30th September 2016
Who or what influenced you to pursue a career in law?
When I was about 12 I remember having a conversation with one of my teachers about what I wanted to do when I was older: a vet or a solicitor. Her response was that either would require hard work and determination. I saw that as a challenge and by my A levels I had decided on law, as I have always had an interest in people and family law is a specialism that really centres around helping and understanding clients through what is often a difficult time in their lives which is very satisfying.
As new head of the family team, are you planning on making changes to the way the team works?
I have been with Mundays for 8 years now so I already know that we are in good shape and operating efficiently as a team, which allows us to match clients with a solicitor who has the relevant expertise. I intend to continue to build on our expertise and remain alive and open to new opportunities and ways of working to deliver the services we offer to our clients.
What sets Mundays apart from their competitors?
We are fortunate to be located in Cobham, recently listed as number two in the most valuable towns in the country against average house price figures. We regularly deal with wealthy clients who have complex finances which has enabled us to develop our own expertise exponentially and resulted in our ranking as a top tier legal team in Surrey. We therefore consider ourselves on a par with many City firms rather than a “high street” firm.
What are the benefits of choosing a smaller, regional firm to handle family cases?
We have a large team with a broad range of experience offering City expertise at competitive rates. Our clients receive personal service from their lawyers and if other legal issues arise we can use another team’s expertise as well.
Are there any exciting developments in family law on the horizon?
Following Brexit there has been a lot of debate as to how family law will be impacted. There are quite a few EU regulations that affect us, both good and bad and it will be interesting to see how the landscape of family law develops over the next few years.
How has your role developed now that you're head of department?
I now have to juggle the management of the team alongside my client work, lead the team from the top and encourage their career progression including their development in their chosen field of family law.
What is a typical day like as head of the family team?
There is no typical day! That is why it is an amazingly interesting job.
What has been one of the biggest challenges for the team thus far?
The rise of Alternative Dispute Resolution has meant solicitors have needed to adapt the way they work. As a team we have ensured that members have trained as Mediators and Collaborative lawyers to keep abreast with the changing times and build on our skill sets. Couple this with the rise of the email, clients being more IT savvy and demanding a more streamlined and less cumbersome approach and the challenges continue for us all in the profession.
What is the family team's biggest achievement?
We pride ourselves on providing an excellent service for our clients. In our opinion receiving a client referral after a case has concluded is an achievement. This is in turn reflected in maintaining the team’s recognition as a Top Tier Firm for Family work in The Legal 500 UK and Chambers & Partners UK Guides.
In your opinion, how is family law evolving to fit the needs of modern families?
Family law has come a long way to reflect the needs of the modern family. On 13 March 2014 same sex couples were finally allowed to marry (as opposed to entering into a civil partnership which they had been able to do since December 2005). The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 was momentous for same sex couples wanting to formalise their relationships on more of an equal footing with those in opposite sex relationships.
The legislation sent a strong message domestically and internationally that same sex relationships are accepted and respected in this country. There is more progress that can be made in respect of this legislation to truly equalise the position between same sex and opposite sex marriages and it is likely the Act will need some amendment. Furthermore, the complex legal aspects involved in fertility treatment, surrogacy and the use of egg and sperm donors are becoming a more common feature of our work as family lawyers.
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 was a major review of the law in this area and it has been key in recognising same sex couples as legal parents of children conceived through the use of donated sperm or eggs (subject to certain criteria being met). All in all the government has taken huge leaps to provide for the needs of the modern family but more can be done to truly provide equality. Rachel Lemon is spearheading the department’s expertise in this new and evolving area.
What would you like to see change in family law?
Whilst the discretionary system is to be applauded it does cause clients a certain degree of uncertainty at the start of the process and this must be very difficult to deal with at such an emotional and stressful time of their lives.
What makes a great family lawyer?
Every family lawyer will have different qualities. For me I think it is being a good listener, showing empathy whilst remaining objective and empowering the client to feel able to make a decision. A sense of humour is also important to me.
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