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Alumni interview: Family Law with Yasmin Khan-Gunns

Alumna Yasmin Khan-Gunns studied the LPC with MSc in Law, Business and Management at our London Moorgate campus. We caught up with Yasmin to discuss her role in family law and get her advice for students following in her footsteps.

By Cara Fielder. Published 1 December 2021. Last updated 22 June 2023.

After qualifying in 2019, I became a family solicitor at BLM and was then promoted to family associate in early 2021. I am now an Associate at Keystone Law, an award-winning, full-service law firm providing bespoke legal advice.

I work in private family law (as opposed to public family law) advising medium to high net worth individuals on divorce and the division of finances, pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements, disputes regarding children, applications by one parent to permanently relocate abroad with a child, cohabitation agreements, property disputes between unmarried couples under civil law, separation agreements and domestic violence protection orders.

There is no typical day in family law which means that my day-to-day responsibilities change. Family law is about the individual client; each case is different to the next, as each client’s personal life, financial circumstances and family set up differ.

I spend a lot of time drafting documents, including letters of advice, instructions to barristers, chronologies, witness statements and exhibits, offers to settle financial cases and letters instructing single joint experts.

I also attend court and conferences with barristers multiple times a month. I have recently been in virtual court for the following reasons:

Children hearing concerning safeguards to ensure that two children are not abducted and retained in the Middle East.

Private finance hearing (as opposed to a court hearing) concerning reaching a financial settlement in a case where assets exceeded £8m.

Children hearing where a mother who had retained a child without the father’s permission was sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

I analyse expert reports weekly, correspond with clients, barristers, the court, and solicitors on a day-to-day basis, and I regularly put together court bundles.

I also carry out a lot of marketing and business development. To be a well-rounded family lawyer it is important to think about how you can market yourself and your law firm to raise awareness, build a reputation and attract new clients.

I use my legal Instagram account @londonfamilysolicitor to interact with people every day. I post slides twice a week about family law topics. I do this to help explain family law to the public, particularly those who cannot afford a family solicitor. I also want to help aspiring family solicitors get to grips with family law and understand whether it is right for them.

Networking with other family lawyers, barristers, barrister clerks and independent financial advisors is important too. Family lawyers are always invited to events, from parties hosted by barristers and charity pub quizzes to yearly family law conferences and seminars. Before the pandemic, I co-hosted a cocktail evening class at BLM for family solicitors and barristers, attended an event at the Shard hosted by an independent financial advisor at St James’s Place, and went rock-climbing with a barrister and other family solicitors.

I chose to study at the University of Law because it had, and still has, a very strong reputation in the legal education market. In addition to this:

  • I knew many law firms use the University of Law to train their incoming trainee solicitors.
  • I was impressed by the London Moorgate campus building and its sophisticated and professional study environment.
  • I heard positive things about the University from my friends and university tutors.

The University of Law made and kept family law interesting. They did this through engaging workshops and lectures, including lively group discussions, presenting to the class, teamwork activities, mock advocacy, roleplay, and board work. I was motivated and encouraged to apply for training contracts and paralegal roles. They brought in recruitment consultants to assist, and I could book a slot with a consultant to discuss my career path. This was extremely helpful. I also used the Employability Service which provided practical information, advice, and links to the family law profession.

During my second and third years of university, I chose a mixture of commercial and private client modules, as I was unsure what area I wanted to specialise in. In my third year, I did a family law module, and something just clicked. I found the case law interesting, the topics relevant and relatable, and I liked the idea of advising an individual rather than a business. This was not surprising as I had always worked with families and children, including private tuition, managing an afterschool club for children, and working as a children’s arts and crafts workshop assistant.

I went on to choose the family law elective at university. It was very different to my university module but in a good way. It confirmed to me that this was the area of law I wished to pursue. The elective focused on how family law works in practice rather than the theoretical side. Instead of writing long essays on whether divorce law should be reformed, I was given problem-solving questions and had to draft short, accurate and clear advice. Instead of reading lots of case law and writing broad-brush essays, I considered key family law legislation and principles, and advised fictional clients on what this meant for them.  

