someone who is thinking about becoming a Solicitor?
I think the first thing I would suggest would be to find some articles in newspapers or the Law Society Gazette about recent court cases and have a read. Don’t worry if you don’t understand the law, but see if you find it interesting. A lot of law is discussing and debating very specific rules and wording, no matter what area you end up practicing in, and a lot of people will just find this dull or frustrating. However, if reading about these kinds of issues just makes you interested in learning more about the systems of rules and such, then you’re probably the kind of person who would enjoy law.
The next thing I would suggest is to look at the SRA website and consider the different routes to qualify. These have changed a lot in the last few years and will likely continue to change and evolve in the next few years. Overall it is becoming more and more flexible to qualify and there is likely a route that might best suit your plans in life.
Lastly, keep your mind open when it comes to what you want to specialise in. I never considered becoming a Court of Protection Solicitor at university, but it absolutely is the right place for me. Take some electives in your academic courses in areas you wouldn’t have considered and imagine what it would be like to work in that area.
What is a “normal day” like in your role?
A key part of our work is managing the finances of our clients, and therefore there will be requests from clients, their families or clinicians for funds in most days. This could vary from a few pounds for shopping money, to thousands of pounds of therapeutic input, to agreeing to settle claims against or on behalf of our clients. We manage hundreds of carers who are employed by our clients, which means that we will need to deal with a variety of employment issues: which can be as minor as agreeing pay rates for employees on bank holidays to agreeing to settle complex employment claims. We arrange and supervise building work to adapt and extend our client’s property to meet their accessibility needs. We meet with investment managers and ensure that investment strategy for clients is suitable. And we visit our clients regularly to make sure that we are consulting with them and checking on their care and living arrangements.
All of these decisions are then underpinned by the best interests framework from the Mental Capacity Act.
What would you be if you weren’t a Solicitor?
If I were to answer very pragmatically, then I think I would have probably ended up in STEM, possibly in engineering or some form of analyst. I have a head for keeping track of hundreds of details and trying to tie together.
However, if I was going to be honest and listen to my heart more than my head, if I could be doing anything else it would probably making video games.