#BalanceForBetter #PositiveVisibilityforWomen @IWD2019
To encourage positive visibility of women and show how balance really is better, we will be profiling each of the amazing women who make our work at Allard Bailey Family Law possible.
Allard Bailey Family Law was founded in 2016 with the ethos of empowering people through flexibility. We employ a range of flexible working practices to enable our colleagues to have balance in their lives, whilst providing a fully flexible 24/7 service to our clients.
This month we meet Angela Medin, a Consultant Solicitor who joined the firm a year ago.
Angela works part-time, often from home, and is an advocate of flexible working because she believes that it benefits everyone.
“I often represent professionals, such as bankers, directors, doctors, entrepreneurs and other lawyers, many of whom lead time-pressured lives. Working flexibly allows me to work constructively with clients who are not always available during traditional office hours, whilst ensuring I still have time for myself. This balance is important as it means my clients can get a quick turnaround from a lawyer who is alert and on-the-ball.”
Angela decides which days she is going to work depending on her case load, Court deadlines and what she has planned in her own life. On the day we meet, Angela is splitting her time between home and the office. She joins a Pilates class at her local gym at 9am, then logs on to her computer at home at 10.30am.
After checking her emails, Angela contacts a new client who would like advice in relation to a Pre-nuptial Agreement.
“Most people find it hard to consider the possibility of their relationship ending whilst they are happy, but there is no better time to consider provisions that are fair to both parties. Not only does it help to avoid costly litigation should the worst happen, it can also lead to healthy conversation about relationship expectations.”
Angela then updates a Form E for another client, which forms part of the disclosure process in financial proceedings. After this, she begins drafting a Statement for a client who is engaged in a protracted dispute to dissolve his civil-partnership.
At 12.30pm Angela leaves home to meet a friend for lunch, before heading into the office to meet a client.
“Modern technology makes my life so much easier. As a lawyer, there was a time when I would have been laden with documents, but we have a paperless office so all I need is a laptop and a secure internet connection.”
Angela’s client is the mother of two young children and needs to negotiate maintenance, housing and contact provisions with the children’s father.
“Arrangements regarding children are always emotional. In this case, the other side would like as close to a 50/50 contact arrangement as possible, but it is unlikely that this will be practical. The children attend a school close to where the mother lives and the father works long hours, so he would not be with them even if they were legally in his care. We always consider the needs and welfare of the children first, no matter who we are representing, to try to find a solution that is in their best interests.”
After the meeting, Angela seeks out Sabrina (featured in this blog in March) to discuss a settlement proposal made by the other side in a high-value divorce case and asks her opinion on some of the specifics of the negotiation relating to the division of investment assets.
“One of the advantages of working at Allard Bailey Family Law is that, although the Consultants primarily work independently, we always have access to the Directors and other Consultants, so our clients benefit from additional points of view.”
Angela then sits down to finalise the terms of a Consent Order relating to a financial settlement for one of her professional clients, a doctor.
“This client is in surgery or with patients for most of the day and he does not have much free time to focus on his divorce proceedings, so I do what I can to progress his case. In order to work around his commitments, we have in the past scheduled telephone meetings to commence before 8am. Some lawyers might prefer not to do this, but I can work from anywhere I have privacy and I know that I am able to take the time back later in the day.”
Louise Allard, co-founder and Director, appears beside Angela’s desk as they are due to attend a seminar together at 5.30pm. The hot topic of the day is Spousal Maintenance. They will share any legal developments with the other lawyers at their monthly team meeting.
The seminar is hosted by another law firm, which kindly provides drinks and nibbles afterwards, so the pair stay to network and catch-up with colleagues at other firms.
Arriving home a little after 8pm, Angela is greeted with dinner but comments that this is not always the norm.
“My husband used to be the cook in our household as I had less time and, to be honest, I was a terrible cook. Now that I have time to put more energy into my home life, I like to try new recipes from around the world and I have surprised everyone by finding that I can be quite good at it.”
We kick-off this new monthly feature with A Day in the Life of Sabrina Bailey, one of our founding Directors.
Working as the Director of a law firm can be stressful, with long hours. As Sabrina says:
“It’s very hard to plan your day as you never know who might need emergency assistance.”
