Jenny Bowden is an Associate in our Divorce and Family team. Jenny is described in Chambers 2019 as “efficient and dedicated” and “a rising star”. Chambers 2020 recognises her as “brilliant”, with Chamber 2021 recording that she is “a brilliant lawyer” who is “widely respected” according to market commentators, and for the third year running notes, she is an associate to watch.
Legal 500 2020 also notes that she’s a key lawyer in the team. Jenny has broad expertise in family law and the financial consequences of relationship breakdown.
I followed a very conventional route into law, obtaining good A-levels from a state sixth form college and then completing my law degree at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne (despite an extended stay in intensive care with meningitis during my first year of university).
I then undertook my LPC in Leeds followed by a training contract with Leeds firm Clarion. Clarion is a strong, full-service regional firm with an excellent reputation in Leeds. By chance, the first six months of my training contract at Clarion were in family law. I felt an immediate connection with the work and elected to spend the final six months of my training contract with the team before qualifying into family law.
In my experience, solicitors working in non-contentious areas are seen as a problem or an annoyance by the client – imagine a conveyancer when you are trying to buy a property – but as a family lawyer I feel I’m the one offering solutions and empowering my clients. Every client is different, and the ability to support clients through difficult periods in their personal lives is highly rewarding. Family law isn’t just a mathematical equation with a right or wrong answer. There is lots of discretion and scope to think creatively in order to engineer the best possible outcome for clients. I find that this makes every case different and interesting.
I qualified into the (well regarded) family team at Clarion in 2013, where I remained until moving to Stewarts in 2016 to further my career. I was previously involved with our regional Young Resolution committee, sitting as vice-chair in 2018, and I now sit on the regional Resolution committee, which has enabled me to build excellent working relationships with other family lawyers in the region. Not all areas of law require good connections with competitors, but in family law it can be beneficial to know how your counterpart is likely to approach things, and I’ve found it beneficial to work within the Resolution code of conduct.
I joined Stewarts in 2016 as a solicitor in the Divorce and Family team. When I joined, the team was going through an exciting transitional period, with a new head of department for the Leeds team (Adrian Clossick). Adrian was (and remains) a well known and well respected family lawyer, so I was excited to be part of the restructured team.
When I joined, Stewarts had a reputation in Leeds for dealing exclusively with high net worth clients and complex matters, and it felt like a logical next step in my career and personal development. I act solely for individuals in their private life, most frequently following divorce or separation (although increasingly for clients seeking pre- or post-nuptial agreements). Since I joined, the team has continued to grow, and the strength of the team has been recognised in both The Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners. I now sit in the middle of the team.
The Divorce and Family team is full of industry-leading solicitors (which was one of the reasons I was first attracted to the firm), providing me with a wealth of learning opportunities. The integration between the Leeds and London office and monthly peer-run training sessions have helped me develop as a lawyer. Working closely with partners across both offices has enhanced my skill set, which has led me to become a qualified Resolution Accredited Specialist.
One of the best thing about working at Stewarts is the people. My team in Leeds is more like a family. Adrian called me during my maternity leave in 2018 to let me know I’d been named as an ‘associate to watch’ in Chambers & Partners as soon as it was published, and he was as delighted as I was. I feel very much a part of the wider team in London, having supported partners in the London office on some of their files (and shared more than the odd glass of wine at our great socials). Beyond the family team, everyone in the Leeds office is great to work with and socialise with, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know others in the London office whenever I get the opportunity. The social side of working at Stewarts differentiates it from many other firms.
The other aspect of working at Stewarts that makes it stand apart for me is the calibre (across the board) of the clients and the work we do. Dealing only with complex cases means that we are constantly challenged and always learning. This has pushed my development as a lawyer, and I believe is the reason I’ve been mentioned in the leading legal directories, which I’m very proud of.
In terms of advice for others contemplating a career in family law, I would say that you need to remember that the subject matter of your work is someone’s life and not just some dry corporate transaction. It’s difficult for clients to detach the emotional aspect, and your role is to support them and guide them into a new chapter. Emotions will be running high, and you often need to act as the voice of reason. Listening is an essential skill. The judges in family law have broad discretion, and so it’s essential that you guide your clients on the ultimate parameters without confusing them.
One thing that’s vital regardless of which area of law you specialise in, is achieving work/life balance. For me, this means having time to spend outside of the office with my two children, Noah & Margot, and two dogs, and the flexible working arrangements Stewarts has in place have enabled me to do this. I’ve also found the firm particularly supportive as I’ve gone through pregnancy (both in my immediate team and the HR team).
To view Jenny’s profile, please click here.
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