I was recently profiled by the Leeds Law Society, a prestigious legal association based in my home city. The Leeds Law Society was founded as long ago 1805 for “the protection and advancement of the character, status and interests of attorneys and solicitors practising within four miles of the Borough of Leeds”. A lot has changed in the world of law since then!
Marilyn Stowe is a lawyer, broadcaster and record-breaking blogger
Marilyn Stowe is the founder of Stowe Family Law and proud owner of her award-winning blog. For the past seven years she has channelled her spare time into the blog, building and developing a free resource for family law information. She also takes time to answer legal questions posed by readers. As well as achieving fame through her blog, Stowe has also appeared on ITV’s This Morning breakfast programme.
The blog has a fantastic audience now. We hit the million mark in December and now we’re averaging 45,000- 50,000 visitors a month. It’s amazing.
Its success is down to a lot of people desperately looking for advice because they can no longer get legal aid. And I set up as a way of me getting across my views about the law and issues and pieces of case law that I’d come across in the course of my career which I thought might be useful to people going through a family breakdown.
What we write on the blog is very interesting, opinionated, and informed. And we cover everything to do with family law. And there isn’t any obvious advertising on the site. You read other blogs and they are very much adverts.
I got to the stage where I was having to do the blog almost 24/7. And even now, although I’ve got a web editor and other contributors such as journalists, councillors, therapists and other lawyers, I still answer all the questions and give free legal advice. Some of those questions are mind-bending – they’re like doing an exam. I usually answer them at night.
I’m very proud of it. I know it’s the leading family blog in the country.
I’ve grown up with an ethos of doing charity and pro bono work. I used to go to the Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB) when I was a trainee and then when I first qualified to give advice. My mum was an advice worker and that’s how I got into it I suppose. I built up my practice from referrals and the CAB at that time as I suppose there weren’t that many women lawyers around. And I helped a lot of women who were subject to domestic violence and were having a very rough time of it.
We still offer pro bono in the firm. We hold a lunchtime ‘peace of mind’ session, as we call it, when you can come in and get 30 minutes of free advice from a solicitor.
I’ve written a book which runs alongside the blog. It’s 300 pages long but it’s also out on Kindle priced at 99p. All proceeds go to the Children’s Society charity. It’s my third one.
We’ve sold nearly 5,000 copies in a year. The book is all about what to do and ask if you’re going to see a solicitor for the first time. It’s written in a very chatty style, but I hope it’s very informative.
A lot of people have bought the Kindle version because someone else doesn’t know that you’re reading it. It’s a discreet method of reading a book.
I’d quite like to write another book. But I haven’t got the time at the moment, there’s six offices all over the place and they take a lot of running.
The lack of legal aid is an enormous problem now. The courts are getting a lot of unrepresented people trying to do the case themselves. There’s a lot of injustice and the court system can only function with lawyers. It’s a bit like having an operating theatre without a surgeon in it or putting someone in a dentist’s chair and saying ‘now do your best, but you can’t have a dentist’.
I think it’s going to be increasingly difficult for people to go to court. They will bring in further processes that are more geared to people that are acting in person, that’s my suspicion. We’ve seen that recently with practice directions very much taking into account someone who’s not a lawyer appearing in the court. But that doesn’t mean that the outcome is going to be any more fair for that person, and if you have a very strong belief in justice, which I do, then it’s anathema.
I got a phone call from the editor of This Morning one day asking if I’d like to go for an interview. I was then offered a resident family lawyer position on the show. I’ve really enjoyed it but it is nerve wracking, giving live advice over the phone.
On the whole, people do tend to think that London is where it’s at. And that’s the whole reason why I opened my office in London, because I think it gives you street cred.
But also when you stand back and look at the benefits of living in Yorkshire, as compared to the capital, it’s a no brainer. The standard of living is much better, the countryside is at your fingertips, everything you could want is here and London is easily accessible. And the type of work that we do in Yorkshire is certainly comparable to anything you would get down there.