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A day in the life Of...
Jade Quirke
Jade Quirke
Family Solicitor
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A day in the life of ... Mary Ryan (Independent consultant, RyanTunnardBrown)
Date:7 APR 2017
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Mary Ryan (Independent consultant, Ryan Tunnard Brown)

What is your position and what you do on a day-to-day basis?

I am an independent consultant with RyanTunnardBrown. For the last 2 years I have been working with the FDAC National Unit on the wider roll out of FDAC. I was also part of the team working on follow up research into the impact of FDAC. Supporting the implementation of FDAC in new areas, and at the same time developing the FDAC National Unit, involves me in an enormous range of different activities on a day to day basis – strategic development of the unit, working with different local authorities and courts to help them develop their plans, problem solve and get going; writing papers and briefings; delivering training; disseminating research; developing systems for data collection across sites; and contributing to research activity to strengthen the evidence base for the model.

How long have you been in this role and what brought you here?

I have been working with the FDAC National Unit since April 2015. I have had a long connection with FDAC before that. I carried out the feasibility study for the pilot FDAC in Central London in 2005/6, was part of the team evaluating FDAC from its start in 2008, and began working on further roll out of the model in 2013. I am a solicitor by profession. I specialised in public law and from 1982 to 1996 worked for Family Rights Group, initially as legal adviser and then as joint chief executive. From 1996 onwards I have been a freelance consultant, first with the Dartington Social Research Unit and then as part of RyanTunnardBrown carrying out project management, evaluation and service development. Working on the roll out of FDAC has enabled me to combine my legal experience and knowledge with my research, social policy and service development experience.

What are the people you work for/with like? Any memorable stories?

As I have been working mainly from home for so many years, it has been nice to work with a small team of people at the FDAC National Unit, all working exceptionally hard to get the message across and to support new areas to implement this very different approach to care proceedings. It is also good to work with all those colleagues in local areas who share the commitment to get FDAC established.

What is the best and worst part of the day for you?

My days are hugely variable given all the different aspects of the work. The best days are when I have the opportunity to observe FDAC in action, or take part in meetings or events which bring the FDAC teams and judges together, or when I hear parents talk about their experiences in FDAC. These events are always inspirational and give me the energy to carry on working to get the FDAC model properly established. The worst days may involve hours of travel, frustrations with technology or worries about the sustainability of FDAC.

What adjectives best describe you?

Committed, curious, energetic

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What keeps you motivated?

Being lucky enough to have the type of work that requires me to keep learning and meeting new and interesting people. I am also very committed to being involved with projects that will make a positive difference to the lives of vulnerable children and families.

Tea or coffee?

Both, depending on the time of day

What would you say to anyone thinking of a career in your field?

I have had a very varied career, from private practice to voluntary sector to freelance consultancy. It has always been interesting and often challenging. I have learnt an enormous amount, and it has given me considerable freedom to combine work with bringing up children. I would recommend it to anyone who is prepared to take the risk of a more insecure way of earning a living.

What song do you listen to the most?

Currently I am listening a lot to an album by a Kora player called Diabel Cissoko.

How do you enjoy your time outside of work?

Family, friends, dancing, music, theatre, cinema, walking, cooking and travelling.

If you could change one thing about the family justice system what would it be and why?

I would like to see wide use of the problem solving approach to care proceedings along the FDAC model, properly funded by Central Government. I have been very struck by how the FDAC process engages parents, by the impact it has on judges and social work and legal practitioners, and by the transparent approach in FDAC which is able to focus on supporting parents at the same time as protecting children. As a number of FDAC judges have commented, it is a more humane process than standard care proceedings.

See also 'FJC memorial lecture: holding the risk' in April Family Law at [2016] Fam Law 352. Online subscribers can access the article here.

For more details on FDAC see Mary's recent blog post: 'Picking the "right" cases for FDAC – is it possible?' 

You can follow Mary on Twitter: @marytryan82