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In keeping with tradition, three of this year’s Awards will be voted for by the family law community. Shortlists of four nominees have been selected by the judges from the nominations received. It's now time to place your vote before midday Friday 19 October.

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Clerking Team of the Year

The barristers' clerking team that has demonstrated that it has provided an outstanding quality of legal service in the family law field and also displayed high levels of teamwork. 

1GC|Family Law

1GC|Family Law is recognised nationally and internationally as a leading family law set, providing a highly skilled, comprehensive service to clients across the broad spectrum of family law and related work.

Why vote for 1GC|Family Law

  • Paul Harris has continued to build his team of thoughtful clerks delivering top level client service. The clerks at 1GC|Family Law are 100% focused on the best interests of the client and the solicitors instructing them. All the clerks are acutely sensitive to the needs of their clients and their instructing solicitors. 1GC|Family Law are a relatively large family law set yet the clerks know their barristers' individual strengths, aptitudes and abilities. This makes them well placed to match the right counsel to the right case based on the client, their needs and budget. As a collective they are a cohesive and respectful team who clearly bond with each other both inside and outside of work.
  • In the recently reported case of Bloom v Bloom, there were multiple hearings on children matters over a near 2 year period requiring counsel to attend at extremely short notice. On every occasion, Paul and his team fielded individuals who were able to take the matter on and progress it with a sensitivity to the style and approach being taken in the case overall in advance while obviously each being true to their own skills and expertise. This meant a smooth process for the client, which was essential when dealing with the incredibly sensitive and difficult allegations and issues arising.
  • This has been an incredible year of change for the whole team of 1GC|Family Law. The highlight must be the seamless relocation from the Temple to state-of-the-art premises in Lincolns Inn Fields. They represent the ideal response to the demands of the 21st-century family law profession. Despite what must have been a huge upheaval, there was not a single day that the clerking team were not in operation, were unable to help or came across as being too busy. To the contrary, they took their time to explain the move and answer any questions.
  • 1GC|Family Law has broadened its offering. Chambers is making a bold pitch for private arbitration work and has geared its clerking team and facilities accordingly.

"Paul Harris heads the clerks room to an incomparable level and has trained and produced the best clerks I have ever had the pleasure of working with and alongside. Paul’s dedication to chambers and his members is second to none and Paul is an outstanding example of excellence when leading such a team."

Vote for 1GC|Family Law

7 Harrington Street Chambers

The family team at 7 Harrington Street Chambers (7HS) is an experienced and approachable group of practitioners that provide representation and advice in all areas of family law.

Why vote for 7 Harrington Street Chambers?

  • The 35-strong 7HS offers expert lawyers in all aspects of family law. They cover child and matrimonial proceedings, including finance and property distribution, Human Rights Act cases, all types of public and private child law cases including adoption and care proceedings, and Children Act matters. Mediation, separation and divorce are also well covered and it also takes on cases in emerging areas of the law, including child abduction - where cases often take on an international dimension. Clerks at 7HS are adept at matching the most appropriate barrister for each case.
  • 7HS believes it is important its team reflects the wider society in which it operates and is fully committed to equality and diversity. All responsible employers now take steps to ensure the welfare and wellbeing of their staff as a basic standard, and 7HS takes that responsibility seriously. Chambers has recently appointed a wellbeing officer to oversee the welfare of barristers.
  • In these days of austerity, 7HS is acutely aware there are many people within society that struggle to get fair legal representation and advice. Against a backdrop of cuts to welfare advice services and to the Legal Aid budget, Chambers takes its wider societal responsibilities extremely seriously. 7HS is fully committed to publicly-funded legal work and, in terms of pro bono work, one member of the team has recently founded the Temple Legal Centre, which holds regular clinics to provide free family legal advice to those on low income/unable to secure public funding.
  • From clerks to lawyers, 7HS aspires to offer a high degree of empathy and emotional intelligence when dealing with clients, from the first moment they walk in the door. When it comes to areas such as international child abduction there can often be a need for a greater awareness of cultural issues and the 7HS team is well trained and prepared to handle such complex and emotional cases.

