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Starting out in family law

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I have been a paralegal at Family Law Group for eight months. Prior to joining, I studied Law with American Law (LLB) (Hons) at the University of Nottingham. My course was four years long and for my third year, I was selected to study at the University of Texas at Austin with five other students. We arrived in August 2018 and spent ten months in Texas before coming back to the UK in June 2019. 


My time abroad involved many challenges and experiences. I lived in a completely different society and culture. They say “everything is bigger in Texas” and from the food and buildings to the personalities of everyone I met, this proved true every day. It was a wonderful experience embracing new places we explored, new music, new ways of cooking and getting around town (E-scooters were a thing in America long before they became popular in the UK!). 


As an international law student, my time in Texas was very different to life in the UK. The University of Texas at Austin is a very large institution which is woven into the fabric of the city itself. In fact, Austin was founded as a university city and grew from there. My school routine was similar to that in England; I attended lectures and seminars much as I would in Nottingham. What I studied, however, was notably different in kind to that which English universities offer. 


In my first semester (August – December 2018), I was selected to participate in the University of Texas at Austin’s Human Rights Clinic. I was the only British student in my class that semester, which was both terrifying and humbling as my classmates often sought insights from me other students could not provide. I was assigned a project with two other students to research and author a report on the human rights implications of school shootings in the USA, instigated by the tragic Sante Fe School massacre in 2018. We represented one of the victim’s families, and as part of my role, I was sent to Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, to network with attorneys. This was the first multi-state anti-gun violence conference in the USA. 


My second semester (December 2018 – June 2019) allowed me to explore legal topics I never before considered, such as animal law and the law on social media. It was great to take a step away from ‘ordinary’ legal topics such as contract law and criminal law, and to study creative and novel subjects. 


The highlight of my year in Texas was being selected as a student attorney for clients on the Texas death row. I was one of six students from the UK in this position and from day one was heavily involved in our clients’ cases. My role was to conduct legal research, form case theories, liaise with expert witnesses such as forensic pathologists, speak with jurors in Dallas-Fort Worth and, most importantly, meet our clients twice at the Polunsky Unit where they were imprisoned. 


The inmates when I met them were in some respects very different to the stereotypes; they were highly intelligent, articulate and expressed passions for drawing and music. Our conversations were purely social and no legal advice was given by us during our visits, which allowed me to immerse myself in our conversations.


The entire experience, provided by the Capital Punishment Clinic as a module available to students at the University, was completely unparalleled and I am very grateful to have been given the opportunity. I became a much more rounded law student and now practitioner, as I worked alongside robust American lawyers and formed a greater understanding of foreign litigation and law.


I returned from my year abroad in June 2019 and completed my final year at the University of Nottingham, graduating in 2020. 


My career focus has always been to join the Bar and practice as a family law barrister. In pursuit of this aim, I joined Family Law Group to acquire practical family law experience and have been very successful thanks to my supervisor and FLG. I have heavy involvement in public and private law children matters, child contact negotiations, and have been able to self-lead and self-teach with high levels of responsibility.


If any reader has questions about my experiences, please email me (reiss.morrison@familylawgroup.co.uk). If you would like to instruct Family Law Group in regards to a family issue you are facing, please visit our website and find your nearest office: https://www.familylawgroup.co.uk/
 

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