When you’re training to be a lawyer, via whatever route that may be, almost before you begin your first module, which I remember being ‘An Introduction to Law and Practice’, you have chosen what area you want to practice in. Or at least you think you have.
I know I did, and thankfully that was family law. Well, it was actually crime and I come to that later.
Most people have chosen their area because they already work within that specific team, or because they have a vested interest in a certain area.
However, life often takes us on unexpected paths, and especially when you begin to work in your chosen practice either in your seat as a trainee solicitor, or otherwise, you may realise that your ‘favourite’ area of law isn’t quite what you thought it would be.
Back now to criminal law, I thought it would be like in the movies. After a few hours into my criminal law module, I quickly realised that perhaps not and the reality was that I would end up a duty solicitor drinking coffee from plastic cups dealing with road traffic cases, until I made it big!
So why choose family law?
For me, it’s the variety. In my opinion, to be the best family lawyer you can be, you must be familiar with many other areas of law. In the initial meeting with a client, as well as advising them about the mechanics of the divorce, how the finances are to be resolved and how child arrangements will be dealt with, I have to cover other areas. For example, I may cover how property is owned, and whether the beneficial ownership needs to be reviewed urgently, corporate and commercial, if my clients have businesses or are involved in such, and wills, tax and probate, to ensure their assets will be dealt with how they wish on divorce and to protect them during.
I must keep up to date with not only the changes in family law but all other arears. There are developments each week in terms of family case law, but unfortunately the Government are slow to reform the law itself where it is needed. Luckily, I work for a multi-practice firm and have a number of very experienced colleagues whom I can discuss a number of matters with to ensure the client receives the most well-rounded advice possible.
No two days are the same. Every single case is different. Every client is different. The job will never be mundane, I can guarantee you of that.
Whilst I encourage all clients to settle mattes out of Court and encourage mediation and arbitration where possible, inevitably some cases end up before the Judge. I am incredibly sympathetic to how stressful an environment Court can be, and not to mention expensive, but as a lawyer, it does “hit home” that this is my forum, this is where the law is made and I could be part of the next reported case. I suppose there’s an element of satisfying my dream of being a criminal lawyer like in the movies.
The satisfaction. What makes everything worthwhile, the stress, the sleepless nights, seeing your clients at arguably their lowest point in their life, is to see them come out the other side. To secure them the financial settlement they deserve, the arrangements that are in the best interest of the children, amongst other outcomes, makes me remember why I wanted to be a family lawyer in the first place.
To see your client in a better place and knowing you were part of getting them there makes it meaningful.
Somehow that email or personal thanks from your client when the matter concludes, makes me forget the difficult days.
If you’re thinking of a career in family law, think carefully. My colleagues in other departments say regularly ‘I don’t know how you do family law’. But I like to think that makes us family lawyers even more special and a vital part in any law firm.