I spent the second seat of my training contract with the family practice group. I did not study family law and this was my first litigious seat so I really did not know what to expect from my time with the team. A five month stint in the family practice group passed in what felt more like five minutes. Partly due to the fast-paced nature of the work and partly due to the fun I had working with the team.
A partner in the group asked me to help finalise a client’s financial disclosure ahead of exchange with the other party. Exchanging financial disclosure is an important step in resolving financial matters for your client. The client signs a statement of truth confirming that they have complied with this obligation, therefore it is of the utmost importance that nothing has been missed when drafting the form. I liaised directly with the client, and assisted the partner, in putting together and ultimately finalising this document and began to build a relationship with our client.
I attended a court hearing along with the partner and counsel. The aim being to settle the dispute, avoiding the costs, delay and uncertainty involved with returning to court.
I was involved in discussions regarding strategy and putting together proposals with the partner, counsel and the client throughout the hearing. I sat in court where the judge gave an indication of what he thought the outcome would be if the case were to go to a final hearing and I was able to spend time with the client, understand his instructions and the reasons behind those instructions better.
“I played a part in helping the client to see what we had achieved and focus on the positives, helping to motivate them to keep going.”
Following the hearing
After the hearing I drafted an email of advice to the client summarising what had happened at court and the offers made by either side. I played a part in helping the client to see what we had achieved and focus on the positives, helping to motivate them to keep going.
The partner arranged a round table meeting with the other side in another bid to settle the dispute before going to a final hearing. Prior to this, we met with our client to discuss the strategy we would adopt at the meeting and I was able to see this through by attending the meeting itself.
“It was great experience being involved in the negotiation and seeing the partner in action, putting our strategy and our client’s instructions into practice.”
I was excited in the lead up to the meeting because I had only ever seen these as portrayed on TV, for example in the BBC’s “The Split” – the solicitors harbouring personal grudges against one another; and a child or two being held to ransom in the room next door. Unsurprisingly perhaps, it was not anything like that.
We sat in one room with our client and the other party sat in a room opposite with their solicitor. We spent the afternoon going back and forwards between our client for discussions and instructions and the other party’s solicitor to exchange proposals and discuss each party’s sticking points. It was great experience being involved in the negotiation and seeing the partner in action, putting our strategy and our client’s instructions into practice.
Unfortunately, we have not been able to reach a settlement and so the case continues on towards the final hearing date. I hope the parties are able to settle prior to this. However, if they are not I will have to go on a secondment back to the family group so that I can see what the outcome will be!
Posted by Amy Cooper
Amy joined B P Collins as a paralegal in August 2015. She started her training contract in July 2017. Her role is to provide assistance to partners and other lawyers in the practice group.