An Insight into the Family team at Michelmores - for prospective Trainee Solicitors and Paralegals
In September 2022, I joined the Family team at Michelmores for the first seat of my Training Contract. Until joining the team, I had never studied Family Law, so I was a little unsure about the type of work I would be getting involved in. The aim of this article is to give prospective Trainee Solicitors and Paralegals who are interested in Family Law, and who like me, have not studied it on their LLB or LPC, an insight into the team and the type of work we are involved in.
Overview of the Team
The team is headed by Partner, Daniel Eames, and has grown rapidly over recent years, now operating from the Firm's London, Exeter, Bristol, Cheltenham and Sidmouth offices on a range of national and international matters.
The team has expertise in a range of family matters, both contentious and non-contentious, and work for a variety of clients, including high and ultra-high net worth individuals. Examples of the type of contentious work the team does include:
- divorce – we advise clients on all stages of a divorce from petition/application to decree absolute/final order
- financial arrangements – we advise clients on the financial aspects of their divorce, for example, we advise them on how marital and pre/post marital assets can be divided between the parties; we negotiate financial settlements on their behalf; we draw up financial agreements and we advise clients in relation to contested financial proceedings
- children proceedings – we act for clients on a range of private matters involving children, for example, we negotiate contact arrangements on behalf of clients, and we advise clients on applications for child arrangement orders and child maintenance orders
Other contentious work includes advising clients in relation to cohabitation disputes and advising clients in relation to injunctions, such as non-molestation orders and occupation orders.
The non-contentious work involves:
- drafting pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements (which set out how the parties to a marriage intend their finances/assets to be divided between them on divorce); and
- drafting cohabitation agreements (which set out how cohabitants intend their finances/assets to be divided between them during the period of cohabitation and upon termination of their relationship).
Paralegal and Trainee Tasks
In terms of the specific work that Paralegals and Trainees participate in, we assist with a wide variety of tasks, for example:
- taking new telephone enquiries
- drafting scope of works
- liaising with Chambers to instruct Counsel
- research tasks
- drafting witness statements
- drafting applications
- drafting letters
- attending meetings and hearings, including taking attendance notes
- diarising Court deadlines
- liaising with the other side/third parties
The Trainee in Family tends to assist with contentious matters only. However, for trainees who have a particular interest in the non-contentious side of Family Law, there is the option to do a seat in Asset Protection, which is a split seat across the Family team and the Tax, Trusts, and Succession team. The work the Trainee in Asset Protection focuses on includes:
- drafting pre and post nuptial agreements
- drafting wills
- drafting trust documents
- drafting loan agreements
It is possible to undertake a seat in Family and a seat in Asset Protection if you are interested in experiencing both the contentious and non-contentious aspects of Family Law.
Recent Team Highlights
The team has gone from strength to strength in recent years, with recent highlights including:
- achieving the following team rankings for 2023:
- Family (Southwest) – Tier 1 – Legal 500
- Family/Matrimonial (Bristol and Surrounds) – Band 3 - Chambers and Partners
- achieving the following individual rankings for 2023:
- Daniel Eames 'Next Generation Partner' – Legal 500
- Daniel Eames 'Family (Bristol and Surrounds)' – Band 1 Chambers and Partners
- Sarah Green, 'Associate to Watch' – Chambers and Partners
- Sarah Green 'Rising Star' – Legal 500
- Pippa Allsop 'Rising Star' – Legal 500
- winning a Court of Appeal case on international child maintenance. You can read Daniel Eames' summary here.
One of the key reasons I find the work so interesting is because of the combination of the individual, emotional and financial aspects of the work. Moreover, the work I am doing has developed my own knowledge about other areas, for example, Capital Gains Tax and financial investments – it is important for a Family lawyer to understand a range of financial products and the tax treatment of them to understand their client's assets and the effect that any financial settlement might have on their wealth.
I also asked the paralegals in the Family team and the Trainee in the Asset Protection seat, why they enjoy their roles. I have made a list of their responses below:
- the range of clients
- the opportunity to work on high profile and complex matters
- the variety of work – no two days are the same
- the responsibility given to paralegals/trainees
- the emphasis on developing and maintaining technical knowledge
- the opportunity to work alongside lawyers who are experts in their field
- the fact that it combines being able to directly help people with navigating a diverse and intellectually stimulating area of law
In summary, if, like me, you have an interest in Family Law, but you have not studied it before or you are unsure whether it is a practice area you might like to qualify into, I would really recommend joining the team as a Paralegal and/or Trainee. At best, you will love it and begin developing the skills you require to become an excellent Family lawyer at Michelmores. At worst, Family Law may not be for you, but you will have developed wider knowledge of other areas like tax and financial investments, as well as developing transferrable skills such as drafting and researching.