She is not exaggerating, Sabrina’s eldest child has Type 1 Diabetes so the emergencies she faces are very real. She stays motivated by the knowledge that her hard work makes a real difference to the lives of her clients, who she represents through both the best and worst times of their lives. More than that, she is making a difference to the lives of her colleagues who are empowered to do well, while still having a life outside the office. In fact, there are only two people who can be found in the office on a daily basis as everyone at Allard Bailey Family Law works flexibly.
How does Sabrina balance this responsibility with her other full-time role as the Mum of 3 children under 12?
“I have to be flexible in my approach and able to adapt quickly to whatever the day throws at me, be that an issue in the office or at home. I’m also honest with myself and others about what I can and can’t do. I’m not trying to be Superwoman, I’m part of a team. I work closely with my fellow Director, Louise, and share responsibility for the children with their Father.”
Sabrina usually starts her day at 5.30am with a strong coffee. She gets herself ready for work and reviews any emails that have come in overnight, before waking her children at 6.45am.
On this day, they had to be up and out of the house early as her middle child, aged 9, has swimming before school. After dropping the youngest to nursery, she walks to the station. As soon as she is on the train, Sabrina’s smartphone is out of her bag and she responds to any urgent matters.
At 9.10am, Sabrina arrives at the very modern WeWork building that Allard Bailey calls home.
“Having our office in WeWork means we can get the benefits of a large firm, great meeting spaces and a location just 2 minutes from the Family Court, with lower overheads. This means we can keep our fees at a more reasonable level than some other firms.”
Eating the avocado bagel she bought on the way in, Sabrina immediately calls one of the Consultant Lawyers who has a legal query. Once her colleague’s issue has been addressed, she begins work on an Emergency Enforcement Application in Financial Proceedings for a female client.
“Cases like this make me sad. Our client was married for over 20 years and desperate to work, but her husband insisted that her role should remain exclusively within the home. Now he’s left her for someone else and is refusing to pay the maintenance that she has been awarded. Without any work experience or training it’s very difficult for women in this situation to find work above the minimum wage and their confidence is affected on all levels.
There is a warning in this and similar cases. The Court can take the view that the financially weaker partner needs only a short period of maintenance while they retrain, but they will eventually need to provide for themselves. Had my client worked like she wanted to, she wouldn’t be in such a vulnerable situation now.”
Sabrina briefs the firm’s Paralegal, Victoria, to go to Court to get the Application issued. She then begins working on a Statement for a foreign national, who is the Mother of two children with a British man and wants to return home now that the relationship has ended.
“Relocation cases are very difficult as both parties have legitimate reasons for their strong views and emotion often plays a role in that. Mediation can be helpful in these situations to help each party understand the reasons for the other person’s position, but it’s more difficult to find a middle ground.”
Sabrina works on the Statement until 1pm, when she leaves the office to attend an Adoption Party with a bag of gifts.
“I’m excited about this party as it’s the first time I’ll get to meet the children. They were formally adopted by their new Dads in November and had their Celebration Hearing at Central Family Court this morning.”
The party for 35 close friends and family takes place in the function room of a pub. Everyone is smiling and it is clear that the brothers have been adopted into a warm and loving home.
“I’m particularly happy to have helped this family as it’s not always easy for siblings, especially older children, to find a new home together. There are actually 3 times as many children waiting to be adopted in UK as there are adopters and most adopters want babies.”
Visit National Adoption Week for further information about adoption in the UK.
With a happy smile fixed firmly on her face, Sabrina leaves the party and returns to the office. She has a 4pm conference with Counsel in preparation for a financial hearing involving European assets. The question of the day is whether the hearing will take place before or after Brexit and what difference that is likely to make to the client.
Sabrina leaves the office at 6pm, once again responding to emails on the train, and arrives home a little after 7pm. She switches seamlessly from lawyer to Mother as she baths her 4 year old, before reading her a story and putting her to bed.
She prepares a snack for her older children and eats dinner herself, whilst discussing their days and helping with homework. Regular snacks are particularly important for her eldest child to help him recharge and manage his blood glucose levels. Sabrina uses an app to monitor his levels throughout the day, so she’s always keeping an eye on him even when she’s not there.
The children are in bed by 9pm so it is time for a cheeky glass of wine and a final review of emails, before cleaning away the debris from the day and turning in herself.
“I love being a Mum and a lawyer, but it can be challenging, especially when you have a child with additional health needs. In my view, you shouldn’t have to choose between the two and that was a big part of my motivation for creating a flexible working environment.”
All of the women at Allard Bailey Family Law work flexibly for different reasons. Next month you will learn more about one of our Consultant Solicitors.