The Built Environment

Issue 100

Jessica Fenwick - Partner, Commercial Property, Sweeney Miller Law

Did you always envisage a career working in and around The Built Environment?

The Built Environment was always in the background of my interests growing up, but it really came to the forefront as I entered the legal profession. I love being part of something that literally changes the world around you (as cheesy as that might sound!). I can walk round towns and cities, and, unlike other specialist legal areas, I can physically point to something that I have been involved with.

Tell us about your current role.

I am the partner overseeing the Commercial, Commercial Property and Corporate department at Sweeney Miller; I split my time between our Newcastle and Sunderland offices. My day-today role involves co-ordinating and supervising the teams and training the junior team members; something we pride ourselves on as a firm.

Tell us about your team.

The Commercial team has expanded greatly since I first started at Sweeney Miller back in 2013; we have now reached 11 members and counting. I work closely with my fellow partner Surbhi Vedhara, and we recently appointed Matthew Smith, an experienced Senior Associate Solicitor, to the team. Shama Ohri is also a Senior Associate working remotely from Oman having previously held other positions in Newcastle. Solicitor Ramsha Nayab, who joined us last year, has been a great addition. We have two trainee solicitors, Shahar Sadat who is due to qualify after joining the firm as a Paralegal, and Chloe Cooke who has made a strong start to her training contract. We are all supported by four Paralegals, James McNaughton, Rebecca Douglass, Mona Aslam and Amardip Sadhra and a centralised admin team. We have a wealth of experience, and the team prides itself on offering tailored specialist advice to our clients from those first venturing into property right through to experienced investors and developers.

What are you currently working on?

We have a number of exciting projects at the moment, both regionally and nationally. I’ve been working on multiple projects which form part of the regeneration in Sunderland City centre, and it is lovely to see some of these approach build completion.

What is your proudest career achievement?

I am really proud of the team we have built and the careers we have started and progressed, but undoubtedly my proudest moment was making partner at Sweeney Miller having worked my way up from a paralegal role. Law remains a difficult space to enter but it’s exciting to see so many women like me now in partner positions and senior leadership roles.

What is your own favourite building?

Whilst I can appreciate the aesthetic of many modern buildings my heart always lies with old buildings. Chatsworth House is just beautiful (I wish I could live there!) but I also love the ruin that is Lowther Castle in Cumbria (my ultimate renovation project).

How do you see your industry evolving over the next 10 years?

The legal sector is always dragged kicking and screaming into technological innovations but, for me, technology can’t be ignored and if you don’t create, embrace, and tailor it for your own needs, you’re missing a trick. Document drafting automation is there, but it still has a long way to go before it becomes a truly useful tool. Who knows where AI will take us, but I see it as an opportunity rather than a threat.

What does the future hold?

After relocating our Newcastle office just over two years ago, we have just moved our Sunderland office to a bigger, purposebuilt office space to make room for our next wave of expansion. We’re building on our continued success which has seen us expand greatly over the last few years whilst retaining our strong reputation for both individuals and businesses alike.

Who would be your four ideal dinner guests?

Michelle Obama, as I really respect how she has used her position for good. Sara Davies as she is so successful yet always comes across as being so relatable and motivating. Clive Myrie as he was a speaker at a conference I attended, and he had a great back catalogue of witty stories. Tim Peake as space travel fascinates me (although not something I have any great desire to do myself!) I don’t think conversation would run out with these guests.

How do you like to unwind?

If you had asked me this question a couple of years ago, I would probably have given a different answer but since moving to a house with a bigger garden instead of seeing gardening as a chore I’ve started to find it really relaxing and it as something we do as a whole family. Family is really important to me and whatever I’m doing if it’s with family it helps me unwind. I’m also now a year into renovating our third family home in five years which weirdly acts as downtime for me!

Favourite Boxset?

Honestly, I like pretty trashy boxsets – the kind of stuff you don’t have to think about after a long day! Some I definitely wouldn’t confess too but I recently finished The Affair which I enjoyed. I love watching home renovation shows especially renovations of historic buildings.

Favourite Book?

I was a big reader when I was younger before kids and a demanding job but not so much now. There are only two books I have read more than once and would read again, and they are Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

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