See what Lewis Hulatt, South East Consultant for Major Family Law, the best Divorce and Family Law Specialists, says in the North East
Times this month: Major Family Law is extending its reach in the UK and has recently appointed Surrey-based solicitor Lewis Hulatt as a consultant. Here, Lewis reflects on how the working relationship has come about and how his career and skill set will help advance the aims of the firm nationally.

I first met Jo Major in January and two months to the day, I came up from Surrey and met the rest of the team in person.   The occasion was a presentation on law and technology for which we put down our tablets, switched phones to silent and had the benefit of face-to-face communication.

So – how does a Surrey-based solicitor fit into the award-winning North East family law team at Major Family Law? “Surprisingly well!” is the answer.

Thinking back over my career, it seems that I have the right disposition and experience for MFL expanding their firm out of the North East.   They periodically have clients in the South recommended to them and founder Joanne Major has been happy to visit The Smoke from time to time – one such occasion being to collect her award for being ‘Innovative Family Lawyer of the Year’. Liking Surrey, I joined a Woking firm as a trainee in 1986, becoming their family law partner in 1991.

Legal practice was changing and my thoughts were published as one of two national finalists in the ‘Law 2000’ legal writing competition.  I trained as a mediator, setting up a community mediation service for Woking and going on to train as a specialist family mediator to complement my legal work.

My next firm has a familiar name in the North East: Hedleys, the shipping firm had an office in the Surrey village of East Horsley which had been independent for decades, but retained the name. The Hedleys I joined had a mix of commercial, private client and dispute resolution work. Modern technology had enabled the firm to retain world-wide clients and the owner had brought together a highly-skilled team of consultants from Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire, all of whom combined their work as solicitors with other roles. I was brought in to deal with family work, as well as separately working in mediation and undertaking some professional writing.  The firm developed a national reputation in Parish & Town Council work and we had clients from County Durham to Devon and all points in between.   It was not a typical ‘High Street’ firm.

When Hedleys became part of a larger entity, run on more inflexible lines, I came to realise that I needed to be part of something different. Major Family Law is the right kind of different.

Many professionals become acquainted with people through social media or organisations such as Resolution, which started out as the Solicitors’ Family Law Association. Although we had never met, Jo Major and I knew some of the same people and when she was discussing developing the business, my name came up as somebody who might well suit Major Family Law.

I ticked a few boxes in that I had experience of working remotely as a consultant, was not a slave to convention, had considerable experience of family law and liked to make a meaningful contribution. As somebody who had spent most of my career ploughing a lone family-law furrow in my respective firms, being part of a team of people that Jo can trust to adopt a ‘can-do’ attitude whilst upholding professional standards has been the right move.

Location, location, location

Most people seek out legal services through the internet.  Word of mouth is a very good way to attract business, but these days a lot of those words are on social media so the limited opportunities developed from being known at the 19th hole are not going to sustain firms.  People want to do business with real people without seeing a need to drop into the offices. It helps that if need be, our South East clients can meet me in person, but we do not underestimate the importance that the potential client places on the courtesy of making contact by email or by telephone and for a lot of people, the same device does both.

Potential new clients find Major Family Law on the internet and either email or ring the office, where an experienced support team ‘triage’ the enquiry and pass the contact details to me.   We get some background before I speak to them.  Sometimes I will meet with them, in a location that has an appropriate level of privacy, but mostly we communicate through email and by phone. As with my previous far-flung clients in Australia or the Far East, using email means that time difference or coincidence of availability is not a problem.

It is good to have the support of other experienced family lawyers and Major Family Law is recognised as a leading specialist. In what I am doing, I believe I can add something worthwhile to that team and the structure has the flexibility to respond to the needs of potential clients.

Image by Tim Green via Flickr (Creative Commons)