Straight talking  

October 3, 2018

Rosemary Alderson has been head of family law at Watson Woodhouse for the past six years, where she has built a department that’s renowned for its robust, no-nonsense yet empathetic advice. Here, she explains more…

When Rosemary Alderson was deciding which career path to follow, she looked for something that would satisfy her passion for words and communication. She decided on a legal career and studied a degree in Law at Hull University.

After completing her legal practice course in York, Rosemary won a training contract at a Middlesbrough-based firm. She worked in both criminal law and family law – finding the latter suited her far more.

Rosemary reflects: “I find it interesting dealing with people and you’re much more client-facing when you’re dealing with family law. “I also enjoy the advocacy. I like the problem solving, particularly with the financial side of family law; how best to split the assets so that both parties can move forward.”

Rosemary spent time at several law firms in Teesside and Hull, before joining Watson Woodhouse in 2010.

Watson Woodhouse is a long-established Middlesbrough-based firm established by James Watson in 1989.

Now headquartered on Borough Road – with additional offices in Stockton, Darlington, Northallerton and Harrogate – the firm boasts a workforce of more than 160, specialising in a broad range of areas including criminal, family, employment and business legal services.

When Rosemary joined the firm, she was tasked with building the private client side of the family department, which, until that point, had worked mainly with legal aid cases.

Rosemary made it her mission to improve client care and she restructured and grew the department to allow the team to specialise more.

“I was keen that particular solicitors dealt with specific areas of family law. It improved the quality of advice we provided as well as the client care,” she explains.

Rosemary became head of family law at Watson Woodhouse in 2012, just months before sweeping changes to family law came into effect, which – apart from where there were claims of domestic abuse – effectively ended legal aid for divorce proceedings.

As a result of Rosemary’s efforts to attract more private client work, Watson Woodhouse was able to manage these legislative changes and the family department has gone from strength to strength by offering an exemplary standard of care at cost-effective rates.

“We looked at the ways we could streamline our services in the department,” Rosemary says. “For example, we began delegating administration tasks to our more junior staff to keep the service as cost-efficient for clients as possible.”

Last year, Macks Solicitors, another Teesside-based firm with an excellent reputation became part of Watson Woodhouse.

Rosemary became head of family for both Watson Woodhouse and Macks and has worked successfully to bring the two family departments together, while maintaining their individual brands.

As well as managing the family departments at Watson Woodhouse and Macks, Rosemary has her own caseload, specialising in representing large and complex cases.

She explains that family proceedings involving complex financial situations can be more challenging.

“I work with a lot of company directors where, in a divorce, the value of their companies has to be determined,” she explains.

Rosemary and her team  have the benefit of an accountant who can look at set of accounts in forensic detail. Should assistance be required beyond this, then the firm has a network of external experts that can be used for supplementary support.

“Having our own in-house accountant and additional specialists means that no stone is left unturned,” says Rosemary. “We can there provide our clients with specifically tailored advice to ensure they get the best possible outcome.”

But divorce finance is only one aspect of the work for Watson Woodhouse’s and Macks’ family department. Another is working with cases involving children.

While all proceedings involving children must be managed with the utmost care and attention, dealing with high net worth individuals can again create more complexity.

Rosemary has also instilled an ethos of attention to detail among the department – which includes several trainees – as well as straightforward legal advice that echoes her own legal approach.

“I will always tell clients how it is; I won’t pad things out to make them sound better,” says Rosemary.

“I also like to think that my clients recognise my efficient service. If I don’t think a case is proceeding in terms of resolving matters, I will get it into court as quickly as possible.”

But Rosemary is also keen to stress that her no-nonsense approach does not ignore the emotions involved in family law cases.

“I understand that this is a client’s marriage and their life,” she says. “I’m acutely aware that, when we go to court, the person sitting alongside them at the other table is the person they used to live with. It may be the first time they’ve seen them since the marriage broke down, which can be incredibly distressing. I always act with empathy and sympathy for my clients to ensure they can feel as comfortable as possible.”

Watson Woodhouse

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