Solicitor specialising in mental capacity and Court of Protection work, Manchester

The challenge of the law and the chance of working for individuals and families inspired me to become a lawyer and specialise in Court of Protection (CoP) work. I never really considered anything else. It is a cliche to say that you want to become a lawyer to help people and make a difference but that is what attracted me. I have no regrets.

I trained and qualified at Pannone LLP, spending time in the commercial litigation, family and CoP departments. Rachel Dobson oversaw the training programme at Pannone and went on to support Hugh Jones in setting up this practice in 2013.

Within days of working in the CoP department I knew that I had found the area in which I wanted to develop my career. I fell in love with the work instantly. Hugh Jones, founder of Hugh Jones Solicitors, was head of department at the time. He has guided my legal career from the outset.

In CoP work, we are often helping clients for many years, sometimes throughout their lifetime. As a trusted adviser we are there for the day to day, the big milestones – first homes, first jobs, marriage, children, significant birthdays – and supporting clients through their most vulnerable times. There is a special bond and relationship between solicitor and client which is unique to this practice area.

When working with those lacking capacity, we live the client’s life with them – any challenge they face we experience by their side. There are difficult days. The work can be challenging, but our clients and their families amaze us every day with their strength and determination.

I manage the expert witness department. Myself, Hugh Jones and Elizabeth Hughes provide ligation support in the form of expert evidence in relation to CoP, professional trusteeship and deputyship costs. We are instructed by both claimant and defendant firms in the highest-value personal injury and clinical negligence cases. As an independent practice which specialises in the CoP field, we are uniquely placed to undertake this work.

'When working with those lacking capacity, we live the client’s life with them – any challenge they face we experience by their side'

I am extremely proud about the work that we undertake as expert witnesses. Our expert evidence is a reflection of the work undertaken at this firm, the expertise of our staff and our client-centred approach.

The introduction of the Mental Capacity Act in 2005 marked a turning point in the in the statutory rights of those who lack capacity. Capacity was to be presumed unless proven otherwise. The act is predicated on the concept of empowerment of incapacitated individuals. Decision-making was to be supported to enable the individual, as far as possible, to make their own decisions. Unwise decisions were not to be used as indicators of a lack of capacity. Like others, those with impairments were entitled to take risks and to make poor decisions. When a person was found to lack capacity for a specific decision, the ‘best interests’ process was to be utilised to ensure that their wishes and feelings were central to the decision being made. The act placed the individual at the heart of decision-making.

We have a fantastic piece of legislation with the potential to transform the lives of many. That said, I believe there is still a significant level of work to be undertaken in terms of education to ensure that the empowering ethos of the act is delivered. The act must be central to the working lives of all who work with incapacitated individuals. I am also firmly of the view that the professional costs of practitioners working in this field should be subject to greater scrutiny.

Covid-19 has highlighted the vulnerability of our client group. Now is a time for reflection and improvement. In my view it is the duty of all practitioners working in this field to deliver the empowering ethos of the act and to provide the very best service for their clients in the most cost-effective way. Be the best you can be for your clients; they don’t deserve anything less.

My recent promotion to firm director has always been my goal and I am immensely proud. Having worked with Hugh and Rachel throughout my career, they were aware of my aspirations and have worked with me to guide me to this stage. They promised in my first interview that they would support my career progression and have stuck to their word! I am also extremely lucky to have the very best family who have supported me all the way.