Looking back and moving forward

family law

As the old saying goes, time flies. It’s been quite a year at Stowe Family Law and time really has flown by in an exciting and challenging blur. It’s hard to believe that it was only February that we received the investment from Livingbridge to support our future growth plans and at the same time I also had the privilege of becoming Senior Partner to lead an exceptional team of solicitors. Stepping into the role that Marilyn Stowe had fulfilled with such great success for over 30 years was no easy task!

Over this last year, and under the guidance and boundless energy of our Chief Executive Charles Hartwell, we have opened another three offices: in Beverley, Esher and most recently, central Manchester. In February 2018, we open our next office – in Bristol in the very beautiful Queen Square. I have had the pleasure of visiting that city a few times over the last few months to meet the new team and visit our new prospective offices and I am really excited about the prospect of delivering our specialist service into that city.

One of the greatest assets of this firm is its people: there’s the fabulous reception team who daily speak to clients both existing and new; the administrative support team; and last but not least the solicitors. We now have 49 solicitors and will very soon have over 50 specialist family lawyers all selected not only for their legal knowledge and skills, but also their ability to relate to our clients and understand and support them through what can be an extremely difficult emotional journey.

I always find it amusing when law firms boast of the number of years of experience they have by aggregating the total number of years held by each member of their team. Is a law firm any better for having 150 years of cumulative experience? It is of course somewhat illusory. At Stowe Family Law however, we have such a wealth of talent and experience that we can always find a solicitor who is right for each client. These resources will only get stronger as we continue to grow.

As we grow we remain focused on delivering the best possible experience for every one of our clients.  We believe every individual’s case is unique. It’s important that we take the time to listen to what our clients need and tailor our approach to deliver results that are right for them. Whilst the size of the business is significantly larger than the firm I joined back in 1999 when we had one office and five solicitors, we maintain the same spirit of a close-knit team who all care very much about our clients and ensuring we get the very best outcome for them.

So what will the next 12 months bring? Firstly, within the firm we will be adopting new technology to further enhance our clients’ experience. We will also be continuing to expand our national presence, bringing our specialist advice and support to other parts of the country. As a result I look forward to welcoming more solicitors into the firm.

On a local level we will be launching some exciting initiatives, with the focus on providing support to people going through separation issues. As a firm we will also be embarking on some challenging but fun fundraising events for national and local charities. On a national level we also wish to lend our voice to campaigns we have already been supporting. We will continue to support the call for reform to divorce laws, encouraging the government to enable couples to go their separate ways without attributing blame if they do not want to do so or having to put their lives on hold for two years.

We will also continue to support the call for rights for cohabiting couples. It is an area that needs to be handled carefully. Couples who live together cannot suddenly find themselves acquiring or conversely being exposed to financial rights and obligations without being able to opt in or out but, given the ever-increasing number of people who choose to live together but not engage in a formal marriage or civil partnership ceremony, they should be able to freely enter into a relationship where some core financial obligations arise – for example in relation to property. Whether these obligations should mirror those that would arise on divorce is part of the conversation that needs to be had.

Lastly we await with interest the new specialist financial remedy courts that will be opening around the country in the coming months. Our court system is woefully under-resourced and the diverse nature of work that comes before Judges makes it impossible for them to specialise in all areas of law. To have dedicated Judges who can deal with financial remedy cases can only be a good thing – firstly for people unfortunate enough to find themselves in court and also for family lawyers who are looking for specialist guidance and decision-making to untangle difficult disputes.

All of the team at Stowe Family Law are very much looking forward to the challenges and opportunities that 2018 will bring, and we thank all the followers of the blog for their ongoing support.

Image by Jdmoar via Flickr

Julian Hawkhead

Julian Hawkhead is Stowe Family Law’s Senior Partner and is based in our Leeds office.

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