There are many boutique specialist family firms out there, and many successful ones at that. As a junior family lawyer this can be very appealing.
But for me, I have always worked in a multi-practice firm, and am confident I will continue to do so.
Family law is the most varied area of law and one which continues to keep me on my toes. No two days are the same, and sometimes no two hours.
I cannot predict what my day will hold but what I can be certain of is that I have best resource of all to turn to, and that is a supportive firm with many successful lawyers in all almost all areas of law.
I cannot just rely on my knowledge and expertise of being a family lawyer to give my client’s the best well-rounded advice.
A divorcing client may have more than one property, they may own a farm, have a business, and they most certainly need to update their will. That’s where clients will need advice from the property team, farms and estates, company commercial, employment, and private client teams to name just a few.
I know I can pick up the phone to any one of my colleagues in a different team to ask for their advice on any issue that may arise, and then send on that advice to my client with the comfort of saying I have spoken to a colleague who specialises in that area. My clients repeatedly tell me they feel well supported, well advised and they know they are in good hands and this is because of the holistic advice a multi-practice firm can offer.
When training, you of course cover different areas of law and you may feel you are able to advise your client on property law, for example, should they have a question and yes, your advice may be correct. However, new case law is reported every day and no lawyer can stay up to date with the changes in every area. Are you sure what you learned when you were training remains the correct?
It is also cost effective to the client as what I can explain to my colleagues in five minutes, and receive their advice in the same time, avoids lengthy correspondence to other firms if I have to refer my clients elsewhere for such advice. When there is a family matter at hand, time is always of the essence and clients are often going through the most difficult time of their life. Do they really want to speak to another firm and incur the cost and time of doing so, let alone all the bureaucracy involved, such as anti-money laundering?
I also secure internal referrals from my colleagues in all departments and in turn, I refer work to them. This is an important aspect of ensuring the firm you work for continues to be profitable and successful and to be a part of this as a junior lawyer, is vital for your career development.
For me personally, I know that I am offering the most considered advice, always thinking of the bigger picture and in turn, this is making me the lawyer I am today, by whom my clients feel supported.
Building a bank of trusted contacts is also very important. I have mortgage advisors, pension advisors, valuers, Counsel etc whom I can turn to, who can advise and assist my clients. Building contacts is not undertaken overnight and takes time, but your ‘black book’ grows by introductions from other colleagues in other teams.
Of course, there are many pros and cons for specialist family law firms and multi-practice firms, but if I were choosing starting my career again, I know what one I would choose. As family lawyers we can only advise clients in the area of law in which we work, Family in my case, and that is where the advantages of a multi-disciplinary firm are overwhelming.