Jonathan Dunkley, a Consultant Solicitor at Major Family Law, the North East’s leading Divorce and Family Law Specialists, comments in the North East Times:
What was your first break in business?
Making partner at the age of only 26 was an invaluable opportunity. It was not only recognition of my professional ability as a lawyer, but a chance to become involved with the running and marketing of a business and to contribute to policy decisions about the delivery of services to clients.
What attracted you to your current role?
I had previously spent the bulk of my career in as a partner in a prestigious city centre practice. Whilst this was a very rewarding position, nevertheless, the focus of the practice was commercial. Major Family Law is a niche practice, exclusively dedicated to family law work with an excellent reputation at both local and national levels. They have a young and dynamic team with a fresh and innovative approach, all of which makes being part of the team a very exciting and invigorating prospect.
What has been your career highlight?
About a month after I qualified in 1979, I was instructed by a farmer’s wife who was in a custody battle with her husband over their three young children. The circumstances of the case were harrowing. It went all to a contested court hearing which lasted for three days. I conducted the case myself and won. If my client had lost her children, it would have broken her. I knew how high the stakes were and how important it was to fight for the right outcome. Winning confirmed to me that family law was where I wanted to be.
What has been your career lowlight?
I’ve been extremely fortunate to have had a long and successful career doing something I love and which I passionately believe in. For that reason, I can’t say that there have been any significant lowlights. On the other hand, it’s not always possible to achieve the exact outcome that a client so desires, and it is difficult to deal with a client’s disappointment in the knowledge that these can be life-changing decisions with ramifications for those involved way beyond the time of my involvement.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
Every case is different and often complex and challenging. I feel privileged when clients turn to me to help and guide them through difficult and turbulent times in their lives. Being given that responsibility makes me passionate about helping every client and securing the best possible outcome every time.
What’s your biggest challenge?
Providing the best possible advice and support in a cost effective and practical way is always a challenge. Disputes are costly. Disputes within a family context usually mean that available finances are even more restricted. We have a duty as family lawyers to give our clients the best possible representation whilst at the same time always seeking to avoid unnecessary confrontation or incurring unnecessary costs. Sometimes, just persuading someone to seek legal advice sooner rather than later is a challenge in itself.
Who are your heroes, in and out of business?
People who fight tirelessly for a cause they firmly believe in, often for little or no personal reward, truly inspire me. Clive Stafford Smith, the founder of Reprieve, has spent 25 years working on behalf of defendants facing the death penalty in the US; and Shami Chakrabarti ,Director of Liberty (The National Council for Civil Liberties), is a talented and effective proponent of human rights and an extremely accomplished woman.
What is the best piece of business advice anyone has ever given you?
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
It’s actually a quote by Martin Luther King, but it’s a potent message.
What does the future hold for Major Family Law
In 5 short years, Major Family Law has grown in stature and reputation and firmly established itself as a leading niche practice within the north east and the legal profession generally. Described by the Legal 500 as a pre-eminent practice, the practice never rests on its laurels and is constantly seeking new ways to deliver the service clients want and need in the best possible way. Keeping abreast of changes to the law and procedural rules, embracing technology and the changing ways in which people communicate all make for exciting times for me to have joined such a modern and progressive practice.
What do you do to relax?
Family life in and around my home in Hexham is wonderfully relaxing. I have a large and sloping lawn which requires mowing every other weekend. On average, it takes 42 minutes, 59 seconds on my ancient Westwood Tractor, which coincidentally is the exact playing time of Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd!
Jonathan Dunkley is a Consultant Solicitor at Major Family Law, the Divorce and Family Law Specialists, 12 West Road, Ponteland, Newcastle Upon Tyne. T: 01661 82 45 82 www.majorfamilylaw.co.uk. Twitter: @majorfamilylaw