Legal Searches Manager, Susan McRitchie reflects on 15 years with DM Hall

Susan McRitchie, Associate – Legal Searches Manager

You have been at DM Hall for 15 years. Time flies when you are having fun!  Talk us through your early years at DM Hall and how things have changed since?

When I was first employed as the first ever Legal Searcher at DM Hall LLP it was both exciting and terrifying! I went from being a searcher to setting up a whole new service within the department. The difference in both myself and the department since that time has been immense.

You have been based in Dunfermline during this time but work across many different areas – how has the general landscape changed for the department during this period, and the services/work provided by DMH in response to these changes? 

We have seen a tremendous growth over the past 15 years. When I started we were a team of 7 including 2 admin support. Now we are a team of 11 and we are all fee-earners. Our first big change came in 2012 when we realised that our access database no longer offered the best service.

Amanda and I worked with Big Red (then Iport) to create a new one. We spent a lot of our own time on it, but it was the right decision because it allowed us to automate and standardise many of our processes, allowing more reports to be issued in a given time frame and reducing the human error element. It is still very much an organic and on-going process and we are currently working on a major upgrade which has just arrived at the testing stage. Many of the elements of the upgrade are the result of customer feedback – we are very customer focused. After all, they are the reason we are here!

Legislation affects all aspects of what we do – large portions of the searching we do is now online which means that good internet access is crucial. Councils have local Plans online and the changes in legislation from the 2012 Act for Registers of Scotland has had a tremendous impact on both us and our clients. As Registers have streamlined their process and refined staff, we find as searchers that clients rely on us more to help them with successful Registration. We often work collaboratively with the Architectural Services department which all being under the one roof gives us a tremendous advantage over our competitors.

Do you have one particular highlight that sticks out during your DM Hall career?

I have been involved in a lot of CPD presentations, in collaboration with both Alan Jeffrey and Amanda Cameron, which have mostly been external and I have enjoyed. I have spoken twice now at the firm’s seminar, once on my own and last year with Amanda. It is very gratifying to realise that I am recognised across the firm, but I think a recent highlight for me was that after last year’s seminar many more people in the firm realise the breadth of services we as a department can offer to support DMH internally, and the understanding that as a firm we have no competition in the uniqueness of the services we can provide. A call can be taken in Aberdeen or Edinburgh and staff, being aware of what we do, can immediately put both potential and current clients in touch with “a man who can” for all of the breadth of service DMH can offer. This strengthens the belief in DMH as a market leader and innovator – all under one roof!

What is your funniest moment at DM Hall?

In Property Services we tend to work hard and play hard, so there have been many moments which have been funny. Everyone knows that in a quiz, you don’t ask Susan the music questions! One of my funniest moments however is a photograph. We did a fundraiser for Alzheimer Scotland a year or so back and my pose for the photograph is quite bizarre – who knows what I was thinking!

What is the best bit of advice you have ever received?

Learn to delegate! As I began to develop as a manager, Amanda enabled me to see the benefit of positive delegation. There comes a point when you realise that actually the staff working with you are very capable and that if you try to do it all yourself, both you and the work suffer. It is quite a difficult concept to master, both in terms of different angles of responsibility and realising you don’t personally have to do it all, but the relief when you get there is huge!

Plans for the future?

Obviously with Brexit looming planning for the future is a bit cautious.

However, last year Ronnie Colman joined the team as a Business Development Officer. It was the first time we had anyone to fit that role and it was an excellent decision. Ronnie is a great conduit between ourselves and clients, both old and new. He has brought new business on board and we have seen development in the department to meet the demand. Amanda and I are in total agreement that there is no place in good business for being complacent and sitting on your laurels, and Amanda has always been a great innovator, so I look forward to being part of further sustainable growth and seeing DMH develop into the best market leader in the country in all aspects of a property transaction, whether residential or commercial.

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