Being technically competent is a given for Hannah Robinson, Bedell Cristin’s lawyers offer much more. Emily Moore reports
Honour, truth and drama… they were the central ingredients of a thrilling courtroom drama, which went on to win multiple awards and receive four Oscar nominations.
But while most viewers of A Few Good Men were gripped by the story and impressed by the performances of a cast including Jack Nicholson, Tom Cruise and Demi Moore, for the majority of them, the story represented nothing more than a couple of hours’ entertainment.
For Hannah Robinson, though, the film, combined with a number of legal dramas which transfixed her during her student days, was to prove pivotal in shaping her career aspirations.
“The way such films and programmes depicted law made it look wonderful,” said Hannah, who moved to Jersey from her native Manchester five years ago. “The more I watched these dramas, the more I thought that could be me and I realised that the best way to start progressing those dreams was to get as much work experience as possible.”
And it was during such placements, followed by a training contract with a Manchester firm, that Hannah fell in love with the profession, even though she didn’t enter the discipline of criminal law.
“Although it probably wouldn’t make such riveting television, I really enjoyed the teamwork and problem-solving elements of property law,” explained the English solicitor, who was sworn in as a Jersey advocate at the end of last year. “I could see that this was an area which would continue to motivate and reward me throughout my career.”
Adding to that motivation, she says, is the diversity of the projects with which she is involved. Before moving to Jersey to join Bedell Cristin in 2019, she advised on civil nuclear regulation and decommissioning (as well as assisting a client to obtain a licence for a new nuclear site).
“It was the first licence of its kind to have been awarded for around 15 years, so the work was unusual. It was really exciting to be a part of,” she said.
It was during a long weekend in Jersey to visit her brother, who had recently relocated to the Island, that she first started reconsidering her future.
“Before that visit, I wasn’t even sure where Jersey was,” she admitted, “but as soon as I arrived, I fell in love with the place. I knew immediately that it was somewhere I wanted to spend more time but I didn’t realise straight away the professional opportunities that it offered.
“As soon as I realised the potential there was to continue the high-quality legal work I’d become used to, I knew that I wanted to move here and I started applying for jobs immediately.”
Having joined Bedell Cristin’s property team in January 2019, Hannah said that she was thrilled to have become part of the department at a time when it was growing.
“It’s a great team, headed by Jeff O’Boyle, with five fee earners, all of whom work across a range of property cases from residential to commercial,” she said. “As we’ve grown the team over the past five years, we’ve built a fantastic range of clients and created a real diversity to our practice, which is tremendously motivating and rewarding to work on. I am now really looking forward, with the rest of the team, to consolidating and building on that excellent position.”
And it was very much with a view to building on her position and affirming her “commitment to the Island” that Hannah embarked, two years ago, on her advocate training.
“I wanted to be qualified in the jurisdiction in which I practise,” she explained. “While there are several similarities between Jersey and English law, particularly when it comes to landlord and tenant law, there are also several points of difference, especially in the conveyancing areas.
“There are also certain things, such as the swearing of certain documents, that only advocates and solicitors can do, so, on a purely practical level, having qualified as a Jersey advocate gives the department greater flexibility. On a personal level, and as something of a self-confessed geek, I was also thrilled to learn more about other practice areas, such as succession and company law, in a slightly more in-depth way than I would have done otherwise.”
But while the team is equipped with an array of technical knowledge, Hannah says that this is not the sole reason that it receives regular plaudits in guides such as Chambers and Legal 500.
“Everyone presumes that lawyers will be technically competent but our work also requires us to think commercially, practically and outside the box to find solutions for our clients,” she said. “These are things which, in my experience, the Bedell Cristin property team does really well, and these are the things that come across in our client testimonials in Legal 500. By finding solutions, we are able to give clients that added value, which is also integral to building those long-term relationships.”
That approach is also, she says, central to Bedell Cristin’s ethos of “plain speaking, smart thinking”, a strapline which was launched following a rebrand, with which Hannah was involved, last year.
“The nicest thing about the rebrand was that there was no directive from the firm telling us what we had to be,” she reflected. “Instead, team members were asked what they did well and what they aspired to do, and ‘plain speaking, smart thinking’ was the resounding feedback and a simple way of telling the world what we do.”
Applying that philosophy to her own caseload, Hannah says that she carries out a “wide-ranging suite of work” from high-value residential developments and portfolio management to secured lending and landlord and tenant cases.
“We act for major landlords, major commercial lenders and advise large-scale developers on regeneration projects,” she said. “One of the things I love about being a property lawyer is that you can see the tangible difference your work makes. When I pop out to get a sandwich, I quite often take a detour to see the buildings which we have helped to buy, sell or secure funding for.”
While looking forward to helping to shape more of Jersey’s architectural landscape, Hannah is also currently learning French – “I’ve made a few pronunciation faux pas since moving to the Island” – and to supporting the ongoing growth of Bedell Cristin’s property department.
“We’ve put some great foundations in place over the past five years and I’m really looking forward to working with Jeff and the team to build the department further,” she said. “I also enjoy the friendly nature of the jurisdiction, and I love the fact that the job enables me to build relationships with clients and other lawyers in a way which shows the more human side of the legal profession.”