Claire Fell, Communicourt Intermediary
What is your position and what you do on a day-to-day basis?
I am a non-registered intermediary working for Communicourt Ltd. Communicourt provides intermediaries for vulnerable respondents in family proceedings, vulnerable defendants in criminal proceedings, and vulnerable witnesses. Intermediaries are communication specialists who facilitate communication between their client (somebody with communication difficulties) and others, including the advocates.
We can assist clients throughout all stages of the proceedings, from conferences through to giving evidence in court.
Work varies day-to-day for an intermediary! It can involve travelling anywhere in the country, to a solicitor’s office to do an assessment or assist in a conference, or to court to assist the client to follow the proceedings during a hearing.
How long have you been in this role and what brought you here?
I have been an intermediary for 18 months. All intermediaries at Communicourt are qualified Speech and Language Therapists, so I trained in that field at university. I became an intermediary as it is a hugely varied role and provides excellent experience in working with many different types of people and a wide spectrum of communication disorders.
What are the people you work for/with like? Any memorable stories?
It is interesting meeting new solicitors and barristers on an almost daily basis, finding out what their understanding of intermediaries is and sometimes informing them about what our role actually entails!
The Communicourt team are all hugely friendly and supportive. We share memorable stories with each other and in particular, examples of very difficult questions asked of our clients, despite the lawyers already being given recommendations for questioning the client. One recent example was a barrister asking the client ‘So your plan was to go to Seven Sisters, then you didn’t go to Seven Sisters but when you were asked by the police, you said you went to Seven Sisters because you had forgotten you didn’t go?’ Intermediary intervention was necessary here!
What is the best and worst part of the day for you?
The best part of the day is assisting a client to understand a particularly difficult concept and knowing that they have made a fully informed choice at the end of the discussion. The worst part of some days is getting up at 5am to get an early train!
What adjectives best describe you?
Friendly, enthusiastic and committed to making sure a client fully understands what is going on at court!
What keeps you motivated?
Knowing how many people must struggle through court proceedings without a clue what is going on. We are trying to help a growing number of people, to ensure that they make informed choices and are fully involved in their case. Knowing that we can help in this way makes our job worthwhile.
Tea or coffee?
What would you say to anyone thinking of a career in your field?
Go for it! It can sometimes be challenging, but the experience of working with so many varied people, working in different situations and speaking in front of judges (!) is an excellent way to build confidence. It is really rewarding helping people to communicate during this extremely difficult time in their lives.
What song do you listen to the most?
‘Ho Hey’ – The Lumineers, but the version from ‘Nashville’ – my wedding dance song!
How do you enjoy your time outside of work?
Walking my 8-month-old Springador, renovating our bungalow, spending time with friends and family.
If you could change one thing about the family justice system what would it be and why?
I would ensure that getting an intermediary assessment is quick and easy to organise once a solicitor has identified that their client may have communication difficulties. Currently there seems to be much to-ing and fro-ing between whether the courts or LAA fund the assessment, which results in assessments being done very last minute, sometimes at court on the day of the hearing! It would be much better if the method of payment was straightforward, an assessment could be done, report written and everyone involved could read it in advance of the hearing, to understand what adaptations to the process need to be made.
To find out how Communicourt
can help your case call 0121 663 0931 or 0121 602 0882, or email email@example.com.
You can also follow Communicourt on Twitter at @Communicourt
Join the conversation #familylawdayinlifeofAs part of this feature we are asking a wide range of people who have links to the court system and family law to respond to the above questions and give us some information about what their role entails. We hope to get a wide cross section of people - to this end, if you would like to contribute please email firstname.lastname@example.org.