Anna Ferster, associate, Forsters London
My interest in law stemmed from volunteering with a local social care organisation. I enjoyed meeting people and doing my bit to help them through a difficult time. Later, when choosing my career, I wanted something that mixed this human element with an intellectual challenge – family law seemed like the perfect fit.
Law degrees have a reputation for being quite dry and boring, though that was not my experience at Birmingham University. I was able to study a wide range of legal topics from family to counter-terrorism. Although the majority of what I learnt in my degree is not used in my day-to-day practice, it definitely helped me develop a certain way of thinking which now comes as second nature. After graduation, I studied the LPC at the University of Law in Manchester. With its focus on more vocational task-based learning, this course was more relevant when starting work.
One of the hardest challenges I have faced is the increase in litigants in person on the other side of a case – a result of cuts to legal aid. Without the other party having received legal advice, negotiations can often be protracted, causing unnecessary financial and emotional costs for separating couples.
My most memorable career highlight was achieving a successful result for a client whom I had first met when I was a trainee solicitor. Accompanying them from the beginning to the end of the divorce process, and being able to achieve a positive outcome confirmed that I had chosen the right career.
The absence of no-fault divorce is something that must be legislated on. By forcing couples to ‘play the blame game’ just to get their divorce petition over the line, the current law is unhelpful in moving a couple through a difficult and emotional time.
Societal norms are constantly evolving and at times family law is struggling to keep up. The ‘modern family’, and with it issues surrounding surrogacy and cohabitation rights, are becoming more prevalent. However, the current legislation that deals with these issues is outdated. While this can be challenging for newer entrants to the profession, it can also present opportunities for solicitors to deal with unique cases and help shape the law.
With dispute resolution becoming more popular among clients, it is important that family lawyers are able to advise clients properly on their different options. At present, however, there are not enough opportunities for young lawyers to receive training in areas such as mediation or collaborative law.
I also think it is important that newly qualified family lawyers are properly trained in how to deal with the emotional side of divorce. Often clients will come to see us feeling distressed at the breakdown of their marriage and look to us for empathy as well as legal advice.