Sally Clark, an accredited mediator, family lawyer and founder of Clark Family Law in Harrogate.
What’s the biggest development you have seen in the legal world during your career? In my field I would say the change in the pre-action protocol for parties to engage in mediation prior to issuing court proceedings in private family law proceedings. Unless there are exceptional circumstances, parties now have to attend an assessment appointment (MIAMS) for mediation before issuing divorce proceedings. This change came into force in 2015 and has fortunately had a positive impact on the way not only clients, but also lawyers approach court proceedings.
What law would you like to see changed? I would like to see cohabitees obtain similar, if not the same rights as married couples upon relationship breakdown. There is still a huge misconception about the ‘common law’ husband or wife. In law there is no such thing and many non-married parents find themselves without legal redress on major issues after lengthy relationships.
What’s the most exciting work you have ever done? I am not sure exciting is the right word however I find it a real privilege speaking to children as part of the mediation process and being part of a process to make their lives better following divorce by helping their parents to communicate and focus upon what is best for them in very difficult times.
Who do you admire most in the legal world? My dad. He is senior partner in a law firm in South and West Yorkshire. He works tirelessly for his clients, is modest, hard-working and has an excellent legal mind. He inspired me to do law and continues to do so.
What advice would you give someone starting out in the profession? Get as much experience as possible in as many settings as possible. Volunteer for pro-bono work, work with counsel, solicitors, charities and deal with people as much as possible in a variety of settings.