Senior partner, Rayden Solicitors
I set up Rayden Solicitors in August 2006. The year before, my eldest child had just begun school in St Albans and I was concerned about the prospect of commuting into London four days a week with three young children, particularly one whose school day ended at 3pm. During my maternity leave, I reconsidered my values and what I wanted in my working and professional life. I was not ready to leave family law but wanted to find a way to provide top-quality advice to my clients while also enabling me to continue to live in the countryside and see my children.
It was relatively easy to set up my practice as I was the sole employee when I set it up. I spent my year of maternity leave developing systems and processes. I was then ready to start the business. The firm had a slow and steady growth pattern for the first five years, by which time I was working three to four full days per week and had about six members of staff.
Now that my son is 16, I work full-time in the business. I aim to work on fee-earning matters for 60% of the time. The other 40% is dealing with management issues and developing the firm’s strategy. I am on hand to all of my clients and staff whenever they wish. A typical week at work could involve a couple of new client meetings, one or two existing client meetings and two conferences with counsel. I am always scouting for new offices and business ideas, and spend at least one day a week discussing opportunities for strategic growth with my finance/marketing team or the partners. As lockdown has eased, I am in London about two days a week and in one of our six other offices the rest of the time.
For the first six weeks of the pandemic, it was immensely stressful. Our clients were at a very stressful point in their lives, and they looked to us for a calm solution. It was unnerving not to be able to tell a client whether their court hearing would be going ahead, and whether the courts were able to use the telephone system. However, from May 2020 onwards, the courts became more organised and there was more certainty for all of our clients.
'There have been discussions about whether remote hearings can or should continue. I hope that the efficiencies that can be gained from having a short directions hearing heard on time will not be lost'
We did not have to furlough a single member of staff and the whole team pitched in with an amazing sense of positivity. We were able to have all staff working remotely from home within three days.
Family law work during the pandemic has been an opportunity to promote alternative dispute resolution. I am pleased to see that more firms are getting involved in arbitration, mediation and collaborative law. I am also delighted to see that the family courts are now embracing remote hearings. There has been a number of discussions about whether remote hearings can or should continue. I hope that the efficiencies that can be gained from having a short directions hearing heard on time will not be lost. There is definitely a place for in-person meetings. Indeed, I have continued to see clients in person for most of the year as many have been living at home with the partner from whom they wish to separate, so a remote meeting via zoom has not been possible.
Rayden Solicitors won a Law Society award in 2020 for excellence in marketing and communications. ‘Silver Linings’ [the firm’s brand identity] illustrates the significant emotional and life-changing upheaval our clients face but also shows that there can be a ‘Silver Lining’ behind every cloud, as we aim to deliver a better future for clients after their relationship breakdown. We based the theme on our experiences with clients and their feedback. It was important to create a brand that was non-threatening, and that debunked the myth that professional services providers only ever use staid corporate imagery or undertake very traditional marketing.
Our Rayden Penguin imagery embodies our core values of clarity, commitment and confidence. When we decided on the brand we also considered it very important that our imagery should be gender neutral, engaging, approachable, but also thought provoking. We are also very conscious that when marketing the business we need to do so without ‘popularising’ the concept of divorce. Family law is a very emotive subject, so our brand needs to appeal across multiple stakeholder audiences and be adaptable.