Justine Cadbury, PSL
Why did you decide to become a PSL within family law?
I was attracted by the variety of the role and the opportunity, not just to use the legal skills and knowledge which I already have, but to learn about other aspects of the business. I was excited by the challenge of working in a different way, but also, I must admit, the idea of working within family law, but not being always beholden to paying clients, was a big draw as well.
What does your role entail?
My key responsibility is to provide technical support for Stowe’s Lawyers and Legal Assistants. This involves making sure everyone is kept up to date with all relevant legal developments; working with the lawyers to ensure they are on track with their continuing competence development; and helping individual lawyers with research into particular legal queries. I also maintain and update legal precedents and our knowledge bank.
What part of your job do you enjoy or dislike the most and why?
I really enjoy it when I am able to help lawyers find answers to tricky research queries. I understand the pressures they are under, especially when most of them are working from home and don’t have colleagues in the office to discuss aspects of their cases with, and it’s really rewarding when I feel that I have (hopefully) made their working lives a little bit easier.
What have been your most memorable cases to date and why?
There is one case which has always stuck in my mind, because it was so very sad. As a very junior barrister, I represented a father whose young daughter had been subjected to parental alienation by the mother, in the days when courts were very slow to act on this. Over some months we went to hearing after hearing, and at every stage the mother’s behaviour was criticised and the father vindicated. Ultimately the daughter had been so damaged by the mother’s behaviour that the father, who was totally committed to his daughter, gave up, believing it would hurt his daughter more to continue with the fight than to wait until she was old enough to make up her own mind. I often wonder what happened to them, and hope that by now he has managed to reconnect with his daughter and that she knows how hard he fought for her.
What 3 qualities do you think every family lawyer needs and why?
- Empathy – It’s so important to be able to gain your client’s trust quickly, and I think this involves being able to understand what’s important to them and what’s most concerning. You need to be able to put yourself in their shoes, whilst retaining an element of detachment.
- Diligence – family law is fantastically rewarding, but it’s also hard work. For your clients the stakes can be very high, and there are no real short cuts. To be a good family lawyer, you have to be on top of the detail of your case and of the law, you need to manage your workload efficiently and be responsive to clients who can often be very stressed and emotional, and therefore demanding.
- Pragmatism– you need to be able to handle your client’s problems in a practical and sensible way which suits their particular circumstances. You may need to persuade your client to be pragmatic too, and not get too hung up on principles, which can often end up being very costly.
What advice would you give to a trainee who is thinking about specialising in family law?
Family law is a wonderful specialism if you are interested in people. Learn as much as you can, say yes to every opportunity to go to seminars and conferences. Try to build up your network – get to know other lawyers by joining organisations like Resolution; the professional family law community is quite small, and it helps to have good relationships with others who work within it.
How do you relax?
With three children, a dog, two ponies and a small, but growing, herd of pygmy goats I seem to spend most of my time outside of work running around after kids – both of the two- and four-legged variety! But when they are all asleep, I love a good book!
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
I love to travel and visit different countries and cultures, but I really hate flying, so it would be the power of teleportation!