I am currently working in the child care side of the family team mainly working from Farleys’ Blackburn Office.
My role as a trainee in this team predominantly involves offering advice and emotional support to clients that are currently involved with the Local Authority (LA), commonly referred to as social services. It is likely that the LA have raised concerns regarding whether a child is potentially vulnerable to abuse or neglect within their parent’s care. We provide advice and support throughout the whole process so my day may involve anything from initial meetings with the local authority to attending court with client and counsel in relation to any application for the removal of a child into care.
I also work with private clients helping to resolve disputes such as those regarding where children should live and when they should see the other parent.
A typical day in this role goes like this:
9:00-10:00 – One of the main tasks as a trainee is to take witness statements of the client in accordance with the latest court order. These are done to ascertain the client’s position in regards to matters such as care plans, threshold documents, and allegations.
I will sit down with the client and try to set out their position in the format of a written statement. The statement will then be filed at court and served upon the other parties to the case. This may include the local authority in public law cases in addition to the child/children’s guardian/other parent. In private law cases this may just be the other side i.e. an ex-partner.
10:00-11:00 – Attending a Pre-Proceedings Meeting (PLO) with the Local Authority along with the client at the LA’s office at Duke Street (which is not far from the Farleys office).
PLO’s are a series of meetings that are held by the LA when they have significant concerns regarding the care a child is receiving from their parents. During the meetings the LA will request that the client agrees to a document known as the schedule of expectations. I’ll advise the client regarding the legal merits of each expectation of the LA. Often the LA will request that our client engage in therapy and/or undertake drug/alcohol testing.
11:00-12:00 – I will then have a conversation with the solicitor assigned to the client to inform them of the meeting’s outcome and to catch-up on anything else that needs attending to.
12:00-13:00 – Lunch. Arguably the best part of the day. With an hour for my lunch, there are plenty of places to pick up a bite to eat in Blackburn. At the minute myself and Antonia (Love, head of the family team) are having a competition for the best lunch of the day so I try to bring something homemade in. Usually I win. At Farleys you’re encouraged to take time away from work for your lunch so even if I’ve brought my lunch in I’ll often nip out for a walk.
13:00-13:30 – In accordance with the latest court order I will send off for a police disclosure request in order for us to obtain all the records, information, and photos the police have in connection with the parties to the case.
13:30-14:30 – I will then complete various other admin tasks. This may include a referral form requesting drugs and alcohol testing in accordance with the latest order, arranging counsel for a court hearing, or trying to find an intermediary capable of assessing our client. The tasks change day to day!
14:30-14:45 – Incoming call from the client providing me an update regarding their case. Depending on the nature of the case, some clients can be emotional during our phone calls. Working in this area of law, you’ve got to be sensitive to the fact you are dealing with clients at their most vulnerable so a lot of the time you’re providing some level of emotional support as well as the legal support.
14:45-15:30 – Another witness statement with client.
15:45-16:00 – In the UK you can change your name (or your child’s name) via deed poll. In preparation for the client coming to the office for this, I’ll prepare the deed and questionnaire in advance to save their time upon arrival.
16:00-16:30 – Phone call from reception to say the client has arrived. I will then sit down with them in one of our boardrooms to fill out the questionnaire before signing the deed officially changing their legal name.
16:30-17:00 – Having finished meeting clients for the day I will then fill out my training record and finish a few admin jobs off.
17:00 – Leave the office. We’re encouraged to work hard at Farleys but they also allow for an excellent work/life balance. We are trusted to manage our time alongside our workload so if we feel we need to stay later to finish work we can, but no one is required to stay past five o’clock. On this day, I’ve finished what needs to be done for the day so I leave on time.