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On the eve of the Second World War, 18-year-old Yvonne Moore stepped through the doors of a small Kent-based law firm to take up a temporary job.
More than 70 years later, she is still there. And after celebrating her 90th birthday this summer, Moore says she will continue working at Rootes & Alliott “as long as they want me”.
“When I started at the firm I just really enjoyed the work and the people. I continued on as no one said I had to go,” recalls Moore. “I was hired to do typing and shorthand, but I was admitted to Ilex [the Institute of Legal Executives] in 1965, I think roughly when it started.”
When Moore joined Rootes & Alliott in 1939, she was living with her father and aunt in Folkestone. She was offered the job for a six-month period to cover for someone who was doing national service.
“Life at the firm in 1939 was totally different,” says Moore. “It was more formal; nobody was known by their first name. It was a quieter life; the world wasn’t in such a hurry.”
When war broke out much of Folkestone was evacuated and a large part of the law firm was sent to work in Tunbridge Wells. But that did not mean Moore went unscathed in her home life.
“It wasn’t very pleasant when the shells came over,” she remembers. “Shells hit the road where I lived and demolished two houses. I remember shrapnel went through our house.”
Moore was born in Belgium, but her family moved to England before her first birthday. In her youth, she says, she did not consider a career in the law, instead enjoying the idea of becoming a travelling secretary.
Despite going down the legal route, Moore has still managed to fulfill her travelling ambitions by jetting off to Antarctica and Alaska in the past few years, and to Canada, where she hopes to return. She also takes the time to make regular day trips to France and Belgium with colleagues, with whom she has formed a close bond.
“She’s great company, enjoying the odd glass of wine with us,” says legal cashier Linda Bailey, who has worked with Moore for 23 years. “Everyone jokes that I’m her ’trainee’,” she adds.
Moore says that she particularly enjoyed learning about probate as a legal executive.
“People think it’s a bit funny but I found probate very interesting. It was interesting going to people’s houses after they died, as I like seeing how people ran their lives. Once I went to a house and everywhere was stacked withshopping bags and boxes - the person had just kept shopping. That took more than two weeks to sort out.”
Despite her career as a legal executive “dwindling off”, as she puts it, Moore’s work in administration allows her to remain in close contact with the conveyancing department.
She has high praise for Ilex and says she would recommend it to the next generation. She recently gave advice to A-level students who got their results this summer.
“I said to the students that it’s very hard work these days to get into law, but I think it’s really worthwhile if they can, and Ilex is a good option.”
In the last 72 years, Moore has worked with about 16 different partners, including the three currently working at Rootes & Alliott, and has seen a complete turnaround in staff.
Her current colleagues hold Moore in very high regard, with senior partner Susan Watler describing her as “a treasured member of staff and a very remarkable lady indeed”.
“Yvonne’s a wonderful example to everyone that you can achieve anything you want if you put your mind to it,” she adds.
Meanwhile, legal assistant Melanie Smith says: “She really does prove that determination and keeping active keeps you sprightly, even at 90.”