Rebecca Andrews-Walker, a Senior Associate at Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP, discusses her Joint Insolvency Examination success and shares the challenges of cross-qualification as an Insolvency Practitioner.
The JIEB is the sought after qualification of those in the insolvency and accountancy profession, being required in order to become a licensed office holder. It is, however, rare for a solicitor to attempt the qualification, given that they have already obtained their legal professional qualifications. It is, according to publicly available data, even more unusual for those attempts to succeed, given that solicitors and IPs live in very different worlds.
Rebecca decided to be one of those solicitors to break the mould.
Q: Why Undertake JIEB?
A: In short – because I am a bookworm. I am an academic at heart and had been looking for a way to revisit academia whilst gaining key industry knowledge that had real practical application to the work I do for my clients. Also, the changing face of the industry (with a deliberate avoidance of the term ‘Brexit’!) requires industry professionals to be able to give global advice; not just legal advice, but overarching guidance which goes to the root of the clients’ business.
Q: Does JIEB help you to do that?
A: Absolutely – the knowledge I gained during the course, merged with the legal knowledge I already had, enables me to provide 360 degree advice in insolvency matters. Equally, what better demonstration to an IP that you are a specialist in their world, than obtaining their qualification? As IPs understand how tough the course is, there is also a mutual appreciation of your grit!
Q: What was the hardest part of JIEB?
A: Being a solicitor and not working in an IP firm. Oh, and honing my juggling skills. The JIEB is renowned for its difficulty, and the low pass rates of those sitting it for the first time reflect that. It is hard enough for those already working in the insolvency industry, and involves sacrificing 12 months of your life while you undertake ‘the journey’. The course presupposes a working knowledge of an IP’s caseload and working practices, insolvency accounting and compliance. As a lawyer, that was not well trodden ground, and so I had to get to grips with the base knowledge, as well as learning the course content, whilst managing my fee-earning caseload. As I say – I am now an expert juggler!
Q: How did you get through it?
A: I am afraid there are no magic answers here; sheer hard work, and a lot of coffee. I studied both sides of my full working day, at 6am and then again after work, often until the early hours. I sacrificed my weekends. I am a distance runner by hobby, and I created time by creating and listening to revision audio files while I ran. There really are no short cuts; the only way to succeed at JIEB is to work consistently hard for 12 months and to accept that everything else has to wait until after the exams. I also have a very supportive boss who recognises how challenging this qualification is to achieve, and how much value having it brings. His support is very important to me.
Q: What was the new exam format like?
A: The electronic format had a number of glitches, which I suspect was inevitable in its first year but which made exam day very challenging for many candidates. I can only hope that the software providers and exam board learn from these issues and that they are not repeated for future candidates as they were very frustrating. On the plus side, the spreadsheet format for the accounting elements worked really well, and frankly, I cannot imagine how candidates coped with the handwritten accountancy questions previously! The merged corporate paper (which combines administrations and liquidations) I found, personally, to be very unsatisfying. As the syllabus is so broad, you are only examined on a tiny portion of the vast content you have spent months learning.
Q: Are you glad you did it?
A: Absolutely. Whilst 2018 was a test of endurance, both physically and mentally, it was incredibly rewarding. I would do it all again in a heartbeat, and I would absolutely recommend it to anyone, especially solicitors, thinking of taking the challenge on.
My note of caution though, do so with your eyes as open as your mind. Ensure that you are prepared for what is needed and for what it will take from you. Get the full support of your family and your employers, and stock up on coffee.
One of my favourite running mantras is equally applicable to JIEB: If it does not challenge you, it will not change you.
Rebecca Andrews-Walker is a Senior Associate and specialist insolvency solicitor in the dispute resolution team at Penningtons Manches [Cooper] and will be speaking at Professional Accountancy on 18 September 2019.