In his Yorkshire Post Legal Matters Q&A article, senior family lawyer and director Stephen Root shares his experiences of over 30 years in the legal industry and reveals which piece of legislation he would like to see changed.
What’s the biggest development you’ve seen in the legal world during your career?
There’s been a big shift towards being up front and trying to resolve disputes early and amicably – something which has been boosted in family law with a move towards collaborative practices. When I first qualified, you tended to issue proceedings, disclose as little as you could get away with and only have serious negotiations as the final hearing approached.
What law would you like to see changed?
I would change the system to include a non-fault divorce. While there will always be circumstances where one side has caused a marriage to breakdown, it can also be the case that a couple has simply grown apart. It can set the whole process off on the wrong foot if one party has to blame the other, with one “in the right” and the other “in the wrong” and goes against the prevailing ethos of collaboration and mediation.
What is the most exciting work you’ve ever done?
My first four person meeting on a collaborative family law case springs to mind. It felt like entering into a brave new world and ultimately resulted in an amicable resolution, which kept channels of communication open after the divorce – that’s essential, particularly if children are involved.
Who in the legal world do you most admire?
Too many individuals to name – I admire innovators and those who think outside the box (my fellow director Paul Berwin comes to mind, so that’s one name!). I also have huge respect for senior members of the Bar who make advocacy look so effortless and easy – it isn’t, it’s hard, skilled work.
What advice would you give someone starting out in the profession?
Never think for one moment that you know it all – you don’t, no matter how experienced you are. Even over 30 years on from qualification, there are things I am learning and doing for the first time. As soon as you believe there is nothing more to learn the law will find you out and make you look a fool!
Stephen Root's Legal Matters Q&A featured in the Yorkshire Post on Tuesday 5th September 2017