Learn more about a day in the life of Joanne Hall, a Senior Consultant Solicitor who began her career in her native North East England.
Joanne moved to London to join a boutique litigation firm in Mayfair, specialising in international divorce and family work, before being headhunted to the role of Legal Director in a leading City family firm.
Around this time she met Allard Bailey Family Law’s Founding Directors, Louise and Sabrina, after originally connecting with them in the legal Twitter-sphere.
“I was immediately attracted to their entrepreneurial style and their flexible model, which makes sense for busy clients and encourages individual flair. It seemed a refreshing and modern way to practice law so I took the leap in January 2019 and haven’t looked back.”
Joanne gives us an insight into Family Court proceedings, variation of maintenance orders and defending allegations in children proceedings.
Striving to achieve a healthy balanced lifestyle, Joanne starts her day at 7.00am with fruit and cereal before checking her emails to see if anything urgent has come in overnight. As it happens, today’s urgent matter came in late yesterday afternoon and she will be attending the Central Family Court later in the day to challenge a prohibited steps order and non-molestation order application. Joanne makes final preparations for the hearing by liaising with one of the firm’s paralegals and calling the client.
The client is a father and French national working in finance in the city and the application concerns allegations that he will wrongfully remove the child from the jurisdiction and that he has been abusive. The allegations are strongly denied, but the application was made without notice by the mother seeking urgent orders. Instead of making any orders, the court has listed a hearing at short notice to hear from both parents. In this case, Joanne has instructed an expert barrister overnight and worked with the barrister and the client to file a position statement countering as many accusations as possible and giving assurances about the shared care of the child in the UK.
After updating the client and the barrister, Joanne leaves home at 9.00am walking through the city into the office.
“I like to walk in as it is good strategic thinking time. One of the things I find most beneficial about agile working is the ability to work to your natural rhythm, which helps produce best work for clients, rather than being chained to a desk which isn’t reflective of our modern lifestyles. I can also usually time it to avoid the throngs of commuters at Bank, which I used to have to push my way through!”
At 10.00am Joanne catches up with Victoria, one of the firm’s Paralegals, to check she has everything she needs to finalise today’s court bundles (one or more folders containing copies of all of the key documents in the case).
“I’m really grateful for Victoria’s support today. The party bringing the matter to court would usually prepare the bundles, but the other party hadn’t done so and there is some additional paperwork which is relevant to the application. Despite the short notice, Victoria and I ensured there was a bundle available for the court to best represent my client. Although we have a paperless office policy, the family court doesn’t accept e-bundles yet so it is great that we have experienced paralegals to assist and manage costs for the client.”
Fifteen minutes later, Joanne joins Sabrina and Louise for a quick catch up over coffee. Joanne is an accredited expert in complex financial matters, and she sets to work finalising a strategy note on a variation of maintenance case.
“There are an increasing number of divorced parties with maintenance agreements or orders that no longer reflect fairness or the current law. For example, I previously acted for a client in the High Court who had been paying his ex-wife a high level of maintenance for almost 20 years after a short marriage of 4 years. I didn’t act for him originally, but he came to me to ask if that was fair. There were no children and both parties had moved on to financial independence. We successfully applied to court to dismiss that arrangement entirely. It’s an extreme example, but there are many people who could benefit from a cost proportionate review if their circumstances have changed.
People understandably get litigation weary, but a review of their maintenance arrangements can be very valuable if they are paying an extortionate rate or equally not receiving enough to meet their needs.”
At 12.30pm, Joanne shares the strategy note and then heads off to court. She stops at Pret to pick up lunch for herself, the client and their Barrister, before joining them in a private meeting room at the court building for a pre-trial conference.
“My client is a parent who has been accused of abuse and not acting in their child’s best interests. In his case we can produce enough evidence at this early stage to undermine the allegations and reassure the court that the child is not at risk.
It is a very sensitive area and one which has received recent media scrutiny. However, only a Judge can determine what is true or not at a finding of fact hearing or a final hearing after considering all the evidence. We work hard to properly present the facts at an early stage, whether our client is making or defending allegations of abuse, so that we can encourage everyone to act in the best interests of the children and avoid delay and unnecessary litigation.”
As a result of our statement and submissions, the Judge directs the parties to take time outside of the courtroom to agree arrangements for their child. The client is very pleased that the parties are able to reach an agreement, which is then endorsed by the Judge.
The client and Joanne walk back to the office together at 4.30pm. When the client heads off, Joanne catches up with Louise and Sabrina. She then reviews her emails from the afternoon, makes a phone call and prepares to leave. She is meeting a former client for a catch-up at the nearby Rosewood at 6.30pm. The client is a female entrepreneur who Joanne assisted to discreetly achieve a financial settlement on divorce outside of court.
“One of the most rewarding parts of being a family lawyer is seeing clients who have gone through serious emotional turmoil move forward with their lives and go from strength to strength.”