“We would just like to commend your clerking team on their professional and efficient service. We often require Counsel at very short notice and the team always use their best efforts to ensure that Counsel is available. The team are always willing to go over and above in order to accommodate our clients’ needs and we greatly appreciate the same.”

Vote for 7 Harrington Street Chambers

Harcourt Chambers

Harcourt Chambers is a thriving top-tier family law set with bases in the heart of London and in Oxford.

Why vote for Harcourt Chambers?

  • Harcourt have a number of excellent barristers across all levels of seniority and the clerks have an in-depth knowledge of each of their member’s expertise, which guarantees they only offer the most suited barristers for each case. The team are excellent at promoting the more junior members of chambers as well as the well-known leaders.
  • The clerks are friendly and approachable. They know the courts, the court staff and their team of barristers. They are creative in finding solutions to problems solicitors face and this includes checking the array of talent they have in Chambers and making the most of the resources available. All of the clerks are immensely helpful and friendly.
  • The clerks at Harcourt are always reasonable when discussing fee estimates and are known for their realistic approach. All the clerks are on top of the complex nuances of Legal Aid billing and fees, including the CCMS system. They are thus able to provide an all-round service.
  • The clerking team at Harcourt always provide a truly professional but personable service. They are excellent at maintaining client relations. These qualities have established their reputation as a superb clerking team. The whole team is dedicated to the development of Harcourt Chambers becoming a leading set in family law. This is exemplified by the work that the team carries out in support of Chambers seminars and training events for the profession. There are a number of these each year on complex subjects and they are always skillfully organised events.

“The Harcourt clerking team are outstanding. They are friendly, helpful, super-efficient and incredibly hard-working. They are a pleasure to work with, and because of them, Harcourt are my go-to set.”

“I have even had a response to an email from a clerk who was out of the country on holiday! And it matters not whether you are booking one of their excellent Silks or their newest tenant, the attention to service is the same.”

Vote for Harcourt Chambers

St Ives Chambers

St Ives Chambers has a strong reputation in family law, including financial remedy, children and care work.

Why vote for St Ives Chambers?

  • Practice Manager Sarah Robinson has been with St Ives for 20 years, providing unprecedented levels of experience and stability for the clerking team and our members. Many of the clerks have been in the legal profession and clerking roles for many years, bringing with them years of combined knowledge and the benefit of existing relationships with clients across the board.
  • The levels of knowledge and expertise possessed results in an understanding of the issues and complexities of all cases. The clerks are qualified to match clients carefully with the most suitable barrister on an individual case-by-case basis. The continued endeavour of the clerks to provide continuity of counsel wherever possible enables clients to have great confidence in the team as a whole.
  • The clerks have a proven track record in forging and maintaining relationships across all areas of our family law practice, across the region and indeed nationally. The meaningful and enduring relationships the clerks have with the local and regional judiciary, competing chambers, regional and national local authorities and solicitors across the country ensure a working relationship of mutual respect and confidence.
  • St Ives has a specialist clerking team in each of its family practice areas of Family Finance, Family Children (public law) and Family Children (private law). This clerk-led system enables each independent clerking team to focus predominantly on their specialist areas of expertise while maintaining their broad commitment and ability to clerk across the board with each specific internal team remaining an integral part of the clerking team as a whole.

“The clerking team are excellent – they understand us as a client and strive to meet our requests. They will do all that they can to accommodate our requests. They make us feel as though we are their only client, such is the level of their service.”

Vote for St Ives Chambers

Family Law Chartered Legal Executive of the Year 

An individual who the family law community recognise as having demonstrated excellence in their role.

Samantha Armour, Watson Thomas Solicitors

Samantha Armour is a partner at Watson Thomas Solicitors in Fleet Hampshire.

