A day in the life of a family solicitor

You may also be interested in this post from suesspiciousminds – getting the best out of your solicitor.

Here one legal aid family solicitor shares the timetable of her typical day

7.40am I start my journey to the office by train.

8.45am I arrive at the office and start the day by looking through my post and emails having a cup of tea. I answer as much as I can before the first client of the day….

10am   I see a new client for the first time. He is here to talk about social services’ involvement with his family. He is worried as they have applied to the court to have his child removed from his care. We talk about what has happened in the past and what the situation is now.  We consider whether there are any family or friends who can help. We discuss the court process and what happens next.

11.30am I receive a phone call from a Guardian at CAFCASS asking me to represent a child in care proceedings. I am emailed the papers and start reviewing them, analysing the information for the key issues: is the child at risk, what are the local authority’s proposals for the short and long term care of the child, are any assessments needed, next steps.

12pm I leave the office to travel by train to court for a hearing. I have my lunch whilst on the train.

12.50pm I arrive at court and meet the other professionals involved for the case; the solicitors for the parents and the Local Authority. Acting for the child in the case, I meet the guardian to take some up to date instructions.

1.45pm The professionals convene to discuss the case and to see if there is an agreed way forward today.  We consider: is an order agreed, is it agreed where the child will live, are contact arrangements agreed, is the timetable for the case and assessments agreed.

Whilst at court I keep an eye on my emails on my phone for any pressing matters which need attention.

3.30pm We present the case to the Judge for consideration. The Judge gives further direction to the case and makes a decision about matters which are not agreed.

4.15pm I start the journey back to the office.

5.10pm I arrive back at the office.  I check what has happened since I have been out. Make some phone calls.  I then start to draft an application for the instruction of an expertI prepare my papers for court the next day.

6.45pm I start the journey home. Whilst on the train I think about my work for the next day and make a list.

8pm I arrive home

Further reading

You may also be interested in this research from Bristol University in 2013 ‘Just Following Instructions? The representation of parents in care proceedings’.

The findings of the research were summarised in Family Law Week:

  • The operation of the care proceedings system is heavily dependent on a small number of specialist solicitors who devote most of their time to this work. Not all are members of the Law Society Children Panel.
  • Lawyers doing this work, including judges and local authority representatives, viewed the State’s powers as draconian, justifying parents’ absolute rights to contest, however hopeless their case.
  • Parents were able to find committed and able lawyers, generally attended court hearings and most remained engaged in their case.
  • Solicitors carried very heavy workloads, sustained by their commitment to this work, so as to meet the demands of cases and maintain profitability within the fixed fee regime.
  • Solicitors aimed to enable parent clients to understand the process and make it work in their favour. Most also felt some responsibility to consider the child’s welfare.
  • Most lawyers gave realistic advice and identified options for parents. They stressed to parents the importance of co-operation with the local authority.
  • Negotiation between lawyers had a greater role than judicial case management in shaping the progress of cases.

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