May 08, 2013— read in full
My job explained: Family lawyer
Sara Mullen works as a family solicitor for a London-based firm. Here she talks about her job and what she thinks of having the media present in family courts.
What is your typical day like?
I get into the office at about 9:10am each day, reply to emails and then start on my list of things to do. This might involve seeing clients, going to court, dictating letters or preparing my cases.
However, sometimes I never even get past the first thing on my list because a client will call with an emergency situation, i.e. “My ex is about to take my child out of the country without my consent”. I have to drop every other urgent thing while I start my application to obtain a court order as soon as necessary.
I finish on most days at 6pm the earliest.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Knowing that I have played a really important role at a critical/vulnerable time in a client’s life.
Can you share an experience that has been a real highlight of your job so far?
Going to a child protection conference with a client who was HIV positive and had had drugs issues in her past and the local authority was thinking of issuing care proceedings for her child.
I managed to persuade the local authority to give her a second chance by instituting a plan of action for her before they took the next step of court proceedings.
It was touching when the client hugged me outside after the meeting and said that the outcome would have been completely different if I had not been there.
What are the challenging parts of your job and how do you manage them?
Juggling what is urgent when everything is urgent! I have to make sure I deal with what is critical and then work my way back.
What do you think are the key skills you need to become a family lawyer?
Tenacity, understanding and empathy without becoming emotionally involved in your client’s life (You do hear some extremely sad tales). Also, organisational skills, the ability to think on your feet and multi-task.
What top tips would you give to a young person who wants to become a family lawyer?
You need to want to work hard no matter what your circumstances are and have a never-giving-up attitude.
Recently journalists were allowed to enter into family court proceedings what do you think of this move?
It is obviously to make the process more transparent but you have to take into account that some clients are vulnerable and this can be a scary prospect for them.