What is your position and what do you do on a day-to-day basis?
I am an Associate at Family Law in Partnership, a boutique Tier 1 family law firm in London. I advise on all aspects of private family law mostly arising from separation but also pre-nuptial agreements and cohabitation agreements.
How long have you been in this role and what brought you here?
I have been a family solicitor for coming up to 4 years and I do not know where the time has gone! I qualified in September 2016 having trained at a multi-service firm with offices in both Cambridge and London. The pull of London (a far cry from growing up in Lincolnshire) and the desire to join a firm with leaders in their field meant that I moved to Family Law in Partnership on qualification where I have been fortunate to start building my practice.
Any memorable stories from your career so far?
Working with clients in the family law context is always a recipe for surprises and memories. One particular ‘surprise’ that comes to mind was during the second day of Final Hearing where my client was attending by video link from abroad. We had arranged for my client to attend offices from which they could video link into the court only it became apparent that it was not just my client in the room, but their pet dog was in their handbag under the table! Clearly, after day 1 of the hearing, they felt that they needed some entertainment to get through day 2, but I am not sure that the Judge felt the same when the very same dog that had been the subject of much discussion in the client’s budget made an actual appearance.
What is the best and worst part of the day for you?
I find the direct and involved relationship that we have with clients can be a double edged sword. Most of the time it is the client interaction that is the best part of my day but as emotions run high and times can be difficult and stressful, these can also be the worst part as there is only so much we, as lawyers, can do despite all our best efforts.
What keeps you motivated?
The very thing that first made me want to do family law; the eclectic mix of clients that you meet, the relationships that you build with them and the drive to help them through some of the most difficult times.
Tea or coffee?
Definitely coffee. I am not a tea drinker, unless it is an occasional peppermint. I have to admit that I have sadly turned into a bit of a coffee snob. My purse doesn’t like it, but my morning routine wouldn’t be the same without it.
What would you say to anyone thinking of a career in your field?
It is not what you see on the TV. Our lives are not Suits or the Split. Research thoroughly and think carefully about every aspect; location, focus areas, size and personality of the firm. It is not necessarily all about getting the job but getting the right job, making sure the firm is the right fit for you is really important. If you are unhappy because you don’t like the culture or don’t enjoy your workplace then that is going to be reflected in your work.
What song do you listen to the most?
I cannot say that it is the song that I listen to most, but it is the song that I go to when I need to stop and take a moment – Baz Luhrmann, Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen). It was the song that my mum packed me off to University with and it still reminds me of the life lessons that we could all do with sharing at times.
Who inspires you within the world of family law?
It is impossible to only name one person. I am very fortunate to work with a mixture of acclaimed family lawyers who each have specialisms and strengths in different areas. We have one of the most recognised family mediators in the country, some of the best litigators, people who advise the Government on the hideously complicated area of child maintenance and pioneers of new forms of alternative dispute resolution. I aim to learn from and take on board a bit of all of them.
I also have to give recognition to those that continue to do Legal Aid work. The funding is not available, the support is insufficient, the cases are often complex and there are so few that remain helping so many.
How do you enjoy your time outside of work?
Eating and drinking too much but trying to balance that with some sport (both participating and watching.) A perfect weekend for me involves a Saturday run to the hot yoga studio, a hot yoga class followed by brunch and an evening with friends before recuperating with a roast in front of a rugby game on the Sunday.
What book would you recommend to others?
Anything by Jodi Picoult. She is my favourite author to the extent that I cannot bring myself to watch any of the film adaptations that have since been made. They are not light reading. The topics are thought provoking and often difficult. For when I need something lighter, there is the guilty pleasure that is the Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella. It is, on occasions, worryingly relatable.
What would be your alternate career?
I have no idea if I could actually do it in practice, but I have always thought that the job of being a Midwife would be wonderfully challenging but also rewarding.
If you could change one thing about the family justice system what would it be and why?
Judicial availability and the pressure on the court listings. It is inevitable that some people need to resort to the court process but the underfunded and under resourced system means that clients face long delays between hearings and the risk that their hearing may be adjourned on the court’s own motion at as little as 36 hours’ notice.
Kara Swift was the winner of the Young Solicitor of the Year Award at the Family Law Awards 2019. The Family Law Awards 2020 is now open for entries - you can enter here.