Meet the committee member: Farhana Shahzady

Farhana is an accredited family law specialist, collaborative lawyer and mediator. She is founder of the Family Law Menopause Project - a project aimed at raising the awareness of the impact of menopause on relationship breakdown and financial separation.

How long have you been involved with Resolution?

For as long as I remember, I’ve been attending Resolution events and I recall my excitement as a trainee, 20 or so years ago, visiting The Dorchester on Park Lane for a plush training event. Not bad for a second-generation, south Asian scouser I thought to myself!

What committees do you sit on?

I sit on National Committee and the Publications Committee chaired by the amazing Kim Beatson and supported so skilfully by Esther Pilger from  Resolution. The Publications Committee is working hard to deliver a new publication on spousal maintenance which I will be co-editing. Spousal Maintenance remains vexed and difficult in practice so this handbook should offer some comfort to practitioners. This is a follow up publication to the Family Law Handbook which the committee was able to deliver in 2020 – it is an invaluable aid to may lawyers and the printed word still has an important role to play for busy professionals who want accessible, foundational knowledge.

Why did you want to get involved with Resolution?

Resolution represents the leading organisation for family justice professionals with around 6,500 members. Its Code of Practice resonates and provides a framework for constructive and dignified family resolution whenever possible. I wanted to be part of that better future.

How have you benefitted from being a member of Resolution?

Resolution is the glue (and occasionally the glitter) for many family law professionals like myself who benefit from its multi-functional and versatile aspects. Resolution really is the sum of its parts and there is something for everyone. The training and learning component with its emphasis on continued learning is very important to me but I have also really benefited from the sense of community and networking.

What’s the one Resolution resource/service/achievement that you want everyone to know about?

No fault divorce is inarguably totemic and a transformational achievement by Resolution. Although seemingly simple, it was hard won after decades of pursuit –clearly some battles are worth it!

Is there a Resolution resource not currently available that you would love to see?

A Resolution app would be great. I would call it “Go Res” for members on the go!

What would you say to encourage more members to become volunteers with Resolution?

Volunteering is about creating the organisation you want and influencing its direction and development. Taking part is taking control which is energising.

Why did you choose family law?

Family law can change lives, literally. I wanted to make a difference at a deeply human level

What are the most rewarding aspects of your job?

It’s a privilege to take the journey with a client and achieve the outcome you had planned and prepared for together. I love the client work and problem solving element.

What are the most challenging aspects of your job?

Deadlines and unnecessary hostility can be demoralising. It makes it hard to switch off.

What do you think have been the biggest changes in family law / family justice system since you started?

The demise of legal aid has compromised access to justice which is hugely damaging. I worked in legal aid firms for 10 years and it saddens me to think essential family law services are unaffordable for a significant number of clients and there is no longer a viable safety net.

What’s the one government policy you would like to see changed or introduced?

Cohabitation reform is long overdue. I recently read that cohabiting couples have increased from 1.5 million in 1996 to around 3.6 million  in 2021. Cohabiting relationships are also more prone to break up than marriages and we, therefore, need better legal protections. I also suspect the financially disadvantaged person when the relationship  breaks up, is more likely to be a woman which throws up some important gender issues.

How do you keep a good work/life balance and look after your wellbeing?

I think it is important to find a passion completely divorced from family law if you can. Mine is netball – I delight in the physicality of it and it’s nice to get out of my head.

What piece of advice would you give to someone starting out in family law

Never forget there are 2 sides (if not more) to every story and so try not to get  positional.

If you were not a family lawyer, what would you be doing?

Writing a  screen play about family lawyers!

Who or what inspires you?

Oprah Winfrey inspires me – she started with so little and achieved so much as a woman from a disadvantaged background . Her podcast “Super Soul” series provides insight and inspiration from renowned thought leaders across the world like Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle and Elizabeth Gilbert. Listening helps me see the big picture.

What are you most proud of in your career?

Creating the Family Law Menopause Project has been a source of real satisfaction. I have been concerned for some time that family lawyers have been letting some women (and families) down by failing to acknowledge the impact of peri/menopause on them and their family life. In research I carried out last year with Dr Louise Newson, it came to light that 7 in 10 women attributed marital breakdown (in no small measure) to menopause. Divorces spike in the age 45-55 age bracket which means we need to educate ourselves and think about how this may also impact a woman’s earning capacity. The clean break may not be so clean as you think.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Don’t take things too seriously and new experiences are just around the corner if you give yourself the chance.

Choose three words that best describe you

Tenacious, passionate (especially about those who struggle to speak up for themselves); philosophical

What can’t you live without?

My HRT (no kidding!)