My interest in other people and concern for them pushed me towards a legal career – it helps to be nosy by nature in family law. I still work at the firm I trained with. Over the four seats I occupied during my training, I worked with leading individuals in their fields.
Cases spanning several jurisdictions are the hardest challenges I have faced as a lawyer. For example, working on a freezing order involving Hong Kong, Switzerland and the west coast of Canada. This involved three time zones and meant that there were only four hours each day when the files were not being worked on.
I have always worked in the family law arena, but the nature of the advice we give has meant that I have collaborated with colleagues and other lawyers in virtually every area of law. I have enjoyed opportunities to work with foreign legal systems, as well as picking up financial acumen, people management and counselling skills.
I am very proud of having won lawcareers.net’s training partner of the year award for two consecutive years, and being made a member of the International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers aged 39.
Another memorable highlight of my career was giving a lecture in Italian on trusts and divorce, not having spoken Italian for six years.
The law in relation to cohabitation is my least favourite law. If a 20-year relationship ends, then unless a couple jointly own the shared property or can show that they contributed to it, one of them is in danger of walking away with nothing. But if the relationship is intact and the partner dies, then the survivor can claim against the estate. It cannot be right that couples are better off if one of them dies, but may be left high and dry if they separate when they are both alive.
Time to think has been lost. The speed of turnaround is now expected to be instant and clients are accustomed to being serviced every day of the week. Also, an element of the personal touch has been sacrificed in the use of email. I still try to speak directly to people.
The positive side to modern communication is the ability to work in an international arena and to communicate with clients and fellow professionals more quickly. In family law, there are now lots of different processes and opportunities offering more choice to clients, such as mediation and arbitration before couples go to court.
As a family lawyer, you need to be a jack of all trades, as we deal with so many different issues and need to be alert to ‘red flags’ to ensure our clients get the right advice.
I hope that the law continues to be respected and that the profession maintains its integrity. I also hope that it opens up to all those who would like to enter the profession, irrespective of their personal financial position.