Sally receiving her award for Family Law Chartered Legal Executive of the Year at The Family Law Awards 2018
What is your position and what do you do on a day-to-day basis?
I am a Chartered Legal Executive specialising in Family law and have recently moved to a small firm in Cardiff City Centre. In the mornings I get to work for 8.30, have a coffee and check the emails and diary for the day. I see clients regarding any family issues from divorce to private law children cases and everything in between. I deal with the case files from start to finish; attending court, instructing barristers and experts when needed.
How long have you been in this role and what brought you here?
I have been in this current role for a few weeks! Prior to that I have worked for a number of firms in and around Cardiff. I left school at 16 and started work as a trainee legal executive in a large firm, attending Pontypridd Tec on day release once a week to study for the CILEx exams. I qualified in 2000 but loved training in a big firm - every day was different, and I had some amazing experiences in every department; instructing on criminal, family and civil trials and dealing with fee paying and legal aid clients. I found the legal aid work challenging as my role involved representing victims of domestic violence, often applying for non-molestation injunctions and emergency order regarding children.
Any memorable stories from your career so far?
I have so many stories, mainly involving my own embarrassment from training. I once fell down the stone steps of the Cardiff Crown Court when my heel got caught in the hem of my coat, and I landed at the feet of one of the Jury in my case. In the Bristol Crown Court during a criminal trial - regarding a prison riot - the Judge enquired why the 7 Defendants were all chewing – I had given my client a packet of Polos (which was my prison visit sweet of choice) and he had passed the packet along the line of Defendants! In a family case my contact lens fell out and bounced across the desk towards the Judge, I continued the case with one eye shut. I could go on...
What is the best and worst part of the day for you?
The worst part of the day is waking up to the alarm - I am not a morning person! My best part of the day is sitting on the sofa in the evening watching TV with my daughter, when she knows it is bedtime and she is stalling so I get a hug.
What keeps you motivated?
Every day is different; when I think I have heard it all a client will tell me something new. I do feel I am helping people often in a really upsetting time of their lives.
Tea or coffee?
Coffee, every few hours
What would you say to anyone thinking of a career in your field?
If you like people and solving problems, this is the job for you.
What song do you listen to the most?
Who inspires you within the world of family law?
I have been really lucky to work for some brilliant lawyers. Cardiff has a number of really good sets of Chambers, such as Branch of CILEx
and Law Society
who are all very proactive with networking. When I trained I worked for a Legal Executive who was brilliant and threw me in at the deep end on more than one occasion, but he was one of a few Legal Executives in the firm, so he gave me confidence.
How do you enjoy your time outside of work?
At the moment, my daughter is revising for her GCSEs, so weekends are spent eating cake and revising. Other than that - drinking gin and walks on the Welsh coast in equal measures.
What book would you recommend to others?
What would be your alternate career?
Running a florists.
If you could change one thing about the family justice system what would it be and why?
Private law children proceedings being conducted by a District Judge, not the Magistrates or Legal Advisor. The cases often have a litigant in person on one side of the case and the matter would be quicker - and ultimately cheaper - if a Judge were involved to progress the matter effectively from the outset. Many cases are adjourned a number of times and are then transferred up to a Judge costing the fee-paying client each time the matter is before the court. The draft orders are getting longer and longer, with recitals that in reality are comments on how to parent a child which should not need to be in a court order and do not have any weight.
What has winning the Family Law Chartered Legal Executive of the Year 2018 Award meant to you?
I had not realised how much the award would be recognised and have had some wonderful comments from local lawyers, counsel and Judges. It is quite a tricky item to dust however!The Family Law Awards 2019 are now open. Submit your entry before midnight on Friday 7 June at www.familylawawards.co.uk