Why vote for Samantha?

  • Samantha has been instrumental in the development and growth of Watson Thomas Solicitors. She joined the firm 6 months after it started and it has continued to grow ever since. She was made a Partner in 2015/2016. Samantha undertakes a large amount of the day-to-day running of the firm and arranges and delivers training to staff. She and the other partners supervise and run a busy family law team of 9 lawyers and 5 support staff. She solely runs the firm when the Director is out of the office.
  • In the past 12 months, Samantha has been given the responsibility of developing the Guildford branch of Watson Thomas which now has a great presence in a location that already had a very strong family law presence. She also has an instrumental role in preparing and developing our company policies and procedures.
  • Samantha runs a large family law case load with some high net worth clients. Her most recent high net worth client has assets over £150m with complicated business and international assets. This is currently in court and is potentially being transferred to the High Court. Samantha covers all areas of family law including children, pre-nuptial agreements and financial remedies. She has several complicated children cases.
  • Samantha supervises three trainee legal executives and two newly qualified legal executives alongside her case load and office management. She attends local networking events and is a member of YRes in Surrey.

“I'm convinced that a less capable, or less engaged legal team would not have been able to achieve such a result in the challenging circumstances. Much of this comes down to the Witness Statement that you put together for me, but also to the comprehensive support throughout this ordeal, from each response to the other solicitor, to the convenient and efficient morning meetings, through to the final words of encouragement the night before the hearing."

Vote for Samantha

Sally Fitzherbert, Hopkins Law

Sally joined Hopkins Law in 2013 as a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives.

Why vote for Sally?

  • Sally has over 20 years’ experience specialising in all areas of family law, representing parents and grandparents in private law children proceedings, as well as divorce and financial cases. Sally works for Hopkins Law as a fee earner and costs clerk. She is in charge of all billing for the care department. The rest of her time is spent fee earning.
  • Sally sees clients in the Cardiff and Cowbridge office. She has successfully obtained a number of relocation orders, and has dealt with a number of confrontational litigants in person in domestic violence cases, having to support and escort the clients to court for their own safety and represent them at contested hearings, effectively running the case and preparing bundles and pleading to assist the court as no other lawyers were instructed. She has handled a complex fact-finding hearing with sexual abuse allegations and had to take the client through the pleadings and disclosure to prepare statements and draft responses.
  • Sally became a committee member of the local CILEx branch in 2013. The following year she became Chair. She wrote articles for the CILEx Journal and Legal News, the publication for the Confederation of South Wales Law Societies. She organised a quiz for branch members and regular meetings plus supported Fran Edwards during her year as Chair to promote Wales and CILEx to firms, judges and barristers. This year, she has continued to support the new branch Chair.
  • Sally continues to receive referrals of work from previous firms, colleagues, local barristers and BAWSO Cardiff. Recognising the lack of support for clients on a low income who often have complex concerning issues that need resolving, Sally will provide clients with general information free of charge to assist them.

“I really can’t express just how pleased I have been with Sally, nothing was ever too much trouble for her, her advice was always sound and she is very personable as well.”

Vote for Sally

Juliet Harvey, Birketts

Juliet is a senior associate in Birketts’ Family Team.

Why vote for Juliet?

