Over the last 35 years of being a family lawyer I have learned two truths at a fundamental level:
- First, that the stories our clients tell us may seem familiar and like so many of the stories other clients have told us, but in fact each time we meet a new client we are hearing a unique and precious story we have never heard before. If we listen closely we will learn a lot that will save us time and misunderstandings later.
- And the second truth is that what we as family lawyers do, and the way we do it, has a direct and lasting effect on the lives of our clients and their families. Just think about that for a moment – a direct and lasting effect on the lives of our clients and their families. What a huge responsibility that is. It is not a responsibility we should take lightly.
FLiP Faculty is the culmination of 15 years of dreaming. Dreaming about a world where family law is conducted in a way whereby the interests of the family are clearly and unambiguously the focus of the lawyer’s work; where issues about process are not determined by the levels of remuneration that might be obtained or by the way of working the lawyer prefers or feels most comfortable with; where clients get what they want which, first and foremost, is to be heard, to be understood, to be treated as individuals; where family lawyers regard their primary purpose as helping clients get through to the other side with minimum damage and cost even if that means realising that they are not the right lawyer or professional for the particular client and steering them towards one who is; where lawyers see it as their duty continually to explore ways to make the experience of divorce and separation better for their clients. But to be able to make that dream a widespread reality requires us to have a solid understanding of the “soup in which our clients swim” and a reflective understanding of what it is that we bring to the party. This requires the profession to change. And like all changes that endure, the change has to start with us. “Be the change you want to see” as the mantra goes. FLiP Faculty marks my attempt, together with my colleague, Felicity Shedden, to help us be that change we want to see.
There are three aims of the FLiP Faculty:
- To provide essential skills training. So far the Faculty has 26 trainers signed up, mostly from the mental health field, offering over 60 courses on subjects as diverse as the psychological processes of separation, the use of the Genogram in our work and the importance of story. These will be practical workshops which will help us understand our clients and ourselves in a deeper way than we do now. The workshops will be offered round the country and in house if requested.
- To encourage family lawyers into a way of reflective practice. Workshops that explore the effect of this work on us, what we bring to our work because of our own histories and values, and the resources available to assist us. There will be workshops looking at, for example, “The case that really got to me”, deep listening and how we can take care of ourselves whilst doing this work.
- To introduce Parenting Coordination into the UK. Parenting Coordination is a DR process by which the Parenting Coordinator (PC) is contractually permitted by separated parents to assist them in the implementation of their child arrangements order or parenting plan. The PC has a threefold function – to educate, to mediate and, ultimately if required, to determine particular issues of implementation. It will address the T v S  EWHC 2521 type of situation – you may remember this case a few years ago where the parents could not agree which platform at Clapham Junction should be used for handovers of the children. They were sent away from the High Court with a Presidential flea in their ear! With a PC to hand that couple and many others like them would never have had to get anywhere near the court on issues of implementation and interpretation. To introduce the training we are be running a series of roadshows round the UK from 13th to 20th June which are being hosted through the generosity of Mills & Reeve and Burges Salmon at their offices. The first training proper starts in October in Birmingham. To register your interest in attending the roadshow please email email@example.com
|13th June 18.00||Bristol||Burges Salmon|
|14th June 18.00||London||Mills & Reeve|
|15th June 18.00||Birmingham||Mills & Reeve|
|19th June 18.00||Leeds||Mills & Reeve|
|20th June 18.00||Manchester||Mills and Reeve|
This is a rapidly changing world. The world of family law is part of that rapid changing with the number of people both getting married and getting divorced reducing. If we are to continue as a profession we have to adapt and we have to be able to offer real value to our clients. I venture that one way we can deliver value is by getting better at really listening to our clients, understanding what is going on for them, reflecting on how and why we do what we do and knowing where other professionals may be better placed to help.
FLiP Faculty starts its training programme starts on May 19th. The first training will be given by Avi Shmueli who supervises the work of the divorce and separation consultation service at Tavistock Relationships.
The first 6 months trainings and other information about the Faculty can be found on the Faculty website: www.flipfaculty.org
This article first appeared in Family Law, May 2017 and is reproduced by kind permission.
Gillian Bishop is a founding member and a director of Family Law in Partnership. Gillian focuses on all aspects of divorce and family law, in particular in the financial repercussions of relationship breakdown and complex private law children matters. Her work frequently has an international perspective, often involving tax and trust implications, substantial assets or incomes. A trained mediator, arbitrator (children issues) and collaborative lawyer, Gillian offers clients a range of dispute resolution options – litigation, solicitor led negotiation, mediation, children law arbitration and collaborative law – to best meet their needs.
Contact Gillian Bishop at E: firstname.lastname@example.org or T: 020 7420 5000.