Chris Burns, Head of Family Law, answers questions on the legal sector

What’s the biggest development you’ve seen in the legal world during your career? 


It is happening right now, with the transition to remote working in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.


Most court hearings are now being done remotely. Initially, the technology and new way of working took some getting used to but now I’m finding it is much more efficient for solicitors and clients. The process for courts to deal with paper applications used to be notoriously slow but now matters are being resolved in weeks rather than months using an online portal. This, combined with hearings being conducted by telephone or video calls, is a significant development for family cases.


What law would you like to see changed? 


The lack of legislation for co-habiting couples continues to be a concern. 

In many cases, we speak to couples that have been together for some time and have a property that may or may not be jointly owned. When the relationship turns sour they simply don’t have the same rights that apply to married couples. The public tend to have a misperception about this 


What is the most exciting work you’ve ever done?   


I have worked on a few cases involving international child abduction, including one in the US that involved the Federal Courts. These cases involved working at speed and were highly challenging.

Who in the legal world do you most admire?   


The person that comes to mind is Brenda Hale, Baroness Hale of Richmond.


Born in Leeds, she served as President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom from 2017 up to her retirement from the role in January 2020 – the first woman to hold this role.


She was a leader in family law work and judgments but perhaps most famously found that Boris Johnson’s government had unlawfully shut down Parliament in 2019.

What advice would you give someone starting out in the profession?  


Always spend time doing your preparatory work thoroughly for any case. The devil is in the detail.


Even in the strongest headwinds, keep calm, plough on and don’t be knocked off course. That feels especially appropriate in the current climate we are working in.

Please note this information is provided by way of example and may not be complete and is certainly not intended to constitute legal advice. You should take bespoke advice for your circumstances.

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