The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) has published guidance on working with children during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The guidance sets out arrangements for...
What is your position and what do you do on a day-to-day basis?
I am the National Head of Family Law at Irwin Mitchell. I predominantly work between the Manchester and London offices, although I also visit our other seven office locations to visit the family law teams. I continue to undertake fee earning work in addition to working with my Private Wealth and Business colleagues, with a view to steering a cohesive approach to problem solving and hopefully, ensuring that each client’s matter is considered on a bespoke and holistic basis. I am also the Regional Managing Partner for the Manchester office, which is a full service office of approximately 260 colleagues. My role as the National Head of Family Law involves constantly reviewing how we might stay current as regards to legal developments, with fabulous support from our dedicated professional support lawyer, Hayley Trim. I try to ensure that our team members feel supported so that they will fulfil their professional potential, whether that is from a technical or leadership perspective. I liaise with our colleagues across the Group, in other divisions and with our Group Services teams, such as our Learning and Development team and our marketing and PR teams, who provide the entire team with on-going support. Approximately one half of my time is devoted to fee earning with the balance being spent in looking at strategy and leadership issues.
How long have you been in this role and what brought you here?
I joined Irwin Mitchell in 2011. I became the National Head of Family Law in July 2017 and the Regional Managing Partner for Manchester in 2018. I was excited about joining the firm because our then National Head, Martin Loxley, was a presenter at the Resolution Conferences and I was impressed by him. I was also persuaded to join the firm by a former colleague who waxed lyrical about the firm and I have not been disappointed since joining. I believe that meritocracy is all important. At Irwin Mitchell, I feel we have an environment in which to flourish professionally, which is meritocratic.
Any memorable stories from your career so far?
Loads - there are some disasters and some success stories. Every case is memorable because it is different. Working with people is what drives me, whether clients or colleagues. The most exciting moment of my career was representing two clients at the same time in the Supreme Court. It was a wonderful experience, the judges were amazing, the experience itself was incredible, working alongside such talented counsel (on both sides) and even my opponent solicitors were memorable, professionally fulfilling and something which I will never forget. I must add that both clients remain friends with me, which also a great outcome.
What is the best and worst part of the day for you?
I truly hate admin tasks and have to force myself each day to attend to dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s. It has to be a morning job, otherwise it never gets done. The best part of the day is after that is done (or re-scheduled!).
What keeps you motivated?
Working with clients but also, in recent years, colleagues with whom I have great friendships. Feeling like I am making a contribution to changing things in the office environment and, very occasionally, in relation to the law. I absolutely love tricky cases and trying to find an angle as to how to achieve a client’s objectives.
Tea or coffee?
What would you say to anyone thinking of a career in your field?
It is incredibly fulfilling but hard work.
What song do you listen to the most?
I don’t listen to trendy music. To motivate me, I listen to various songs but, as a child, my mum played Helen Reddy’s “I am Woman” every night for about 3 years after my dad left and when I feel that I need strength, I listen to that.
Who inspires you within the world of family law?
Baroness Hale, many members of the bar, my colleagues with whom I spend a lot of time.
How do you enjoy your time outside of work?
I am extremely boring: I love Radio 4 (especially The Archers), I like spending time with my husband, my mum and my three sons (although I have gone off that since they became teenagers). I have recently started watching box sets. It has been perilous as I cannot stop watching and have turned into a sloth.
A Personal Shopper. In law? I would like to do contentious probate.
If you could change one thing about the family justice system what would it be and why?
I would ensure that legal aid was reinstated. I stopped doing legal aid work in around 2003 and I felt deep shame about it to be honest. Since it was abolished, I feel even more ashamed. It is entirely wrong that those people who are most vulnerable are left without proper representation when facing very significant upheaval and distress in their personal lives, and do not possess the skills or the wherewithal to deal with the court process.