Members of the Family Section Advisory Group share what they have learned in 2015 and what they’ll be focusing on in the year ahead
I learned exactly what was involved in setting up a law firm from scratch. It required a huge amount of effort, I was constantly learning about things of which I previously had no knowledge (practice management systems, running the firm’s bank accounts, VAT returns, company incorporation, regulation by Bar Standards Board, insurance, creating policies and procedures, employing people, book keeping, creating a website and so on) and it is probably the most stressful – but most rewarding – thing I have ever done.
Nothing stays the same for ever. Adapt to changes whether that is in the way you draft your Form E because financial papers are now excluded from the bundle, or the way you are effectively communicating with your clients. Reviewing standard letters and leaflets that you drafted a while ago can really bring it home to you how your style changes and improves. And my final lesson would be on communication. Text and email are great but sometimes, picking up the phone is even better.
My biggest lesson from 2015 has been learning the benefits of building professional relationships with your peers. It is easy to think of other family lawyers simply as your competition, but I believe that you miss out on a great deal if you have this type of restricted view. Other family lawyers can be a source of support and advice, and by working together you can help to stay updated on the latest law and practical changes that are taking place across the country.
This is where membership of the Law Society Family Section and being part of the Advisory Group has been so useful for me over the last year. Your peers can also provide a valuable referral network for work where there are conflicts, or where a recommendation is likely to be made for the other side in a case (such as collaborative law, pre-nuptial agreements, cohabitation agreements etc.).
My biggest lesson from 2015 is to take regular breaks and not to burn the candle at both ends! There is so much to do and as I’m self-employed I like to take on a variety of work.
Last year I taught the LPC family law elective in Derby, and taught CPD courses across the country from Penrith to Southampton. I’ve been working on content for my new training company and keeping up with my clients. In amongst all of that I have taken a role with CILEX working on the Level 6 family law exam and I’ve been doing consultancy work!
This can have a terrible effect on my health: by the time Christmas came around I was exhausted. I’ll make sure not to do that this year.
I try not to make resolutions as I’m not convinced that they bring about real change. I have an end of year review where I look at what has worked in the past year and what hasn’t. I then stop doing the things that haven’t worked and do more of the things that have. That way I feel that the methods are tried and tested. I know that new year’s resolutions have a short time span for me – I can’t seem to muster up a genuine intent to keep up with them!
This year I’m going to be much stricter with my diary planning, if I stick to my plans then things seem to turn out OK. I have a tendency to want to squeeze things into my diary that don’t really belong there. I do it to help people out and because I have difficulties in saying no!