A Family Concern
Head of family law at Jolliffe & Co, Elizabeth Hassall talks to Mary Jane Greenhalgh about choosing her career path and how no two days are ever the same
I had heard about Elizabeth and her excellent manner with people and was intrigued to meet someone with a reputation of being one of the best-known family lawyers in the North West. I was looking forward to being able to pose the questions I wanted to ask.
With a reputation for being tenacious and thorough, one of the first things I noticed was the exceptionally warm welcome I received from her and how down to earth she is. We chatted about the usual things, our love of the North West, its countryside and its accessibility to the North Wales coast, as well as our shared love of getting down to London - but also getting back home again. Before settling down to business we realised we shared a genuine interest in each other’s lives and backgrounds.
Let me give you some context. Elizabeth is a farmer’s daughter, born in Malpas, South Cheshire and it was at an early age that she became interested in law. When she was fifteen and looking for work experience during the summer holidays, she contacted her grandfather’s solicitor, Jack Bentley, who specialised in working with miners suffering from lung diseases. He gave her work experience for the summer. “It wasn’t an easy option and I spent the majority of the time beside the very large photocopier, almost as big as the room it was in, which one day nearly set on fire. I was thrown in at the deep-end and although it was hard, I now realise how lucky I was to be given this experience, particularly as I was only 15 at the time.”
Subsequently, Elizabeth did a degree in law and completed her legal exams in Guildford, finishing her Articles back in Wrexham. “This was a very happy time” she shares with me and “I still see people today who I met there all those years ago. At the time, I covered all types of law from wills to family client work, as well as dealing with property, litigation and some employment issues.” Her next job was more focussed with a role at James James & Hatch specialising in crime. “This was a very male-dominated world and my work varied from police call outs, prison visits, bail applications, to manslaughter cases and much more. There was never a dull day.”
“It was now that ‘Family law found me,” she said, and she began to develop her reputation at Hill Dickinson in Liverpool. “It was a great time to be in Liverpool, the Capital of Culture, and work was both exciting and varied and this, coupled with my love of the law and being able to help people, stood me in good stead. Looking back, at first it was quite tough, and I sometimes struggled to deal with the raw emotion that one witnesses when practising family law, however experience and maturity soon set in.”
Eleven years later, Elizabeth was in Manchester as Head of Family Law for Top 50 Law Firm Halliwells and Gateley LLP. In 2006 she won Cheshire Business Women of the Year Award and was also recognised as tier one and a ‘Leading Individual’ in the Professional Directories, subsequently, in 2014, she chaired the Greater Manchester Collaborative Law Group, before establishing her own family law practice in 2015. Elizabeth however was keen to return to her roots back in Chester and recently joined Jolliffe & Co LLP as the head of their family law team. Clients still come from all over the world, including international sports people, media people, business people and some of them household names.
In the modern world of technology with an increasing focus on video calls, Elizabeth tells me that she always like to meet a client in person first. “You learn so much more with a face to face meeting”. As she talks to me, she exudes an aura of knowledge and experience and her empathy and warmth shine through. I can see how passionate she is about helping people to achieve the best resolution to their problems and how she would always be ‘the keeper of a secret’ so to speak, which is vital for what she does. “When I see a client at the end of a case moving on with their life, emotionally and financially, it fills me with a great sense of achievement.”
Today an increasing part of Elizabeth’s time is involved dealing with prenuptial cases - her largest instruction being £250 million. “Pre and Post nuptials are becoming very popular and bring a nicer side to my practice as I am working with a client whose wish is to move into a marriage without the uncertainty of what might happen if the marriage breaks down from a financial point of view.” This, she goes on to explain is a commercial and modern discussion rather than something that the uninitiated would consider somewhat unromantic.
In 2004 Elizabeth became ‘A collaborative solicitor’ which was a fundamentally new and straightforward approach to resolving family disputes and difficult issues around a table and she was one of the first of lawyers to get specialist training in the methodology and to be able to practise this way. “This is for family clients who want to stay out of court but want an order approved by the court. It is ideal for high profile figures wanting to stay out of the media. It is not for everyone but for those couples who are genuine about reaching a settlement, this can be a great way to work. It is quick, hugely confidential and straightforward.” Elizabeth goes on to explain that she is always keen for her clients to look at the different processes and outcomes which are the best for them as recognising that everyone has differing needs and she is passionate about helping people to get the best outcome for their specific situation.
Back to home life, Elizabeth loves to garden but in sitting opposite her, a love of jewellery and fashion is also obvious through the stunning black Matthew O’Brien suit she is wearing perfectly complemented with a bright statement necklace. She also enjoys travel whenever she can. “Italy for its fine food and fashion is a favourite of mine and you can’t beat the stunning scenery of Scotland and Loch Lomond.”
We could have chatted for so much longer however what remains clear is that although it can be a complicated and difficult job Elizabeth is passionate about what she does and will always go the extra mile for her clients.
Jolliffe & Co 6 St. John Street, Chester, CH1 1DA
t: 01244 310022 e: firstname.lastname@example.org