Working in private family law, I very rarely find myself getting emotional. That’s because I specialise in divorce, finance, and wealth protection agreements. In relation to children, I empathise with clients who have not seen their child in a long time or whose child is relocating abroad with the other parent. It is certainly not a nice feeling to see a client break down and cry. However, during these times, I remind myself that I am helping and supporting my clients to navigate these legally complex and highly stressful situations. I like to think that I take a burden off their shoulders, making their lives that little bit easier. 

Wellbeing is extremely important in family law. Divorce, finances, domestic violence, and children disputes are stressful. In addition to this, clients can treat their family lawyer as an emotional outlet, whether that emotion is anger, sadness, denial, or depression. Family lawyers tend to inadvertently take on the role of counsellor, therapist, GP, and divorce coaches. This can become overwhelming.

Unless I am exceptionally busy or I have a court hearing coming up, I tend to start work at 9 am and log off at 5.30 pm. I do not check my emails after work unless I am waiting for something urgent to come in. I make sure that I take a one-hour lunch break when I walk to get some fresh air or do some other form of exercise. After work, I tend to go to the gym, relax with my family or see friends.

My firm place a lot of importance on wellbeing. We have a dedicated wellbeing email address, an Employee Assistance Programme and an app providing us with wellbeing advice. We also have wellbeing ambassadors and mental health first aiders.

I’m very proud of what I’ve achieved in 2021. In April, I was promoted to associate. In July I was shortlisted by Citywealth Future Leaders for two awards; Family Lawyer of the Year (Associate) and Future Leader Initiative of the Year. Then, in September, I was shortlisted by the LexisNexis Family Law Awards for Family Law Young Solicitor of the Year and Family Law Commentator of the Year.

My future plans include:

  • Continuing to provide guidance and support to the lay public and aspiring family solicitors through my legal Instagram account.
  • Reach out and support as many charities and communities as I can on Instagram.
  • Apply for Resolution’s Specialist Accreditation in Complex Financial Remedies and Children.
  • Continue to build BLM’s London family department and increase its visibility.
  • Become a Mental Health First Aider to better support my clients.
  • Upskill in the areas of surrogacy and adoption to better serve this community.

My top advice for students considering family law is:

Consider whether you have, or can develop, the traits to be a good family lawyer. These include listening to clients and not presuming, strong analytical skills, empathy yet robustness, ability to analyse large amounts of documentation and extract key pieces of information, commercial awareness, ability to negotiate, excellent written and oral communication, ability to draft, ability to research and summarise findings, and client care.

Try to obtain work experience within or around family law. If you are struggling to obtain experience in the bigger law firms, visit your local high street firm and make some enquiries. Consider applying to work in your local Citizen Advice Bureau which is likely to have a family law department. Also, consider volunteering at a family law related charity, such as a domestic abuse charity.

Do not underestimate the benefits of non-legal work experience, such as working in a supermarket. You will gain so many transferable skills, including organisation, attention to detail, communication with customers, customer service, working under pressure, the ability to handle questions and complaints and the ability to provide product advice.

Join Resolution. Resolution is a network of family law professionals. Members include students, trainee solicitors, solicitors, legal executives, barristers, judges, family mediators and financial planners. Student membership is free for the first year and gives you access to training, expertise, and networks.

Create a LinkedIn account and follow the family law firms that you are most interested in. Connecting with family lawyers is a great way to keep in the loop and keep up to date. Also, recruiters advertise family law jobs on LinkedIn, and there is a button that you can turn on that lets recruiters know you are interested in a new role.

Put time into your CV. Get professional help if you need to. You worked hard to get to where you are, so show it off in the best possible way. I would also suggest that you run your CV through Grammarly to check for spelling and grammar errors.

When looking for a training contract, consider what type of firm you want to work for. You will find family law departments in large commercial firms, regional firms, boutique London firms and local high-street firms. Do not dismiss high-street firms, as they often provide excellent training, hands-on experience, real responsibility, a chance to get involved in marketing, business development and charity work, and a good work-life balance.


Discover more about a career in family law on our legal practice area pages.