Newnham student wins 2018 International Academy of Family Lawyers (IAFL) Studentship

Part II Law student Alex Clift was selected as the winner of the 2018 International Academy of Family Lawyers (IAFL) Studentship. Her essay, discussing the topic “The current system of assigning parenthood under English law fails to reflect the reality of modern families,” was both closely argued and broad in thought. As a result, Alex had the opportunity for a three week placement in Canada, studying family law. Alex has written an account of her studentship experience here:

I chose to undertake my placement in Canada because whilst studying family law, I did a lot of research into Canadian law, as family law there is considerably more liberal, particularly in relation to parenting – it is on this topic that I wrote my essay for the IAFL application.

Indeed, I was not disappointed. I was able to work for two weeks in Brown Henderson Melbye, a Victoria-based law firm which practises solely in family law. Whilst there, I had the opportunity to accompany the lawyers to Court, sit in on meetings, and research cases to become more acquainted with the law in British Columbia.

A particularly interesting aspect of my work was to see how the legal systems differed – for example, whilst I have always been interested in the Barrister side of the law, I greatly enjoyed the Canadian system whereby all lawyers are both barristers and solicitors, meaning a hugely diverse work load, where I could experience and learn about both litigation skills and client-work. This solidified for me the very human nature of family law, and certainly enlightened me as to the skills that are needed to succeed in family law.

Moreover, I was exposed to the realities and complexities of family law, whereby cases can go on for years, and often there is no clear-cut solution. In this way, I saw how the lawyers at the firm were pragmatic, adaptable and flexible in their work; observing the lawyers come to decisions and compromises with clients allowed me to see how this challenge can be faced, and was extremely interesting.

Outside of work, I hugely enjoyed the welcoming and neighbourly atmosphere in Victoria, and spent much of my time getting to know other fantastic people in the community, whom I am so grateful to for making me feel so at home. I had once in a lifetime experiences, enjoying whale-watching, hiking, a hilarious day at the Saanichton Fair, and so much more.

The people I met in Canada, both in and outside of the firm, made my experience what it was. Trudi Brown, in particular, in being my host and mentor during the time I spent in Victoria, was not only inspiring as a woman at the forefront of Canadian family law, but became a friend I am sure I will stay in contact with for a long time. This warmth and friendliness was exhibited by everyone I met, which made the work environment refreshing – as a small firm, the essence of Brown Henderson Melbye is collaboration, helpfulness, and kindness. It was an absolute pleasure to work there, and I profusely thank IAFL (especially David Salter, Jo Miles, and Claire Fenton-Glynn for all of their help) for allowing me this opportunity – one which I will never forget.

Alex Clift (Part II, Newnham)