  • Juliet represents a wide client base and has dealt with the full gamut of family law cases over her career, representing clients through some of the toughest times of their lives. She is now Vice Chair of Resolution and will become Chair of Resolution in 2020, representing over 6500 family justice professionals. Juliet is the first Chartered Legal Executive to hold the position of Vice Chair within Resolution.
  • Juliet has been involved with Resolution on a regional level for many years, holding the position of Cambridge Regional Chair for 7 years before being elected by her family law peers across the country to Resolution’s National Committee in 2015. After serving 3 years as a National Committee member, Juliet is the first Chartered Legal Executive to be elected Vice Chair of Resolution. Juliet is co-chair of the Courts Working Party, the Membership Working Party, Chair of the Litigants in Person Working Party and leads the Membership Development Forum at a national level for Resolution. As Vice Chair, Juliet chairs the Regional Liaison Committee, regularly meets with representatives from all Resolution regions. Juliet is also the designated National Committee member dealing with four Resolution regions across East Anglia and still sits as Treasurer on the Cambridge Committee and as Officer on the Ipswich and Suffolk Committee. Juliet also co-ordinates the Bury St Edmunds Collaborative Practice Group and organises regular networking and training events. She has sat on a Resolution Standards Panel and is often the point of contact for many practitioners who have Court issues, particularly in relation to the Bury St Edmunds Divorce Unit. Juliet regularly contributes to the CILEx Journal, CILEx Regulation and the Resolution Review.
  • Juliet has worked in East Anglia for the past 30 years and is well known to local judiciary and practitioners. She has contributed to local Court User's Groups and sat for a number of years on local Family Justice Boards. Juliet was also a Trustee of a local contact centre and a local women's refuge before becoming involved in Resolution on a national level. As a collaborative practitioner, Juliet is committed to working in a multi-disciplinary way and assisted in coordinating collaborative professionals across East Anglia, before smaller practice groups (pods) were established. Juliet still runs the Bury St Edmunds group, coordinating meetings and organising training for local family justice professionals.
  • Juliet manages a full case load at Birketts and has recently covered for two colleagues on maternity leave at the same time.

"I thank you with all my heart for the strength and support you showed me at the times of my utter despair. Without your help and guidance there was no chance of happiness and I will forever be truly grateful and never forget what you have done for me and my little three.”

Vote for Juliet

Chris Sutton, KJ Smith Solicitors

Chris Sutton is a Chartered Legal Executive at KJ Smith Solicitors.

Why vote for Chris?

  • Having been called to the Bar in 2010, Chris commenced working in family law for firms including Thomas Eggar, Mundays LLP and Winckworth Sherwood in the capacity of a paralegal. His application for Fellowship of CILEx was approved in January 2016 by which time he was already running multi-million pound divorce cases. In May 2017 he was entrusted with the responsibility of building the latest office for KJ Smith Solicitors in Abingdon, Oxfordshire.
  • He has sat on the committee for Resolution for Berkshire and Buckinghamshire as secretary since November 2015. In the past 12 months, he has also taken on the responsibility of dealing with all private family law enquiries made through the Citizens Advice Centres in South Oxfordshire. This has led to a considerable amount of pro-bono work. He is involved with the Abingdon Chamber of Commerce in promoting the development of the community and in that role, he has also built links with local charities affecting children, eg SeeSaw.
  • Chris has been undertaking his own advocacy on average once a week and has been undertaking the advocacy at court hearings for colleagues in Henley and Reading.
  • Chris covers a broad range of private family law work. In divorce and finance matters, he has numerous cases with asset pools of £1m-£5m. He has also recently completed work on a High Court case that involved assets in the UK, Dubai, South Africa, Switzerland and Zimbabwe to a total amount of around £30m. He also handles complicated and highly emotive children matters, which require fact-finding hearings and lengthy trials.

“Thank you very much for your help on getting me to the end of my divorce. I was thankful you got me back on track and kept me focused on the job in hand. Thank you also for your support at court, such a daunting time.”

Vote for Chris

Family Law Commentator of the Year 

An award for the commentator who the family law community consider to have provided the most useful commentary to help them in their practice. The commentary could have been contained in any format including books, journal articles, videos or blogs.

Graeme Fraser, OGR Stock Denton

Graeme is a partner at OGR Stock Denton, a Resolution National Committee member and chair of the Cohabitation Committee.

Why vote for Graeme?

