Probate applications specialist on lawyers being the best clients

Jenny Lowe talks launching her own practice

Probate applications specialist on lawyers being the best clients
Jenny Lowe

Young Jenny Lowe’s original plan for her future was to be a World War One Fighter Ace, but the impossibility of that plan led her to maximise her skills in English and problem solving to become a lawyer instead.

Since then, Lowe has become a specialist in probate applications – an expertise that has now led her to break off and form her own firm, N.J. Lowe & Company – Probate Law Consultancy. In the coming year, she is eager to serve lawyers – who she says “make the best clients”.

In this interview, Lowe talks implementing a “zero trust” tech security policy, realising the value of personal health after sustaining a concussion and her innovation-minded great-great uncle who broke the mould.

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What made you choose a career in law, and what's your favourite part of the job?

I mainly chose a career in the law through lack of alternative planning (or, at any rate, my plan up until that point to become a World War One Fighter Ace had a number of fatal flaws which should have been obvious to me even at that tender age). I reasoned that I was good in English class, and I enjoyed solving complex problems for others and so the law should suit me.  That has turned out to be a good evaluation, albeit one made in haste.

My favourite part of the job is receiving a tricky grant of probate from the court which has caused a significant roadblock for my client (sometimes for years) and composing the e-mail delivering the news to them while I imagine how triumphant they will be.

What is going on at the organisation? Are there any new programs and initiatives that you’re particularly interested in?

The biggest new initiative at my organisation is the creation of my organisation! Although I have specialised in probate applications for seven years, it has always been a part of the many different types of work that I completed for my jobs at larger law firms. Now what I propose to do is create a practice which does only probate applications and the advice surrounding them. 

At the time of writing this, I am awaiting approval to practice on my own account from the Law Society, so the plan will be conditional on that, of course.

What tech-related initiatives adopted by the organisation, if any, are you most excited about?

In my new practise, I intend on trying the “zero trust” model of technology security. 

My understanding, which I admit it is rudimentary, is that the more common scenario for law firms is to build the technological equivalent of a mediaeval castle complex where the information to be protected is on the inside surrounded by moats, ramparts and defensive ditches. Once someone is authorised to be inside the castle walls, all of the information is available, unencrypted and easy to access.

The potential problem with this scenario is that the computer hacking community are (as the armies of castle era warfare were before them) constantly thinking up new ways to breach the walls. All it takes is for one staff member who does have access to the system to open an attachment from an unsafe source and all of the information is there for the taking for the hackers because everyone inside the castle walls is treated as an authorised user and has access to everything.

The “zero trust” model, on the other hand, treats every user as if they are a potential threat and checks their credentials for having access to the information and retaining access to that information constantly. Each application that contains client information in my system requires biometric and/or dual factor authentication for me to sign in in the first place and then logs me out after a certain period of time or when it senses that it is no longer me looking at that information. 

My laptop will lock itself not only when it is turned on and off, but every time my gaze leaves the screen or my head disappears from its view. This sounds terrifically tiresome in that it involves extra steps in what is already a busy day, but with the right technology and systems of working, I understand that it can be built into a seamless experience and certainly my experiments so far have borne this out.

I have discovered one downside this week, however; with the chilly temperatures we have been experiencing in Wellington, I have taken to wearing a big woolly hat even while indoors and my facial recognition on my laptop cannot cope with the hat sliding down over my eyebrows. So far, my work around is simply to keep pushing up my hat and pray for spring!

What has been your proudest accomplishment in the last year or so? Or what’s the biggest lesson you learned in the past year and what advice can you give fellow lawyers about it?

I have had a tough year with a serious concussion and although I am tantalisingly close to normal now, I think the lesson that I have learned is that if we cannot care for ourselves, we will not be able to care for our clients – and so our health has to come absolutely first. 

What should the profession focus more on?

I think improving our business systems to support us so that we can have more time and energy available to focus on matters other than the daily grind would be the best start. There are so many things that can be done so that our systems of working take some of the load off of us instead of adding more load on. Everything from state-of-the-art technological solutions to a folded piece of cardboard stuck to the desk with tape (which I used to tip up my mobile phone so that I could unlock it with my face without having to lift it from the desk) can assist us with shouldering the incredible burden that is the lot of all modern lawyers.

What are the challenges you expect in your practice, and in the business of law in general, going forward? What challenges are particularly pressing in the country’s legal industry?

To me, it looks like the most pressing challenge for the legal industry in general at the moment is simply loss of staff as the borders open up and so many bright young (and even not so young) staff head for new adventures.  At the same time, everyone I’ve spoken to remains relentlessly overwhelmed with work, which in this scenario is more of a curse than a blessing.

What are you looking forward to the most in the coming year?

Acting for more lawyers as my clients – lawyers make the best clients!

If you were given an opportunity to spend a day with anyone (living or dead), who would it be and why?

My great-great uncle Edward. In an age and locality where having a windmill made you just about the pinnacle of society, he was travelling the world, thinking deeply about the meaning of life, innovating, making ends meet in all sorts of creative ways, standing up for human life (but so cleverly that it didn’t get him killed) and ultimately surviving to teach and support his whole extended family – a surprising number of whom ended up as clockmakers.

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