Richard Hogwood is a partner in our Divorce and Family department. He joined the firm in 2011.
It never occurred to me, growing up, to be a lawyer. My plan was always to be a geography teacher. At university, I had even got as far as completing the application for teacher training and giving lessons in local schools.
Then I attended a lecture about environmental law. It piqued my interest and, after looking more into law as a career, I found myself researching firms and applying. I secured a training contract at Slaughter and May. I spent two and a half years there, including six months in their New York office, and qualified into their corporate tax department. (Needless to say to this day I have never been involved with any environmental law.)
Corporate tax, I soon realised, was not for me. Various alternatives were considered, including the Foreign Office and working as one of the Queen’s private secretaries (I still have the Buckingham Palace rejection letter!). But in the end, I gave law a second chance, moving to Speechly Bircham (as was, now Charles Russell Speechlys) to practise private client work.
Pertinent for a career story in Pride month, it was civil partnerships that diverted me into family law. Speechlys did not “do” family law when I arrived. But in 2004, just as the Civil Partnership Act came into being, they recruited a family law partner. I began to work with him, undertaking both family and private client work, writing articles and presenting seminars on how the new law would affect both areas. (Looking back I find it incredible how, since then, it has become so commonplace in the UK and many other countries for same-sex couples to enter civil partnerships, marry and have children.) Over time, family law occupied more and more of my time. I was, and still am, attracted by the human interest aspect of the work, the blend of the need for numeracy as well as literary, and the camaraderie and collegiality within the profession.
Stephen Foster had started the family team at Stewarts in 2006 and recruited Debbie Chism and Emma Hatley in early 2009 (I remember their arrival party in the 8th floor reception area). It was clearly an exciting team, and one in the ascendancy. When I was approached about joining, I was immediately keen, and the whole period from approach to first interview, second interview and offer was, from memory, about three days. That was now nine years ago. And it has been a great nine years since then. There is no doubt that family law can be stressful – it is litigation after all, and litigation involving raw human emotions at that. But that stress is so much more manageable when you are part of a team of brilliant lawyers and, more than that, supportive, kind and fun human beings. There is no better place to be a family lawyer than at Stewarts.
What is on the horizon for the department? We, like everyone else, have (had to) become accustomed to Zoom court hearings and client meetings, online filings and truly paperless working. We shall see how many of those practices and habits last. No fault divorces are imminent, surrogacy is on the rise, nuptial agreements have become ubiquitous, and the pressure is on to be innovative in our approach to fees. While our principal pieces of legislation date from the early 1970s and late 1980s, family law and the divorce team are by no means standing still!
Finally, it would be remiss of me in Pride month not to make proper mention of it. I never especially understood the “pride” label. I am no more proud to be gay than to have blue eyes. However, I now understand that it is less about being proud and more about not being ashamed. I am very lucky. Gay men in family law are hardly a rarity. And I am acutely aware that, as a white, gay, male lawyer in London in the UK in 2020, I have it easy in my very accepting and tolerant bubble. The protests and gatherings around the world in recent days following the death of George Floyd demonstrate how that is not the case for many. Albeit the focus of Pride is equality for all regardless of sexuality and gender identity, I hope that in this Pride month in particular we can all do that little bit more to think about and actively promote equality more generally.
To view Richard’ s profile, please click here.
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