  • Graeme has been instrumental in increasing public awareness of the lack of legal protection for cohabitees over the course of many years. As Chair of Resolution’s Cohabitation Committee and as the organisation’s national spokesperson on the issue he has been featured in a wide range of publications, including a recent full-page feature in the Homes and Property section of the Evening Standard. He has also been featured in the Daily Mail on big money divorce settlements, the Financial Times on a case in which a court cut a breadwinner trader’s divorce payments to her husband and the Huffington Post on falling numbers of opposite-sex marriages. He has also provided an interview for BBC Radio Wiltshire.
  • Graeme has been a regular commentator on matters relating to cohabitation for a professional audience. In the past year, he has been featured in Family Law, New Law Journal, Legalease Family Law Journal, Lawyer Monthly, Family Law Week and the Law Society Gazette. In addition to his contributions to debates about family law and cohabitation in particular in both general and specialist publications, Graeme is also active on social media. Through Twitter and Linkedin he regularly engages with other family justice professionals and the wider public. Graeme is also a regular blogger.
  • Graeme regularly speaks at conferences and other events, both as a Partner at OGR Stock Denton and in his role with Resolution. Notably he spoke on Brexit from a UK perspective at the Law Society of Ireland Annual Family & Child Law Conference 2017. Additionally, he has spoken at a number of events on family law matters. A recent event took place in April, at which Graeme discussed preserving wealth and protecting assets on divorce. Graeme led a seminar on cohabitation matters in November last year during Resolution’s Cohabitation Awareness Week. He was acknowledged by Resolution Chair Margaret Heathcote in her recent inaugural address for his work on Cohabitation Awareness Week. New research on cohabitation, the common law myth and law reform is being commissioned in 2018/2019.

"Graeme has for a long number of years been involved in promoting and working for Resolution's Cohabitation Awareness week which achieved great results nationally in raising public awareness, promoting this worthy cause as well as services for members. In particular he has been a key member of the Resolution team in lobbying for change to the family justice environment … He is an inspiration to those who have worked with him or heard him speak."

Vote for Graeme

Bethany Hardwick, St John’s Chambers

Bethany is a barrister at St John’s Chambers and an associate member of the Law Faculty at Oxford University.

Why vote for Bethany?

  • Bethany’s commentary has covered a wide range of forums and similarly sought to address a large range of topic areas. She has written for Family Law, published both in print and online. She is a regular contributor to Family Law Week, providing case summaries and has produced multiple summaries for this website in the past year. She has recently completed a Guidance Note for the Transparency Project on cohabitation and helping to ensure that those who cohabit are aware of the true extent of their legal protection. She uses social media to ensure the public are aware of the truth/myth distinction in family law.
  • Bethany’s work also covers the academic spectrum. Alongside her court practice, she provides tutorials to family law students at Oxford University. In addition to academic teaching, she has acts as a Research Assistant to Professor Rachel Taylor, assisting in research for the third edition of Fortin’s Children's Rights and the Developing Law. Her work has focused around the chapters on adolescent medical treatment/Gillick competence, and the rights of parents in relation to medical decisions for their younger children. This involved considerable updating/research given that the previous edition was published in 2010. The new edition is due to be published in October 2018.
  • In addition to practical and academic written commentary, she interacts with the public to inform them regarding family law. She regularly speaks at seminars and CPD events for solicitors. Most recently, she has provided lectures to solicitors on non-matrimonial property, pensions, insolvency and recent financial remedies case-law. She also donates her time to school programmes to explain the Bar to pupils and encourage them to consider a legal profession. She has travelled to schools in both Hampshire and Cornwall in the past 6 months.
  • Bethany’s role as a commentator has allowed her to develop her practice. Her legal commentary allows her to combine both practical and academic evaluations of family law when away from court. This has the additional benefit of diversifying the Bar and enabling her voice and analysis to be heard and to contribute to the wider debate.

Vote for Bethany

Andrew Pack, Suesspicious Minds

Andrew Pack is a lawyer at Brighton and Hove City Council, specialising in child protection work.

Why vote for Andrew?

