As a young solicitor working for a large law firm, I started out doing mainly civil litigation work. I learnt very quickly that common sense, lateral thinking and good communication skills with clients were the key skills needed to be an able lawyer. My legal training at Bar School did not really prepare me for what law was actually really like in practice.
I eventually started to do some family work, which I thoroughly enjoyed because it involved much more interfacing with clients and it required a great deal of using good communication skills, being a good listener and empathy as family law is ultimately about people and their broken relationships and how as lawyers, we can best use good negotiating skills and the law effectively to untangle their family affairs to best serve their needs.
Many elements of practising family law appeal to me, despite being fraught at times. Its breadth ranges from many different aspects of children matters to financial settlements and as family clients are often vulnerable and emotional, it is paramount that as lawyers, we are sensitive to their individual needs.
Many people often ask me as though I am mad to choose to do family work saying ‘Isn’t it depressing to hear other people’s woes everyday ?’ I smile and say that ‘ I would like to think that I add value to families because if breakdown is inevitable, then I enjoy the challenge of finding the best and most amicable ways for families to part and create happy post-divorce families for everyone’s best interest.
Q: Why choose family law?
‘’Being an effective strategic problem solver and lateral thinker, I enjoy the challenge of finding the best and most amicable ways for families to part and manage their parting and ultimately create happier post-separation/divorced families for everyone’s benefit, particularly the children.’’
Many people often ask me as though I am mad to choose to do family work saying ‘Isn’t it depressing to hear other people’s woes every day?’
I smile and say that ‘I enjoy family work, because I love interfacing with people, am a good listener and I have enormous empathy, as family law is ultimately about people, their broken relationships and how as a lawyer, I can best use good negotiating skills and the law effectively to untangle family affairs for everyone’s benefit and well-being.
I would also like to think that I add value to families. If a relationship has irretrievably broken down, I enjoy the challenge of finding the best and most amicable ways for families to part and manage their parting and ultimately create happier post-separation/divorced families, with the children benefitting most.
Also, having personally been through the divorce process, I believe the empathy I have with divorcees enable me to provide a service with greater clarity and insight into the complex area of family breakdown, that is hard to replicate, unless one has been through it.
As a young solicitor working for a large City law firm, I started out doing mainly civil litigation work. I learnt very quickly that common sense, lateral thinking and good communication skills with clients were the key skills needed to be an able lawyer. My legal training at Bar School did not really prepare me for what law was actually really like in practice.
I eventually started to do family work, when a senior partner of the City law firm I was working at, asked me to help on a family case which involved family sagas, wrangling over vast fortunes and drama. I was hooked from then on.
Q: ‘Why did you set up iFamiliesuk, previously called ‘Divorce & Family Law Information Service (DFLIS)’?
‘I hit upon the idea of DFLIS now called iFamiliesuk.com because it filled a vital gap and necessary in the market for a family law information service.’
I worked full time after the birth of my first child Ally. When Lizzie my second child was born, like so many professional working mothers today faced with the same dilemma, I faced the familiar real struggle of juggling a demanding job and trying to be a good mother, but never quite managing both well enough.
DFLIS was set up because I needed to change the way I worked and prioritising the children’s needs by balancing that against the independence of working and using my legal skills without compromising my role as a mother. Setting up my own business just seemed like the logical and practical thing to do- it just made sense!
Clients often complained in hindsight that their entrenched divorces were affecting their health and well-being and also their ‘pockets’. They bemoaned the lack of an independent legal information service at the outset following breakup/separation, and lament that if they had been better informed at the outset of the outcomes and consequences of divorce and explored fully a workable compromise or sensible agreement, with minimum rancour, that would have ultimately been a much better outcome for all concerned. Many often were not ready mentally or emotionally to see a solicitor and also did not want to talk to family or friends. They found the internet confusing as there is a deluge of information and they didn’t know how to sift the relevant information. They felt that the only way out was to proceed down the divorce route.
Family law is a minefield because it is not an exact science. Five Judges can arrive at five different conclusions on the same set of facts. Divorce comes at a high cost. Financially, almost always both parties lose out as usually the house has to be sold and income, pensions and other assets will have to be shared. There is much to grapple with and doing it in times of great emotional stress and devastation is very tough indeed.
It was going through my family breakdown that I was struck forcibly by the fact that families breaking up are often left without ‘strong paddles’ to help them navigate through the rough tide of divorce and break-up. They are often in the dark, fearful and anxious about the future with hardly any understanding of the traumatic experience of divorce and the legal process. There is a shortage of such information service providers providing professional and independent, easily digestible, information specifically addressing people’s most worrying personal concerns at this difficult time of breakup.
Hence, I hit upon the idea of Divorce & Family Law Information Service now called iFamiliesuk.com, because it filled a vital and necessary gap in the market.
