Family solicitor, Cardiff

I’d always wanted to be an author until, at the age of 12, I became a child of contentious divorce. I landed inside a family solicitor’s office, witnessing first-hand the emotional dependence placed on lawyers to resolve my future. I knew then that law would be on the cards. Six years later, I adored A-level law, which quickly diverted me from English literature.

Hannah Newberry

I studied my undergraduate degree full-time while bartending, and my LPC part-time while in the office. It was a hectic five years.

My first full-time role was in conveyancing. While I wasn’t convinced that property or land law was my calling (as my university results dictated), I was eager not to confine myself and also to attempt non-litigious work. After two years, I realised that a shift was necessary. I jumped at the opportunity to become a family paralegal.

Lockdown hit quickly and I was a ‘newbie’. I had secured the role with no family experience – just a promise that this was the law for me and an assurance that I would buy the practice books a year early and get reading. Job security was the elephant in the room at all times. I worked every hour and was eager to learn everything possible, including delving into more taxing cases to prove that I was a ‘keeper’.

Six months on, I received an unexpected training contract on a regular Friday Zoom. With a sizeable workload, new responsibility and the anxiety of in-house advocacy, my trainee period was the hardest and most self-critical year of my career. The benefit came when I qualified in January 2022 – with no shift in complexity but with a lot more freedom and ownership.

'Cardiff is full of young professionals – you feel supported and established, not a small fish in a big pond. After I began networking I realised how much our legal community has to offer'

I am grateful for family law. I have been both advocate and adviser, both participant and subject, under the same court veil. It’s a strange feeling to grow up and have clients with children who may find the law appealing like I did.

I specialise in private family. This includes financial issues and children on divorce, but also separation issues (TOLATA, deeds/agreements), contentious matters (occupation and non-molestation orders) and amicable cases (pre- or post-nups). Family law is dynamic and unpredictable. I have collaborative discussions, heated ex-parte applications, and everything in between.

The bonus to being in a career that I love is the city I work in. Cardiff is full of young professionals – you feel supported and established, not a small fish in a big pond. After I began networking (quite late thanks to Covid) I realised how much our legal community has to offer in terms of size, nightlife, and general events.

I became chair of the Cardiff Junior Lawyers Division last October. We’ve had a hugely successful year – with the annual Great Legal Quiz raising £1,000 for the Access to Justice Foundation, our first Welsh-language panel event, and an anonymous Q&A between counsel and solicitors. Every event sold out. We collaborated with Cardiff University for an informal student workshop – answering questions about the gritty and onerous realities of training. The network has expanded tenfold since I joined two years ago. We are being invited to numerous events out of catchment, in London for example, simply due to the engagement here. It’s incredibly rewarding. The JLD has contributed hugely to my confidence and given me connections you wouldn’t ordinarily make.

I also sit with the Cardiff and District Law Society on behalf of the JLD. I ensure that junior lawyers get their opinions and events promoted, to connections who can refer other juniors or would like to get more involved in providing a ‘leg up’.

Having a presence in the city and showing your appreciation for the many events is crucial. I was fortunate to be co-opted on to the Law Society’s National Board for Wales, representing the views of practitioners, the profession generally, and our priorities as regional Welsh solicitors. We have recently attended a consultation concerning technology, access to justice and ‘legal deserts’ in Wales. Being trusted to deliver input that important is an amazing career trajectory, and something that the 12-year-old me would have coveted (which is ultimately all that matters).