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Day in the life of a family lawyer

An overview of an average day for a family lawyer in a large regional practice

Peter is an experienced family lawyer, with 10 years PQE. He trained at a medium sized London firm, moving to his current firm upon qualifying. He works for a large regional firm with a team of 7 family lawyers plus support staff. He specialises in privately funded work with a particular focus upon financial issues.

Peter acts for clients following a relationship breakdown, in relation to married couples, civil partners and cohabiting couples. He also acts for parties in relation to claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1971 where a claim is made for financial provision by a dependent partner, spouse or family member. In addition he advises regarding child maintenance, whether it is payable via the Child Support Agency or the courts. Recently he has seen an increase in the number of instructions regarding pre-nuptial agreements (although they remain unenforceable but may be a factor taken into account by the court). Increasingly there is an international aspect to Peter’s work. Frequently clients own property overseas, have worked (or still work) in another country or one of the parties isn’t a British national. Issues of domicile and jurisdiction have an increasing prominence.

A typical day may involve the following:

  • Arrive at the local county court at 9 am to meet with client prior to a directions appointment before the district judge. Discussion with client regarding the hearing (having advised him previously what to expect) and liaising with the solicitor representing the other party to discuss the directions appointment and to seek to narrow the areas of dispute.
  • 10 am – hearing before the district judge, when directions order made by agreement and the case listed for a financial dispute resolution appointment (FDR) at a future date. Discussing outcome with client.
  • Returning to the office at 11am. Drafting attendance note recording advice, instructions and time spent on the client matter at court plus letters to client and other party’s solicitor.
  • Reading post and emails, dictating replies and returning phone calls received whilst out of the office.
  • 1 pm – attending inter-department lunch marketing meeting.
  • 2.30pm – client meeting to discuss new instructions to prepare a pre-nuptial agreement. Preparing attendance note and letter of advice thereafter.
  • 4pm – preparing a brief to counsel and enclosures for a hearing in a month’s time.
  • 5.30pm – returning client calls, responding to emails and preparing for the next days work.
  • 6pm – attending evening seminar and drinks.
  • 8pm – prepare to travel home.

The work of a family lawyer is varied and often fast paced. It isn’t for the faint hearted as client’s emotions can often run high. A steady hand and a clear and logical approach are vital. Many family lawyers will specialise in a particular area, for example finances. Whilst the reduction in the availability of legal aid has not entirely extinguished legally aided work from family law, it is more frequently found in areas such as child abduction and local authority care proceedings.

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