Name: Margaret Waldron
Company: The Law Practice
Location: Aberdeen, UK
I’m a huge advocate of decision-making by ‘gut-feel,” says Margaret Waldron, owner of Aberdeen-based solicitors and estate agents, The Law Practice. “Of course, I’m not always 100% right, but generally when I’ve ignored my gut feel and been influenced by others, it just doesn’t work.
“Even at the age of 18 when she embarked on a French and English degree at the University of Edinburgh – “I was good at languages in school so was naturally channelled into it” – she quickly realised through ‘gut-feel’ that it was not the right place for her. An enjoyable spell of work in banking followed then marriage took Margaret abroad for a few years. On her return, the career quest continued. With a strong emphasis on the importance of typing at the time, she promptly enrolled in a secretarial course, finished top of the class and secured a Personal Assistant role in Arbroath.
When three wonderful children came along Margaret merged her family interests with potential employment and, after helping out at playgroup, qualified as a playgroup supervisor. A move to the granite city of Aberdeen followed, as did another step in the career ladder: “My youngest son started school and I took the opportunity to see if I had a degree within me.”
After starting a BA in Commerce, which included aspects of law and human resources, mature student Margaret got talking to a solicitor at a party and found herself fascinated and eager to find out more about the law. The day before starting her second year in the BA, she got a call from the University of Aberdeen with news of a last minute space on the course of her dreams.
“My first class was Roman Law. I thought I was the luckiest person in the world to be in this great, historic building, starting my law degree, and having enjoyed bringing up my family at home.”
Margaret graduated at age 40, completed her diploma in legal practice and embarked on her traineeship at 41. By the time she turned 43, she was a qualified solicitor. Her early legal work commenced while still a student, quickly highlighted her keen interest in property-based transactions and within a few years she reached partner level in a city centre firm.
In 2005, The Law Practice was born after an unexpected, yet natural, opportunity for Margaret to establish her own company: “I worked closely with a mortgage company that was sending all their clients my way. The company became keen to work closely with one solicitor and had a space available in their office. When they moved premises a year later I relocated to my own West End office.”
“Owning my own business was actually never my end goal. My aim, as clichéd as it may sound, was to do the best job I could and make a difference to people. And, at the time, establishing a business was the next step in achieving that aim.”
Naturally, the business grew, from two partners and one member of staff in just seven months in to a grand total of sixteen today.
“I didn’t know much about business when I started. But in 2005, hand in hand with launching The Law Practice I also started networking. I made great contacts and was very fortunate in learning from fellow business owners and benefitting from a network of referred business. The Law Practice was growing through its own success.”
Margaret sees her company as different from ‘run of the mill’ solicitors firms, fusing the team’s trusted, traditional values with a fresh, energetic approach: “We have real excitement about our clients’ successes, a long-established tradition of ‘Cake Friday’ and a strictly optional attitude to stuffy suits. There are many firms where it’s all about the numbers. I want our reputation to be all about great service – of course, we can’t guarantee to get everything right, but our aim is always client-focused.”
A recent office move to the Aberdeen thoroughfare of Holburn Street has been the cherry on top, so to speak, for Margaret: “It has sparked a big change in me in terms of developing our brand. We now have a shop window; passers-by know our name and our regular clients feel their properties are advertised. As soon as we moved in, I could clearly see opportunities to develop the business.”
As if on cue, the move to Holburn Street came with a new venture into residential leasing: “Finding and developing the premises made me want to focus more on being the owner and developer of the business. I love that part but I’d never have known that back in 2005.”
It’s not all about Margaret though and she is always the first to praise her handpicked staff: “I’ve been very fortunate to create a team with the same positivity and service-focused mindset as me. I love being around people with great ideas.” Looking forward, Margaret is excited to develop her strong team: “I won’t be working forever and, eventually, will gradually have to bow out. My dream is to have like-minded people to step in and continue with the brand I’m building. Of course, growth is always important too. Nowadays, you have to be aiming to grow. If you do, you might just stay the same. If you don’t look to grow, you’ll go backwards.”
“The world of solicitors has changed. Previously, families stayed with the same firm for life. Now, to compete, it’s essential to be slick, modern and think about different avenues from which to draw in business. Lots of people say they’re focused on providing the best personal service for clients but our feedback from those aware we’re looking after them says it all. Of course not every time, but a lot of the time, we find they just won’t go elsewhere.”
“There’s always a place for good service, personal contact and people knowing you care. Not everyone wants to just press a button and get a product from the internet. People like buying from people.”
Owning your own business, especially when it wasn’t ever something you specifically set out to do, comes with its challenges but Margaret keeps positivity flowing throughout the office: “I always believe you should do the very best you can for people. The best bit is to see people go on a journey and, at the end of it, have them say ‘you’ve helped me so much – and it’s not just about the law; it’s the fact you listened too.’”