Paula Bloomfield Solicitor Profile
- AuthorPaula Bloomfield
Why did you become a Solicitor?
I became interested in studying law when I was at school. I was attracted to what I perceived to be the exciting drama in the courtroom and it was always my intention to aim for the criminal bar. English literature was by far my best subject at school and my head of sixth form tried to convince me to do an English degree. When he suggested to me that I might not make it in law, it made me all the more determined to become a lawyer.
During my degree, I found that family law was far more interesting than criminal law. The Children Act had just reached the statute books and it was obvious that this really was a ground breaking piece of legislation. I therefore chose the “Impact of the Children Act” as my dissertation subject and thoroughly enjoyed researching and predicting how this would change the face of family law.
When the time came to choose the path my career was going to take, it was obvious that family law was the right choice for me. And whilst I still wanted to spend my time in the courtroom, I also knew that I wanted to help people. Being a solicitor rather than a barrister means that I can do both. There is nothing more rewarding than knowing you have made a positive difference and you have helped change someone’s life for the better.
What area of law do you specialise in and why?
I specialise in the law relating to children. I represent parents and children in public and private law proceedings. My case load mainly consists of public law/care proceedings nowadays. The law relating to children is, for me, extremely interesting. There is no right or wrong answer which means that you can formulate effective and well researched submissions no matter who you are representing.
I really enjoy seeing parents and taking them through the evidence filed by the Local Authority. I will often read a social worker’s statement and think that there really is no hope of successfully arguing a case. However, when I meet the client and take them through the concerns raised, it becomes apparent that actually, I can help them.
I love meeting the children that I represent. I don’t think that you can properly advance a case for children unless you have met them and talked to them about their wishes, feelings and hopes for the future.
I tend to spend most of the day in court so my dreams of becoming a court advocate have also been fulfilled. I trained as a mediator in 2005, but I have always enjoyed litigation more than mediation. Nevertheless, the skills I learnt during mediation training have always come in useful and I see myself now as a good negotiator.
Are there any positive developments in the law at this present time?
In recent years, I have been struck by how parents perceive the family court and the court process. Many parents feel that the family court is corrupt. I hear comments about social workers receiving financial rewards for removing children. Some parents think that the judge has his/her own adoption agency. There are websites out there which suggest that lawyers representing parents are ‘in cahoots’ with the lawyers representing the social workers. It does worry me that a lot of parents feel like that.
There has been much debate in recent years about increased transparency in the family court. The former president of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, issued some practice guidance in January 2014 about this. He indicated that “there is a need for greater transparency in order to improve public understanding of the court process and confidence in the court system”. I fully agree with this. I am of the view that more judgments should be published so that the general public develop a greater understanding about the court process and the reasons why the court sometimes determines that children cannot live with their parents.
In terms of other positive developments, I have welcomed the recent decision by the Court of Appeal in Re P (A Child)  EWCA Civ 1483. In this case, the court considered some recent changes shown by a mother who had a longstanding history of alcohol abuse. The court thought that it was important that she be given an opportunity to demonstrate that she could remain free of alcohol. The case was therefore adjourned so that she could make the necessary changes needed to enable her to care for her child. This is good news indeed for parents who have started to make changes but are unable to show that they can sustain those changes in the 26 weeks available to them once care proceedings have been issued.
What are the three essential skills you believe a good solicitor should have?
A good family solicitor needs to have empathy. When a parent walks into my office, they are often distressed, frightened and confused. I also encounter parents who are incredibly angry. You have to be able to understand their plight and try and work with the variety of emotions that they are displaying. This is the single most important issue to them and whilst it is easy to dismiss someone who is shouting abuse at you, I always try and manage this because I understand why they are behaving in this way.
Good communication skills are key. You have to be able to both listen and respond to what your client is telling you.
The ability to analyse evidence is extremely important in care proceedings. You have to be able to scrutinise long documents and find areas of weakness that you can challenge both in your written evidence and in cross examination.
What is the biggest challenge that you have faced in your career?
Being a working mum is undoubtedly extremely challenging. I work long hours and striking the right work life balance can prove difficult. Attending parents’ evenings, school productions, sports day etc is very important to me and there have been times when I have turned up late or not at all because my court hearing has overrun. You have to have good family support to do the job that I do. Both my husband and my mother are fantastic (despite my mother now being 80). You have to set aside quality time to spend with your own children and family holidays have become increasingly important to me over the years.
What is your unfilled ambition?
I don’t think I have any unfilled ambitions as far as my work is concerned.
I am involved in amateur dramatics out of work. I love drama (which is probably why I wanted to be a criminal barrister in the first place!) My unfulfilled ambition in this area is to perform with the Royal Shakespeare Company. The theatre group that I am involved in was part of the RSC’s Dream 16 tour and several members were chosen to perform in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. That would have been amazing.
What is your advice to anyone that wishes to start a career in law?
I applaud anyone who wants to start a career in either criminal or family law. There have been so many cut backs in legal aid over the years that many law students are now put off pursuing these areas of law, despite them being the most rewarding.
If you do want to become a criminal or family lawyer then getting some work experience is a great idea. Get involved in a debating society as this will increase your confidence. Family Law Group is always on the look out for good paralegals so if you have completed your law degree and LPC then I would definitely get in touch with us. If you stand out as someone who is passionate about family law and willing to learn then you will definitely progress.