Publish date

4 May 2022

Strike a balance: how to choose the right family lawyer?

Family legal issues can be complicated and emotive, so it’s always good to put a face to the name of the expert who is guiding you through the process. Joanna Pratt, Senior Partner and Head of Family at Thomson Snell & Passmore recently sat down with Wealden Times Magazine to share her views on a wide range of topics.

What led you to work in law and particularly family law?

When my brother and I were young, I used to insist that we watched a programme called ‘Crown Court’. I think that sparked my interest for a career in law. When I was studying, I planned to become a corporate lawyer. However, during the two years when I was training to be a solicitor, family law chose me – I felt that I was making a difference to people’s lives.

What qualities do you need to work successfully in family law?

I think the most important quality is to be able to listen – to hear what clients are saying and to appreciate the nuances of their personal circumstances, without imposing preconceived ideas as to what you might think the best outcome is for that individual and their family. Like all areas of law, as well as being empathetic, you do need to be robust when needed.

What changes have you seen since the beginning of your career?

There have been huge changes over the 30 years since I started training to be a solicitor. We did not have computers on every desk – I can remember the excitement when our first computer arrived in the office, and we had one on each floor! Technology has also changed the day to day work of lawyers – we do not spend hours researching through dust covered books – all legal materials are available online.

What impact will no fault divorce have?

Separating and divorcing is recognised as being one of the most stressful experiences. Quite often, couples agree that the marriage has broken down, but until 6 April 2022, if they wanted to divorce, one of them had to cite the adultery or unreasonable behaviour of the other party as evidence that the marriage had irretrievably broken down, unless they had been separated for at least 2 years. No fault divorce enables couples to divorce without having to exacerbate what is already a difficult situation.

How do you unwind outside work?

Spending time with family and friends, cooking and walking. I have also recently started golf lessons – although it is arguable whether that helps me to unwind or not!

Thomson Snell & Passmore is the oldest law firm in the world! What do you put its extraordinary longevity down to?

Adapting to change. The firm is over 450 years old.  People are at the heart of everything which we do – clients, staff, local communities and referrers. I passionately believe that no organisation will succeed without outstanding people, and over decades and centuries, we have worked with and for amazing people.

What is your favourite attraction to visit in the region?

I have struggled with this one. I spent nearly all my childhood and early adulthood living on the coast in Bexhill, and have been living in Tunbridge Wells for the past 15 years. If I had to choose one, it would possibly be Penshurst Place. It oozes history, has amazing gardens and grounds, the building itself is fascinating, there is a brilliant children’s playground, and the café serves delicious food – something for everyone!

Do you have a favourite album or band?

This is such a hard question! I love 80s music, and no one does 80s better than Erasure.

Heathervale House reception

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