Students graduating from university

Thinking Of Qualifying Into Family Law?

Lorna Tipple, Associate Director at Thursfields Solicitors takes a look at the type of work you may be undertaking and the clients you will be assisting, offering tips to help newly qualified’s (NQ’s) entering this interesting and unique area of law…

As family lawyers we need to remember that we are more often than not advising and assisting clients who are dealing with high levels of emotion and stress.  A highly personal area of law, family law clients are dealing with issues such as breakdowns in relationships, worries over future finances and anxiety relating to their children’s future.  As such, our typical client is often vulnerable, in shock or denial, angry, anxious, upset and highly stressed – or a mixture of some or all of the above.

Our role as family law solicitors is to provide sound advice and offer clear options.  It is imperative that instructions are sought and taken at each stage and that it is your client who makes their own, informed decisions.  Maintaining a friendly yet highly professional approach, you will also need to keep your clients focused on the bigger picture and upon their key objectives.

Most people think only of divorce when they think of family law and that of course is a key aspect to a family lawyer’s work.  However, family law is a broad and interesting area of law involving many issues that don’t always initially spring to mind including finances upon a divorce, cohabitee separation, children issues, pre and post nuptial agreements, cohabitation agreements, civil partnership issues, adoption and domestic violence.

Many cases involve more than one aspect of family law – for example, a divorcing couple with children will have at least their divorce, financial matters and children issues to resolve.  The family lawyer needs to have a clear understanding as to how the various aspects of a client’s case interplay with one another and an ability to prioritise and manage the various issues.  Some issues arise and become extremely urgent, requiring emergence court applications.  A family lawyer needs to be calm and collected, reacting appropriately and efficiently to the twists and turns of a case.

Legal aid is rarely available for family law issues.  Costs can be a real issue for clients, and it is vital that clear and realistic costs estimates are provided at the outset and regularly reviewed and where necessary, revised.  In addition to being experts in the field and empathic advisers, family lawyers also need to ensure that clients’ expectations are managed properly from the outset.  Quite often our job involves telling a client something they do not wish to hear.  Likely or possible outcomes, timescales and costs are all issues which need dealing with transparently and openly.

Family law is a rewarding and interesting area of law in which to practice.  It can be distressing seeing upset and distressed clients in turmoil thus it is important for you as the lawyer to be emotionally resilient, using colleagues as sounding boards and being aware of your own mental health from any triggers set off by cases.  However, whilst clients can often present in that manner at the outset, with the help of your expertise and other appropriate signposting, by the conclusion of their matter, your client is often in the best possible place to forge ahead to enjoy their future.

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