Recently, I have been involved in quite a number of matters which required a much higher level of sensitivity due to the individual facts of the case.
I found myself having conversations that I didn’t ever expect to have whilst I had my ‘professional hat’ on. At law school we are taught how to interview a client, how to build a professional relationship with them and how to obtain instructions, but we are not taught how to reassure a victim of domestic violence or how to calm a spouse who has just discovered that their partner is cheating on them. Those are skills we have to learn and develop on our own.
Although I think there is an element of ‘learning on the job’, I strongly believe that with most family solicitors, these are skills that come naturally to them.
Family matters must always be treated with a higher degree of sensitivity, the very nature of family law is that it is highly personal. Not only are you dealing with a client’s assets but you are also dealing with their lives. When asked what is most important to most of us, although our careers will be a factor (especially in the legal sector!) most of us will say the wellbeing and happiness of those we love ranks fairly high.
Family law therefore is at the heart of people. The level in which people are invested is so much higher than other areas of law and with this comes the necessity to treat each situation not only with respect but with compassion.
My time at Stowe Family Law has really made me think about the role of a family lawyer. Family solicitors very often end up playing the role of legal advisor, therapist and sometimes friend.
Family matters are often protracted and over time a relationship is forged between client and solicitor. The nature of the relationship between solicitor and client will differ from that you would find in a commercial transaction.
A family solicitor knows the intimate details of a client’s marriage or the personal history which has led to them seeing a solicitor and very often will see the client at their most vulnerable. The family law solicitor will often find themselves in a situation where they have to change their tact constantly throughout the day, from being firm and sometimes aggressive with the other side of the matter to taking a more delicate approach with your own client.