Meet our very own superwoman Victoria Oya. At the time we followed Victoria she was a Paralegal and law student. She has since completed her Legal Practitioners Course and started her training contract, the final step in becoming a qualified Solicitor.
As a Paralegal Victoria worked two days a week supporting the Directors in legal and administrative work, gaining valuable experience whilst she studied.
As a lone parent to four children, she works hard to maintain a life balance that prioritises her family, whilst enabling herself to grow professionally and personally.
“It’s a fine balancing act and I often liken myself to the woman that has many spinning plates on the go. Both directors are parents themselves so they are incredibly understanding of my priorities and supportive in my transitioning from a stay at home parent to a legal career. I feel having working parents at the top of a family law firm offers an insight that our clients benefit from, particularly when it comes to getting realistic and robust Child Arrangements Orders in place.”
On the days she is in the office, Victoria gets herself ready for work then tends to the family’s dog, Frank the Pug, before waking the children at 7am. It’s a finely-honed routine and she enjoys a quick but lively breakfast with them, whilst downing her first cup of coffee, before the doorbell rings at 7.15am.
Victoria needs to know that her children will be safe while she’s away, so she employs a part-time Nanny who gets them all to school and takes over the household duties. It is the Nanny at the door. After a quick handover and goodbyes to all the children, Victoria dashes to the train station. She meets her friend on the platform and is handed her second cup of coffee. They catch up on life until Victoria’s phone rings and she fields the first of many calls from her children asking where they’ve left various items they need for school, including PE kits and permission slips, which she’s already put in their bags.
Victoria’s train arrives in London at 8.30am, the same time as her children leave home to go to school, so she enjoys an uninterrupted 30-minute walk to the office and uses some of the time to call her best friend.
“I like to walk to clear my head and make the mental transition from focusing on my kids needs to what I’m doing. I’m also in competition with a friend to do 10,000 steps a day so I know I’ll always hit that on London days!”
When Victoria arrives at the office, she heads to a large communal area in the lobby rather than her desk, makes herself a coffee and sits down to read a book on Child Law. She is studying the Legal Practice Course (commonly referred to as the LPC) and makes the most of every free moment to keep on top of her studies.
“Studying family law around my children has been a struggle but a privilege. As a divorcee and lone parent myself, I’ve been through the process personally so I know first-hand what a rollercoaster ride it can be. When we take on a new client we feel honored they’ve chosen our firm to support them during such a difficult time and the fact that I can help navigate them through the minefield makes all the hard work and studying worthwhile.”
Just before 9.30am, Victoria heads upstairs and says hello to everyone who is in the office. She switches on her laptop to check her emails and would usually review the firm’s legal practice management platform for updates on the cases she is assisting with. Today is different as she has an urgent request from Louise Poulton and needs to go straight to the Central Family Court to issue time-sensitive divorce proceedings.
“It’s a major advantage to us and our clients that we are based so close to the Central Family Court. Instead of waiting days for the post, I can file applications in person and be back at my desk within 10 minutes. Many firms will spend much longer than that on the phone just trying to confirm that an application has arrived and then charge that time, as well as the postage costs, to the client.
In this case, the timing was very important as the client became aware that her ex-partner was going to move overseas and she wanted to ensure that divorce proceedings would take place in this jurisdiction. It would have been a close call if we needed to rely on the post.”
Back in the office, Victoria has a planned catch up with Sabrina, who she works with primarily. She then sits down to make a series of phone calls to confirm that Counsel has been booked for clients with upcoming hearings.
Her next call is to a mediator to set up an initial meeting for a client.
“We are a resolution focused firm and as most of us are parents, we are conscious that both parties will need to work together until the kids reach 18, although it’s quite often longer! Mediation, if it is safe to do so, is essential to this and a requirement in most cases before heading to Court. We have good relationships with a number of local mediators who will fit around our clients to avoid any delays.”
Phone calls completed, Victoria grabs a healthy snack, then begins preparing a Court bundle for a financial remedy case that will be heard in Manchester.
“Although a large proportion of our work is for clients based in or around London, we have clients all over the UK and indeed all over the world.”
At 1pm Victoria takes a short walk to London’s historic Leather Lane market and treats herself to lunch from one of the street food vendors. She enjoys the hustle and bustle at this time of day, so she sits down to eat in the courtyard, soaking up the sunshine and the atmosphere. After texting all the children to check they are ok, she re-opens the Child Law book she was reading earlier and starts making notes.
On her return to the office, Victoria completes divorce applications for three clients, which are reviewed by Sabrina before being sent to the clients for approval.
“Divorce is a bit like a death, but without the body. No one envisions divorcing when they marry so there can be a grieving process, regardless of who applies for the divorce, so it’s really important to handle matters as sensitively as possible without heightening the emotions of either party or adding fuel to the fire.”
Next, Victoria prepares a summary of Court proceedings for a client based in Portsmouth. The document she prepares serves as a reminder of what was done for the client and why, as well as the stating the outcomes in plain English. As Court Orders are often full of complicated legal jargon, Victoria firmly believes it is important for clients to have something straightforward they can refer back to.
“When I got divorced, I felt overwhelmed by the process and the legal terminology was like another language – in fact some of it is in Latin! I felt as though I couldn’t understand the important changes that were happening in my own life and ended up purchasing a book about family court to guide me through. Once I understood it, I found it so fascinating that I returned to University to study Law myself. I am in the final stages of training to be Family Law solicitor.
I vowed that I would always go to great lengths to make things as clear as possible for my clients and that I would only work at a firm that shared this ethos. If I can take away just one overwhelming factor in the turmoil of divorce, then I feel I have done my bit to help.”
Victoria spends the following hour coordinating a statement to Court to move forward divorce proceedings which have been ongoing for two years. There are various exhibits to be collated and she needs Sabrina’s input to finalise everything.
“This particular divorce was being handled by another firm and the client felt forgotten and frustrated that progress wasn’t being made. Two years is a very long time for a divorce application to be open, even with court delays. We hope to be able to finalise the divorce by the end of summer so the client can start moving forward with her new plans.”
At 5:30 it’s time for Victoria to begin her journey home, so she provides a summary of work to Sabrina and Louise, then has a handover with Ayse James, our second Paralegal. She takes the afternoon’s mail to the local Post Office on her way to the train station, where she gets a coffee for herself and her train buddy.
As she does so, she jokes
“My colleagues often laugh about my coffee obsession pushing me through the day. I love coffee; I’m an unashamed coffee snob. A dream holiday for me would be to take a trip around the world visiting plantations.”
Arriving home, Victoria is grateful to be greeted by a delicious home cooked dinner prepared by her “incredible” Nanny, who leaves soon after. She sits down to eat with the children and enjoys hearing tales of their day mixed with the usual sibling banter. After dinner, Victoria has some one-to-one time with each of the children to catch up with them, giving them the privacy to discuss anything they want to with Mum without being heckled by their siblings.
At the teenager’s bedtime the wifi gets turned off to ensure there are no distractions. Once they are all in bed, Victoria does a final clear up, checks the children’s school bags are ready before hitting the books one last time in preparation for university the next morning.