On 4 October 2018 I attended an event about Mental Capacity in the Elderly. This event was a chance for students to join a forum of Solicitors, who work with the Elderly, at one of their meetings. The speaker was Tim Farmer who conducts mental capacity assessments for solicitors. His passion for the subject kept me gripped from beginning to end.
I first heard about the event from one of those employability emails we are sent by lecturers. The subject line caught my attention because I am studying Wills and Probate this semester and I am a Paralegal for a firm which specialises in private client work and has mainly elderly clients. This event sounded like the perfect opportunity for me to learn and network with other solicitors who work in my area of interest.
Tim told us stories about his experiences to illustrate how to interpret the Mental Capacity Act 2005 to assess whether a client has mental capacity or not. When determining whether a client has mental capacity, we mustn’t assume lack of capacity and we must tailor our assessment to the client; ensuring we conduct the assessment when the client is at their best and focus our questions on the reason why the client needs to have capacity. If a client struggles to remember everyday things, this doesn’t mean that they lack capacity for a legal transaction. If the client understands the legal transaction they will have the mental capacity required.
Also, Tim explained that there is a difference between understanding and communication. As solicitors, we must be creative and discover how to communicate with our client before deciding whether they have the mental capacity to understand or not. Tim illustrated the splitting up of a client’s estate by using the different chocolates in a box of chocolates.
Attending this event has provided me with many tips on how to communicate effectively with clients. This knowledge will help me in my Wills and Probate Interview Assessment.
The most surprising thing about this event was that both students and solicitors were on an equal platform. We were all dressed in business wear, we were all sat as one audience and it was impossible to distinguish between the students and the solicitors. This made it easier to speak with the solicitors and it didn’t feel like it was as much of a daunting networking experience.
To all my fellow students I would like to say one thing, ‘Read all your employability emails and sign up to the employability events on offer.’ This is because the Law School’s events provide you with the rare opportunity to get a real insight into what it is like to be a solicitor in practice.
-Katie Egan, Fourth Year MLaw student.