We asked Francesca to tell us a bit more about herself:
What made you decide to become a solicitor?
When my school careers officer asked where I wanted to do work experience, aged 16, I wrote down two options – solicitor and accountant, although I didn’t know anything about either! I was offered a work experience placement in a High Street solicitors firm in Hemsworth, near Pontefract, which I absolutely loved. Since then, I’ve never wanted to do anything else – and I’m really grateful I didn’t get sent to an accountants!
Can you describe a typical day at work?
I am a Solicitor-Advocate, specialising in care proceedings. This means that I represent children, parents, and other family members in cases where a Local Authority is getting involved in their family life, most often when social workers are applying to take children into care. One of the things I like most about my job is that every day is different!
I like to start the day in my office and usually get caught up with emails for an hour or so before heading out to Court. Some days that will be for a shorter case management hearing (where the Court gives directions about things like filing statements, instructing experts such as psychologists or drug testers, and about the assessments which the social workers will complete). Other days I will be taking part in a longer, contested hearing so I will be cross-examining witnesses or making submissions to the Court on behalf of my client. Then I head back to the office, where I might be meeting with my clients or drafting documents such as witness statements. Other days I will be attending legal planning meetings, visiting children or young people at school or in their foster placement or preparing for Court the next day. My job sees me travelling around the Wakefield and Pontefract areas a lot, as well as to Courts further afield including Leeds, Huddersfield and Bradford.
By the end of the day I aim to be back at my desk, catching up on emails again!
What do you love about your job?
As I’ve already said, every day is different. One of the things I enjoy most is working with families over quite a long period of time – care proceedings usually take six months to complete. This means that I get to know my clients very well, and build up a relationship with them. This is really important to me – just about the most serious thing a Court can do is separate a child from his or her parents, so I think it is absolutely crucial that if I am representing a parent I’ve done everything I can to help them. This doesn’t just mean fighting it out in Court, but making sure that we work together all the way through the case to address the things which made social services go to Court in the first place.
I am a member of the Law Society’s Children Law Accreditation Scheme which means that I can represent children in care proceedings. I really enjoy interacting with the young people I am representing. I think that one of the most important developments in the last few years has been encouraging Judges to meet with young people. I think these meetings are brilliant – whenever I have taken a young person to meet the Judge making a decision about their case they have always got a lot out of it – its so important that they understand who is making life-changing decisions about their future.
What has your proudest moment been as a solicitor?
I remember one case where the Local Authority applied for an Emergency Protection Order to take my client’s son into foster care. The family had been involved with social services for a long time but on this occasion we managed to persuade the Court to give the family a chance and send the baby home. Knowing that a baby (who wasn’t even 24 hours) old got to go home with his parents instead of going to foster carers, in part because of my advocacy in Court, made me feel I’d really achieved something important.
Last year, I worked on two cases which were reported on Bailii (the British and Irish Legal Information Institution) which were also widely reported in the press. Its quite rare as a family solicitor to be involved in a case which appears in most of the national newspapers! They were Re J  EWHC 2430 and Re J (Reporting Restrictions)  EWHC 2595.
Finally, what do you enjoy doing away from work?
I love travelling. I have been lucky enough to visit some fantastic places, including King Street Solicitors allowing me to take a six week sabbatical in 2014 to travel around South America. Spending Christmas Day on the beach in Rio isn’t an experience I will forget!