Introducing Family Law Legal Secretary: Debra Flack

Debra joined the firm in 1992 as an office junior at the Chelmsford office and worked her way up to the position of legal secretary. Debra is secretary to the Family Law Partner at the Chelmsford office.

I was always interested in a career that was somehow connected to law enforcement and fancied joining the army, joining the police force or becoming a legal secretary. My fear of spiders ultimately put me off of joining the army as I knew it would involve sleeping outside where you’re fair game to creepy crawlies. I didn’t fancy wearing the heavy black boots of a police officer so I became a legal secretary by default.

Close family members had enjoyed careers in law my nana had been a legal secretary and my uncle was a solicitor. I was lucky enough to have done some work experience at my uncle’s firm which prepared me for life working in a solicitor’s office. I was also a Saturday girl at the local library where I spent many hours replacing books on shelves. In hindsight, that might explain my love of filing.

I enrolled on a legal secretarial course at college where I was taught secretarial skills which included the ancient skill of shorthand. Shorthand is a dying art because it isn’t particularly efficient; you have to take the notes and then spend time deciphering them and typing them up.

It can be quite frustrating when we have genuinely lovely clients who are put through hell by the other party. Occasionally the law can produce an outcome that seems unfair which can be annoying.

My career high has to be meeting my husband at work he was actually a client (who had been separated from his ex for a long time I hasten to add!) and part of my duties back then included attending court to make notes at hearings. I attended a hearing with him one day and as we left the court building that evening, he ran after me and asked me on a date. The rest is history.

It’s vital for a good legal secretary to be accurate and have strong empathy and compassion for clients. Family law can lead to high-running emotions and sometimes clients just need to offload. Our job is to reassure clients and to be available to them when they need us.

I’m a mum to two young and very energetic sons so I don’t get much time to myself, but the boys are the perfect distraction from work. It’s important to be able to switch off from work mode and focus on something else so that the job doesn’t get on top of you. Also, working in litigation and dispute resolution definitely comes in handy when the boys are fighting with each other!

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Cunningtons LLP in Great Square and Tofts Walk in Braintree, Essex, is the head office for Cunningtons Solicitors across the UK. Established in 1748, the Braintree head office in Great Square is still in its original offices. This amounts to almost 300 years of Experience and Tradition.

The Senior Partner at Cunningtons’ Braintree office is David Drake. Paul Fenton is the Joint Managing Partner. He, along with Johanna Withams are the residential conveyancing partners at the Braintree practice. They are supported by qualified Solicitors and Licenced Conveyancers.

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