Spotlight on our solicitors – meet Christen Mulingani

Spotlight on our solicitors – meet Christen Mulingani

Find out more about the people behind the advice in this series of interviews with our solicitors. Meet commercial property solicitor Christen Mulingani, who tells us more about her journey in law.

How long have you worked at Harper James?

I joined two years ago, in November 2018.

What inspired you to practise law in the first place?

After university, I worked at a magistrates’ court assisting the court clerks. It was the first time I had encountered real lawyers. After completing a postgraduate diploma in law, I secured a paralegal contract covering land law: it was never my goal to be a property lawyer, but I really started to enjoy it. Originally, I wanted to focus on human rights, and I ended up dealing with gas pipes!

I trained in a specialist agricultural practice in Lincoln, moved to Eversheds where I took on much bigger projects for household names, then took that experience to a regional firm where I became a partner. When I had my children, I decided to work in a flexible home-based role that works for me and my family.

How does working with Harper James compare with other firms you have worked at?

I have the best of all worlds. The team at Harper James are superb. All the lawyers have big firm backgrounds and the experience that brings, but having fewer clients means that I can offer the level of personal service that I have always striven for but found difficult to deliver in the pressured, corporate, target-driven environment.  I now pride myself on my quick response times, and the relationships I am able to build with my clients. I know they really appreciate it too.

Define commercial property law in a sentence

Commercial property lawyers are often seen as merely transactional, but there is far more to it than getting the job over the line. That bit is easy! Our expertise lies in protecting our clients from worst-case scenarios and some of them are incredibly complex. If things go wrong and the lease has not been carefully negotiated to limit a client’s liability or exposure, then the eventual cost to them could be tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds. Your property lawyer is your insurance policy! 

What’s the best piece of commercial property advice you could give a business?

You get what you pay for. A quick job is unlikely to be a thorough one. We get so many enquiries from parties whose off-the-shelf lease has not protected them or left them liable in a way they had not even contemplated. I don't enjoy asking them about the quality of advice they took at the time they entered into their lease. Remember, you are engaging a solicitor to avoid costly time-consuming disputes further down the line, which will save you money in the long run.

What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?

I’ve had many. Achieving partnership obviously, but also the moment at the very start of my career when I moved from paralegal to trainee within my firm. The role I had fulfilled by myself for two years had expanded so much (dealing with nearly 800 miles of major pipelines running through large tranches of unregistered agricultural land) that they filled it with a senior solicitor and an assistant!

What do you do to unwind?

I have young twins so time for myself has to involve a weekend away. I play the piano and paint.  

Tell us a prediction for your practice area in 2021

The impact of Covid is going to be enormous. We are already seeing business reassess their need for commercial premises in a dramatic way after the forced move to home-working. Downsizing and flexibility is going to be the way forward for office spaces. Good tenants will become a valuable commodity and we are likely to see a shift in negotiation strength with a fall in rents as landlords struggle to fill their spaces again. Existing tenants may look seriously at subletting and renegotiating terms or exercising the break options in favour of smaller, cheaper premises.  

What advice would you give regarding the challenges businesses continue to face from the COVID-19 pandemic?

Check your lease carefully. Particularly the service charge provisions for who is responsible for any works that need to be undertaken to ensure the building and its common parts are Covid-safe. Landlords need to be pragmatic and consider compromises they do not strictly speaking have to make, such as rent suspensions or deferments. Hopefully, they would agree that it is better to help a tenant survive the storm than to end up with a company out of business and an empty property.  

Find out more

Christen Mulingani

Christen Mulingani

Senior Commercial Property Solicitor
Christen Mulingani is a senior commercial property solicitor of over 15 years' experience, attaining partnership status in 2010 and joining Harper James in 2018.

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