  • Andrew is the creator and author of the Suesspicious Minds, the child law blog, which deals with public law, private law, social work, serious case reviews and Court of Protection cases. The blog has over 8,000 followers and features amusing but legally enlightening commentaries on the important cases that are reported in family law. His work has been noted by both the current and former Presidents of the Family Division..
  • Andrew’s work is informative and insightful. The excellent summaries of judgments on the Suesspicious Minds blog are recognised as being particularly useful for the busy practitioner. He has also written useful basic explanations of the law relating to family law (children) – primarily for social workers, but also helpful for any other non-lawyer wanting an accessible explanation.
  • Andrew is a member of The Transparency Project, a charity that provides information and analysis on family law cases to promote greater understanding of the work of the family courts. His work with the project has involved providing lectures and sitting on panel debates.
  • Andrew is a regular public speaker on matters of family law. In March 2018, he took part in the panel discussion at the Family Justice Council’s second Annual Bridget Lindley Memorial Lecture on social media, surveillance and scrutiny. In April, Andrew’s book In Secure, a young adult’s adventure story set in a prison, was published. The book has been described as a ‘magical mystery tour-de-force set in the youth justice system’.

"Of all the legal commentators available on social media and in print media, Andrew is the one who brings humour into what can often be a very dark world. He is very deserving of another award to recognise his continued efforts to inform us of the latest news, whilst also putting a smile across our faces."

Vote for Andrew

Tony Roe, Tony Roe Solicitors

Tony Roe is the principal of niche practice Tony Roe Divorce & Family Law Solicitors.

Why vote for Tony?

  • His articles and commentary on family law have appeared in many publications including Family Law, Solicitors’ Journal, the Institute of Directors’ Director blog and Costco magazine. His book reviews for the Law Society Gazette provide an objective take on what publications may benefit one’s practice. He has also written and spoken about law firm management in the context of running a niche family law practice for the Law Society’s Small Firms’ Division and Law Management Section. Tony is a keen user of social media (@tonyroedivorce and @RoeArbitration). He spoke at the Law Society’s Small Firms’ Division and Family Section event, ‘Is LinkedIn worth my time?’.
  • Much of Tony’s commentary derives from his own investigatory work. Originally submitting Freedom of Information requests to the Ministry of Justice, he broke the news that Bury St Edmunds (BSE) would be the single divorce centre for London and the South East. He continues to publicise developments. His research pre-empted HMCTS’ announcement of the date for transfer of work from Thames Valley courts to BSE. He lobbied HMCTS for more information on why divorce petitions are returned owing to errors, prior to a Law Society event at which he spoke. He was invited to HMCTS’ Online Divorce Workshop at the Ministry of Justice. He published reports in Family Law about the pilot and what was planned. He has written about new related Practice Directions as they have appeared.
  • Tony has sought to inform, offer insight and highlight contradictions. He has covered topics including errors within family court forms (‘Another faulty form’ [2016] Fam Law 401) and the development of online divorce (Online divorce by 2017 - or is the jury still out? Family Law site, 1 March 2016). He continued to myth-bust where he feels that the public may not be given the full picture (eg Co-op’s online divorce: A road test, Family Law site, 19 January 2018). He campaigns where he feels the law needs change: ‘Time to act on cohabitants’ was a Law Society Gazette comment piece after the failed judicial review application of Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan. He points out Government shortcomings (eg Call for access rights to grandparents, Family Law site, 15 May 2018).
  • Tony has written widely, and spoken, on the subject of family law arbitration. Personally and in his role as chair of the Forum of Family Law Marketing Sub-Committee, now disbanded, he has done all that he can to publicise this route of dispute resolution, including writing a comment piece for the June 2015 edition of Family Law, ‘Family law arbitration - a note to the new government’. He has also commented on important case-law, such as DB v DLJ [2016] EWHC 324, [2016] Fam Law 399.

Vote for Tony