Julian Hawkhead is a Senior Partner at Stowe Family Law and one of 15 ULaw alumni now working within the firm. After completing his LPC at The University of Law, Julian joined Stowe Family Law as a trainee solicitor in 1999 and has worked his way up through the ranks. Here he talks about his experience in family law and his journey to success.
My early ambitions were simply to be a lawyer. Being a child of the ‘80s, I was initially attracted to the glamour of programmes like LA Law, but it was the also the variety of the stories that captured my attention; the quirky elements of each plotline and the clever ways in which problems were solved. I’ve been a problem-solver ever since I was very young, and though the LA glamour might be hard to find, the legal profession certainly offers plenty of problems to solve in everything I do.
The proudest moment of my career so far has to be when I was made Senior Partner earlier this year. Having joined Stowe Family Law as a trainee solicitor in 1999 and dedicating almost 20 years to the firm, it’s very rewarding to see the positive results of hard work and perseverance.
As Senior Partner I continue to represent clients. My particular focus is on financial elements, but I still deal with all elements of a relationship breakdown. First and foremost, I’m still a family lawyer, but I also now look after the solicitors in the firm. This involves making strategic decisions on cases, overseeing the standard of client care that we provide, and the delivery of relevant training and professional development. We’re currently based across 11 offices, so I couldn’t do that without the excellent team of partners we have in the firm.
The interesting element of our work is that every case is different. Our clients are at different stages of their separations, whether it’s having just recognised their marriage is over, finalising their divorce and the financial settlement, or at any stage between the two.
It sounds cliché, but the process of divorce really is a journey into the unknown. It’s not just unknown in terms of the legal process, but also the emotional rollercoaster that clients will experience. That’s why you need to have a high level of emotional intelligence to be successful as a family lawyer. You can know all the law and be an exceptional advocate for your client’s case, but unless you have insight into what your client’s feeling and what his or her priorities and concerns are, you’re not going to be able to truly help them. I find face-to-face contact so important.
I’ve known some of my partners at Stowe Family Law for nearly 20 years so it often feels like a home away from home. It’s hard to compare the firm that I joined with the firm that we now see, but the friendly culture still prevails and we retain the same close-knit team spirit that we’ve always had. I’ve always enjoyed the real sense of teamwork, indeed even family. We have a truly meritocratic culture at Stowe Family Law, where anyone can rise up through the firm and achieve all that they want within their career. As the largest family law firm in the country, we have provided a platform for all aspiring family lawyers to pursue their particular interests and goals. Nothing gives me more pleasure than seeing colleagues who joined as trainee solicitors become partners through their ability and hard work. I shows that anything is possible.
My main piece of advice to anyone keen to work at Stowe Family Law would be to apply for work experience. Spend some time with us, getting a feel for the work that we do. We’re a friendly and informal team, always looking for people with more than just notable academic achievement. A good family lawyer is someone who is personable and can put clients who are in emotional distress at ease. It’s important to give them the confidence that we will be able to help them. It’s also good to get as broad a spread of work experience in other legal sectors as you can to be sure that family law is for you. Family law often needs a little knowledge of other legal areas, such as trusts, company law, land law, or employment law, so any experience you pick up in these areas will be useful.