Rachel Roberts

Stowe Family Law’s Managing Partner Shares Her Industry Wisdom

As Managing Partner of Stowe Family Law, Rachel Roberts successfully juggles work and life as she is kept busy leading a large team of ten professional family lawyers while keeping her young twins entertained outside work.

Known as “a breath of fresh air with a realistic, no-nonsense appraisal of cases and a great client manner”, Rachel specialises in all aspects of family law but has particular expertise in dealing with the financial aspects of a marriage breakdown, as well as dealing with civil partnership disputes and separating cohabiting couples.

Rachel has kindly taken the time to offer her experiences of the sector, and candidly talks about the issues she has faced, the evolving changes of the practice area, the crucial foundations for law firm growth and the challenges the industry may face in the future.

Please could you provide us with a summary of your professional background and your present role?

I am a Managing Partner at Stowe Family Law LLP. We are a national firm, and I head up our largest team in the country, managing a team of 10 lawyers, with offices in Leeds and Huddersfield and further expansion planned. I did my training contract here, so I have been at the firm for almost 18 years now and it is the only firm I have ever practised at. I have been in my current role for around 3 years, since the firm was bought out by an equity firm, Livingbridge, in 2017.

How did you get into Family Law?

I knew at university that I wanted to work with individuals and was never interested practicing in a corporate area of law. I loved crime as a subject but knew that the day to day practice of dealing with criminals was not for me. Family came a close second and I never considered any other area of law. I was taken on as a trainee knowing that I would qualify into a family role, so I pinned my colours to the mast fairly early on and have never regretted it.

What sparked your interest in the field?

Like most family lawyers, I like to help people and we meet people when they are often at their most vulnerable. But it’s also a very diverse area of law, where you need to have some knowledge of many different areas such as tax, property and company law. Of course, you take specialist advice where you need to, but you need to be able to identify issues and have a working knowledge in lots of different areas. Its challenging, and the level of discretion within family law means there is always scope for interesting legal debate!

What is your most memorable moment/stories from your career so far?

When I was very junior I located an account abroad and secured a freezing injunction in the High Court to protect it which at the time felt like an enormous challenge. I do find however that its not always the large events like that which stand out in your memories. It’s the times you have made a difference to peoples’ lives that provide reward on a daily basis, such as helping someone re-establish their relationship with a child, or to get the support and resources they need to escape an abusive relationship.

What advice would you give to a young person considering a career in Family Law today?

For the reasons above, when you are studying, pay attention to the areas of law that might not seem that relevant to family law now but will stand you in good stead later on. Also, hone your communication skills. Its great to be a brilliant lawyer, but you need to be able to talk to people and empathise with what they are going through.

What challenges have you experienced in your role as Managing Partner? How did you overcome them?

Its been a steep learning curve! Effectively, I have had to learn the skills that anyone who runs a business needs, including managing the budget, taking responsibility for how much work we have coming in and managing people. I am incredibly lucky to have had a huge amount of support and to have inherited a very talented, dedicated and long-standing team which has made it easier, and I have enjoyed the challenge of pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I feel very rewarded by my role.

What are the key components for law firms to grow sustainably and profitably?

Hiring the right people is the best starting point, and with that creating a culture that rewards innovation, loyalty and hard work. Reputation is everything and its vital that your team buy into the culture of the firm, and in that way will promote the firm in a positive way, both in their dealing with clients and externally. I am really proud of the quality service we offer our clients. With that has come organic growth through recommendations but we are also continuously looking for areas to expand into, whether that is a new geographic area or specialist area of family lawyer where we can develop a niche team. I think that ability to look for new opportunities, often using your existing resources initially, helps to limit risk but with increased profitability.

What are the biggest changes in industry you’ve seen over your time in practice?

I think in Family Law, the virtual abolishment of Legal Aid in all but a very narrow number of cases has been the biggest and most unfortunate change. When combined with the huge cuts to the Court’s budgets, there has been a knock-on impact for everyone using the Court service, whether they would have qualified for legal aid or not. It deeply saddens me that people who desperately need help and advice cannot get it and in some cases simply do not have the wherewithal to take action without that advice. This impacts children and their relationships with parents but also can have huge financial implications for people. The increased number of litigants in persons is leading to longer hearings and greater costs.

What issues /challenges do you think the industry will face in the future?

Increasingly, clients expect us to deal with things in an efficient and cost effective manner. There will inevitably be increasing pressure to invest in technology that saves time and money for clients and we need to find a way of adopting that technology into our practice so that we can offer the best service and remain competitive.

Want to have your say? Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Read more stories

Join nearly 3,000 other family practitioners - Check back daily for all the latest news, views, insights and best practice and sign up to our e-newsletter to receive our weekly round up every Thursday morning. 

You’ll receive the latest updates, analysis, and best practice straight to your inbox.