Tell Citywealth’s readers about your role.
I am an associate at Newton Kearns, a specialist family law firm in central London. We provide discreet advice to high-net-worth and high-profile clients on domestic and international family law issues. This includes divorce, financial relief proceedings, private children cases, and nuptial agreements.
My caseload is varied and I tend to spend about half my time assisting partners at the firm on some of our bigger cases and half my time working on my own cases.
What are the most important skills and personal qualities for a lawyer specialised in Family and Matrimonial?
Family lawyers need to be empathetic whilst also having the skills to critically analyse clients' particular circumstances to give the best advice. Every client is different and will require a specific focus and a degree of creativity to facilitate the best settlement for them.
Another key skill for a family lawyer is to be able to manage clients' expectations which often are shaped by what they see in the media and hear from friends. If in doubt, always seek specialist advice.
What is the biggest challenge you are currently facing in your sector?
The impact of Covid-19 on an already backlogged court system has been particularly hard. Not only it can take many months for applications to be processed and hearings to be listed, but it is also becoming increasingly common for hearings to be cancelled at the last minute due to lack of judicial availability. This is particularly difficult for clients for obvious reasons.
That said, there are many alternative forms of dispute resolution (such as mediation, private FDR hearings, arbitration) which work just as well for the right case and usually end up being quicker.
Are your clients behaving differently in the present era?
It is an exciting time for family lawyers as no fault divorce is coming in on 6 April 2022. Accordingly, I have seen many clients in the last six months who have chosen to delay petitioning for divorce until the new law comes in to avoid the apportioning of blame. This is great progress as avoiding ‘fault based’ divorce makes it much more likely that parties will be able to sort out any other issues amicably.
Best and worst parts of your job.
The best part is definitely the satisfaction gained from helping people through what is probably one of the most difficult moments in their lives. Also, we have a great team at Newton Kearns, so although a bit cliché, it is fair to say I enjoy going to work.
For me, the worst bit is when separated parents become so polarised that their child(ren) get lost in the middle. The main principle of family law is that children come first but it can be difficult for parents to cut through other emotions.
What is the most valuable piece of advice you have been given?
Never stop asking questions.
Ali Granville is a member of our Leaders List.