Katie is the Family Law Partner at Cunningtons so she is responsible for the overall management of the department.
Katie has worked for Cunningtons since 2009, having joined the firm as a trainee solicitor.
I am lucky to have incredibly supportive parents who were very pleased that I pursued a career in law but who also supported me when I was considering a career in the armed forces. My dad said I was born to be a lawyer, having spent most of my childhood picking fights then persuading some poor grown-up not to punish me.
My path to the law was fairly standard I did a three-year law degree followed by the year-long Legal Practice Course, before being offered a job as a trainee solicitor at Cunningtons. I spent most of my training contract in the Family Law department as I knew I wanted to qualify into this area of law, but I will never forget the 3 months I spent in the conveyancing department, which only confirmed the fact that I was a litigator through and through!
Sometimes you have to learn the hard way and every trainee will have at least one horror story about a mistake they made. I’ll never forget the time I tried to be super-efficient and I filed a document at court without having had it signed by the client and without having kept a copy for our file. I spent the next week trotting up to the court every day in a desperate bid to befriend court staff. It worked though, eventually they returned the document to me. It was actually a great way of getting to know the court ushers and managers but it gave me a week of sleepless nights.
Since all of the changes to legal aid in 2013 there has been a huge increase in people who represent themselves in legal matters and court proceedings. I am often instructed by clients who have been doing their best to muddle through but they have reached the point where they are so overwhelmed and unsure of what to do that they come to me in desperation. Thankfully we offer a fixed fee service so we are more affordable than other solicitors who only offer an hourly rate service. As soon as they get some proper legal advice from me, I formulate a case plan and identify what is relevant and what, perhaps, is not. From there, I will set out what steps need to be taken in order to resolve matters. Often it is simply a case of giving clients the correct information so they can then make an informed decision and the case can be concluded quickly after that. Clients often wish they had instructed us at the outset as it wouldn’t have taken so long.
We also have many situations where the other party is representing themselves. The proper name for someone who is doing that is a “litigant in Person”. Litigants in Person can be left feeling very vulnerable and at a disadvantage. It can be difficult to deal with Litigants in Person as they have an inherent distrust in anything you tell them and they assume you will be hostile and aggressive. This can make them defensive and unwilling to compromise. The downside is that this often leads to court proceedings even in very simple cases, as the Litigant in Person needs to hear from a Judge that what we’re saying is correct.
The only bad type of client is one who ignores our advice and is then surprised when it all goes wrong. I will never understand why people pay to receive legal advice and then ignore it. These clients will often be the ones who say “yes but I’ve looked online and you’re wrong” before showing me an article they’ve printed from an American website that is completely irrelevant to English law.
As well as being the family law partner I’m also the firm’s money laundering reporting officer. It comes with a great deal of responsibility but I have relished having an opportunity to learn this new role and sometimes it’s good to have a reason to put client files down and focus on something very different from my usual casework.
If I wasn’t a solicitor I would probably run my own cleaning company because I am obsessed with having a clean and tidy life. When I retire I’m determined to open an animal rescue centre in the knowledge that I will never ever re-home a single animal because I would want to keep them all!