I feel very passionately that if family break up is inevitable, then families must be empowered with good information to make informed decisions about their family’s future at the outset of break up and as they go through the separation and divorce process. Doing what I do is very fraught at times but I enjoy the intellectual challenge of being on hand to persuade often highly emotional clients to better manage and handle their parting and explore amicable ways to plan their exit strategy or dealing with the aftermath of being left by a partner, including managing expectations of splitting up a family’s wealth to meet their respective needs and helping them deal with often highly charged children issues as sensitively as possible. It gives me much satisfaction, especially when I see clients smiling again after their traumatic experience.’
Q: What are the most important life lessons you have learned so far?
‘Positive and happy energy is infectious and seeps into everything you do, the people around you and the outcomes of your life’
‘Enjoy life and value, treasure and look after your family & friends’
‘Learn to deal with failure and disappointments in life and being resilient’
‘Always be kind in thought, word and deed’
Having a positive and happy attitude no matter what life throws at you and despite being tested to limits of endurance. It is how we deal with ‘the rough stuff’, the failures and the disappointments, of which I have had my fair share, and mastering the art of resilience that ‘maketh us into better people’.
Many who experience family breakdown, spend too much time pursuing wealth and rushing to live at the top of the proverbial ‘mountain’ thinking that by getting to the top, they will find happiness and not realising that all the happiness and growth occurs whilst they are climbing it. They forget to stop to breathe the air and enjoy their journey and also forget to care for loved ones along the way.
George Vaillant, a Harvard Psychiatrist who carried out the Harvard Grant Study, attempting to unearth the secrets to a happy and purposeful life concluded that the study’s most important finding is that ‘the only thing that matters in life is relationships. A man could have a successful career, money and good physical health, but without supportive, loving relationships, he wouldn’t be happy (“Happiness is only the cart; love is the horse.”).’
Absolutely spot on!
Q: What drives you?
‘Achieving my hopes, aspirations and future vision to reduce divorce and relationship break-down in this country by making everyone ‘relationship-smarter’ and ultimately creating a happier nation brimming with strong, successful relationships and families.’
Relationships are the essence of life. If it were to happen, it really would be a dream come true.
Q: What are your 3 favourite words?
‘Hope, aspiration and resilience’.
Q: Who inspires you?
‘I am inspired everyday by the wonderful people around me that I see and meet’.
I am inspired everyday by the wonderful people around me that I see and meet. From the nurses at the hospital who treated my wounds with such care, my friends courageously battling with bereavement, family break-up, disease and yet still smiling and pressing on with their lives, friends and families strong work ethics, big ideas, smart talk, leadership style to Mahatma Gandhi and his wise words, they all inspire me in their own way.
‘You must be the change you wish to see in the world’ by Gandhi is in my view, a hugely inspirational phrase.
Q; Why did you pursue a legal career?
‘I believed I would enjoy the intellectual challenge and discipline of the law to help solve cases…I was right’
As a youngster, I started out wanting to become a doctor, like my father and I enjoyed helping him in his clinic in Malaysia, watching him cure his patients with medicines and his surgical skills. I thought being a doctor was the most noble of professions.
But as I grew up during my teen years, I also thoroughly enjoyed watching the legal television series ‘Paper Chase’ and ‘Ally McBeal’. I especially loved watching the intellectual challenges presented as each legal cases unfolded, the interaction between lawyers and clients and how the lawyers cleverly solved cases using logic, strategic thinking and a lot of common sense.
Being a lateral thinker and a good problem solver and also believing I would enjoy the intellectual challenge and discipline of the law, I decided to pursue a legal career instead of a medical one. I was right to do so.
Q; Why did you come to the UK to study law?
‘I chose to do law in the UK as there is no better place in the world to study this subject than in a country which has the oldest democracy in the world. I am so proud that I did so.’
I grew up in the jungles of Malaysia where my father was a doctor for an Australian tin mining company in Pahang. He subsequently became the local doctor of a small fishing village. In the early years, I was educated in Malay but eventually I had an English education when I was sent to study in Singapore. I travelled everyday by bus at the crack of dawn at 5.30 am from my hometown of Johor Baru in Malaysia to Singapore over the Causeway, which is a large highway that separates the two countries.
I chose to do law at University in the UK as there is no better place in the world to study this subject than in a country which has the oldest democracy in the world. I am so proud that I did so.
Q: What was life like at the Bar?
‘I thoroughly enjoyed life at the Bar which was intellectually challenging and stimulating.’
I thoroughly enjoyed life at the Bar which was intellectually challenging and stimulating. I also enjoyed the company of barristers who were charming and intelligently astute, who could cleverly and effectively argue complex points of law. I was also only one of two women in my set of chambers, which was not unusual as the Chancery Bar in those days, was a fairly male-dominated area. It is less so now.
Q: why did you re-qualify as a solicitor after being called to the Bar as a barrister?
‘..being a ‘people’ person and very much enjoying the company of people, I preferred having more ‘hands-on’ contact and working more closely with people and clients.’
Despite enjoying life at the Bar, being a ‘people’ person and very much enjoying the company of people, I preferred having more ‘hands-on’ contact and working more closely with people and clients.
So, I decided to switch and I joined a large London City firm, and subsequently re-qualified as a solicitor.