Haidee French Solicitor Profile
- AuthorHaidee French
We sat down with Haidee French from our Northampton office to ask about her days, how she started her career and what advice she can impart for individuals looking to start in law.
Q1. Why did you become a Solicitor?
Firstly, I wanted a career that would challenge me. Secondly, I wanted to do something where I could make a difference in society.
I never thought that I would end up specialising in Family Law; after university I was lucky enough to secure a paralegal job in a legal aid firm that at that time provided services primarily in criminal law, prison law and family law. It was the two former that held my interest!
A year or so after joining that firm, the needs of the business required me to assist in the family law department. It was from here that my passion for Family Law grew.
Q2. What area of law do you specialise in and why did you chose it as a speciality?
I specialise in the “private” areas of family law. In practice, this means that I assist clients in all areas of family law, except care proceedings (otherwise known as “public” family law, where the local authority might typically apply to remove a child from the birth family).
I advise on divorce, financial matters surrounding divorce, financial matters on the breakdown of the relationship of unmarried cohabitants, custody disputes and domestic abuse.
I have a keen eye for detail, and this is especially useful in financial matters where the slightest nuance can make a difference.
I am particularly passionate in helping victims of domestic abuse. Family Law has changed considerably over the last few years and now recognises that domestic abuse extends beyond physical violence and includes any incident or pattern of controlling and coercive or threatening behaviour. This can be via psychological, sexual, emotional and financial abuse.
Victims of domestic abuse will often feel powerless; I pride myself on providing clear and pragmatic advice so that my client can make the best decision for them, and in so doing, regain some of the control in their situation.
Q3. What are the four essential skills you believe a good solicitor should have?
By far the most important is being a good listener. It is impossible to build a rapport with your client unless they feel that you understand the position that they are in.
Secondly, a good solicitor must remain calm and level-headed. The nature of family law means that my clients may often be in stressful situations. By remaining calm, and taking a holistic view, I explain my advice clearly.
Third, you must be a good communicator. With my client, this means cutting out the legal “mumbo-jumbo” and explaining clearly what their options are, and what the outcome of each option is likely to be. Likewise, when I write to the other party’s lawyer or the court, I want to concisely and clearly set out my argument, because one cannot be persuasive without being clear.
Lastly, you need a good dollop of common sense. There’s no use knowing the law and being able to draft a complex legal argument if you cannot understand the intricacies of your client’s particular circumstances and what would or would not work for them.
Q4. What is the biggest challenge that you have faced in your professional career?
During the breakdown of a family relationship most people will be stressed. What they have been through may often have caused them trauma.
Stress and trauma can cause people to present in many different ways. This may include hostility and defensiveness. This is natural and understandable. Learning to deal with people in such circumstances with patience and without judgement, whether they are my client or the other party, has certainly been one of the biggest challenges that I have overcome.
One of my strengths is being able to provide clear and pragmatic advice in high stress and high conflict situations.
Q5. What does an average day look like for a family lawyer?
There is never what I would call and “average day".
When I arrive in the office, I like to plan with my team what we need to cover in that day, whether that is a court hearing, client meetings or preparing documents. However, the nature of this job is that emergency hearings and work often arise, which throws the day’s plan into disarray!
What the day looks like in the morning can be very different to how it has turned out by the afternoon. Being adaptable and flexible in your working approach is critical.
Q6. What do you like to do in your free time?
I like to practice yoga each morning and I put time aside each week to go to the gym.
During lockdown I also rediscovered cycling, and this was very helpful to get me into the great outdoors when remote working was the norm for so many months.
When I have time, I like to feed my creative side by playing the piano and altering my own clothes.
Q7. What is your advice to anyone that wishes to start a career in law?
My advice would be to get as much experience as possible during your studies.
There are so many different areas of law to specialise in, it’s really important to know which one would suit you best.
Family Law is particularly challenging but can also be very rewarding. I am very proud to practice at Family Law Group. We are one of the few firms that still provide legal aid, and this means that we can help the more vulnerable members of society whose cases can often be very complex. Legal aid work is often overlooked, but is important to have skilled lawyers practising it to prevent very real miscarriages of justice from occurring everyday.
To contact Haidee, please click here