A week after Hazel joined the Family Law Partners team, we asked her a series of questions about why she was attacted to the firm and what she would encourage clients to look for in a family lawyer.
What attracted you to FLP?
I had the advantage of previously working with two of the firm’s directors and knew they were people I could work well with. I respect their approach to family work, how they treat their clients and I have tracked the firm’s development. In such a short space of time they have made Family Law Partners a leading specialist family law practice and I’m really excited to be joining them.
The firm is heavily focussed on Dispute Resolution, whilst still very experienced in the court process. There are five Collaborative Lawyers, three Mediators, and an Arbitrator (who sits as a part-time Judge in Family cases). FLP has significant expertise and strength in depth so it was not a difficult choice in terms of identifying the firm as the right place for me to work. I was also enthused by the fact that as a firm they keep pushing themselves and threats to some are seen as opportunities to them. They are not afraid of making changes if it works for their clients. I see that as vital for any firm and FLP’s approach was more aligned with my mindset of the need to adapt to the needs of your clients and the market.
What do you see as the advantages of a niche, specialist practice compared with a full service firm – both for clients, but also you as a lawyer?
I’ve primarily worked in high street practices. Both were well-respected practices in their geographical areas and leaving my last firm was a difficult choice for me personally. Nevertheless, as a niche practice I can see how FLP are able to focus all their resources on the needs of their family clients – from the business strategy, to technology. They provide a bespoke service that fits their clients’ specific needs. There is always the need for compromise in a high street practice, with different departments vying to secure resources for their area of work. That is hard to manage and leads to delay and inefficiencies. For me, I knew that by joining FLP the resources were there for me to offer a service that will meet my clients’ specific requirements. The focus and attention is purely and simply on clients who require advice on a family law related issues.
What values should clients look for in a family lawyer?
Clients need to feel comfortable with the lawyer they instruct. They often end up telling their lawyers things that they haven’t shared with their friends and family and they need to build up a rapport and trust. After all it is not always good news or advice the lawyer has to share. They should look for a solution-focussed lawyer, not a problem maker. My advice would be to choose a specialist and member of Resolution. Ask what added value the lawyer or their firm can offer. At FLP technology is seen as a vital asset to improve the client’s experience, to make the process quicker and to help reduce the client’s costs.
It’s also really important the lawyers and their firm are able to offer a range of process options so that one can be found to suit the client and not the lawyer. Integrity and honesty are givens, but so is experience. My advice to anyone looking for family law expertise is look around, look for external validation of what the lawyer/their firm say they can do and think carefully before making your choice. Above all else, make a choice that suits you and not others.
How do you get the best out of clients?
I think clients respond best to clear and practical advice, knowing that I have listened to what is important to them. Listening is an important part of the job as it means I understand what is important to the client and so I can help manage their expectations. My role is to support the client in making the best choices they can at a difficult time. It might mean getting someone to help them with their emotions or an aspect of their finances e.g., pensions. I get the best out of clients by understanding them and their needs and tailoring my approach accordingly. For me the key is to work as a team to ensure that with my help they to start the next phase of their life in the best possible position.