Tell Citywealth’s readers about your role.
I am head of family law at Howard Kennedy, working with a team of exceptionally fabulous colleagues, many of whom have followed in my footsteps and have come through the youth ranks at the firm having started here as trainees. I act for high net worth and often high-profile individuals, with a particular focus on complex financial remedy work and private law children disputes, including Schedule 1 claims for unmarried parents. My practice also includes nuptial agreements, cohabitation, adoption and surrogacy.
Family law is an area of law that intersects with tax law, trust law, wealth management, fertility science, reputational management, residential conveyancing, company law, privacy law, immigration, the criminal justice system and innumerable others. The work of a family solicitor is fast-paced and never dull. Knowing when to bring in colleagues and other professional advisers is critical to my role.
I also take very seriously what I view as my duty to ensure that all members of the team become Arsenal supporters (if they aren’t already).
Talk us through a typical day.
Once upon a time, I commuted each weekday to Howard Kennedy's glass offices at 1 London Bridge, and sat down at my corner desk to answer emails while looking out towards the cathedral dome of St Paul's. I would dash back and forth from the office to attend court or have in-person meetings with clients. We probably all hugged goodbye back then, too. My memory of the pre-pandemic era may or may not be correct, because while I do still regularly attend the office, I also now spend a few days a month working from home, swapping the St Paul's view for the cathedral that is the Emirates Stadium.
A typical day involves meetings with clients and their advisers, preparing for and attending court hearings, dealing with negotiations and settlement meetings, drafting letters and documents, speaking on podcasts/webinars, writing articles, brainstorming fun networking events (such as life drawings classes). I also supervise the junior solicitors in their work and check in several times a day on my team, whether remotely or in person, to see how they, their families and (very importantly) their pets are. As head of team, there is also the business and financial planning aspect to the role. On the face of it, that sounds less glamorous but it is an integral part of running a successful team.
When I asked my team if I had missed anything out, I was reminded that I never start the working day without a soya drink. It’s stood me in good stead for all these years!
What’s keeping your clients up at night?
Clients shouldn’t be kept awake at night – unless they are out partying (in which case we want to be invited!). Family solicitors are often crisis purchases at difficult periods of clients' lives. Part of our role is to take the pressure and stress away and to help them navigate their way through the process. Peace of mind whilst we take the burden from them hopefully helps them get a good night's sleep!
Alongside your family practice, you also hold the position of co-head of the sports group. Tell us more about how these two areas overlap within your practice.
I advise and look after a number of individuals associated with the sports industry, including sport stars, their families, agents and media personalities. My connections in and knowledge of the industry enable me to understand their needs and the legal issues facing them. Some of those clients need family law advice. Others require the assistance of colleagues in other teams and I then adopt a client relationship role as the client goes on a Howard Kennedy journey around the firm.
What is the biggest disruptor to your industry?
The biggest disruptor is the biggest disruption, which was of course the pandemic. From the day we packed up the office for a working from home 'trial' in March 2020, the way the family justice system worked had to change immediately, which meant our work had to change. Some of this has been for the better, such as accelerating the courts' electronic capabilities (no more thousand-page court bundles printed off x3 and couriered out) and moving minor hearings online (no more travelling across London for 20 minutes of court time). Yet some of it has been a challenge, such as having to meet a client for the first time over video call. Those meetings are often very emotional, and frequently people are sitting down to express what has been burdening them for the very first time. Cutting across with 'sorry, didn't quite catch that about your kids, you froze at 'alpaca'' is never ideal.
Most memorable work moment?
I always wish I had kept a list. There are so many. Some serious. Others pure fun. Being made up to head of the family law team in 2016 is up there. It has given me the platform to embrace the vision I had for the team and to drive it forward. I take real pride in what we have achieved and in seeing the careers of everyone in the team flourish. Final entry of note in the top ten of memorable moments was my first reported case of UL v BK back in 2013 which is the main authority on obtaining a freezing injunction and also provided guidance on how to deal with the wrongful removal of a spouse's confidential information. Off the back of that case, I have developed something of a niche practice advising clients on those issues.
What do you do to switch off at the end of the day?
Football. Ballet. Out with friends for a drink (always a glass of rosé). Meetings where I am on committees. Generally not all in one evening. And I never go to bed without watching that evening's episode of EastEnders, no matter what time I get home.
If you weren’t working in the legal sector, what else might you be doing?
An interior designer. Through many trials and tribulations, I am now nearly done in my renovation of my own period property. Anyone who knows me will realise that I am as likely to pick a neutral colour scheme as I am to switch my allegiance from Arsenal to Tottenham, which will never, ever happen. My clients in my interior-designed-alternate-reality must be ready for bold designs and bright colours.