Juliette Shaw is a founding partner at The Wells Group, a holistic fixed-fee practice headquartered in Kent that provides separating couples with access to mediation, legal advice, independent financial advice, therapy and expert parenting advice.
Following a ten-year legal career in London, she retrained as a mediator in 2017 and, along with fellow partners Helen Adam, Nikki Brauer and Jane Kerr, launched The Wells Group as a holistic service in summer 2021.
She tells The Brief about a typical day in her life.
The day usually starts with either my seven-year-old or three-year-old jumping into the room and onto the bed. Then it's downstairs packing book bags, swimming kit and anything else in preparation for the day ahead. My husband grabs a coffee and leaves for Tunbridge Wells hospital where he has an early start as a Consultant Radiologist.
After breakfast with the boys and some last-minute spelling/piano/maths practice, I take the oldest to school and the youngest to nursery. I try to squeeze in at least 20 minutes of Peloton or yoga as I find it often makes a huge difference to my energy levels and sets me up for the day.
I jump in the shower then, while getting dressed and putting on makeup, quickly check emails to see if anything needs to be addressed urgently. We often have clients who get in touch at the last minute before mediations with concerns or queries, so I want to check I don't miss anything important.
Partners' meeting with the other three founding partners of The Wells Group to discuss how the business is going. Having been a London lawyer for over ten years, I retrained as a mediator and was lucky enough to meet my partners, all former lawyers, who shared the same goal: to offer a service that takes the stress and uncertainty out of the divorce process and put children's needs at the centre.
We set the Wells Group up to provide a fixed-fee, holistic package for divorcing couples, with mediation at its centre. We also have a panel of solicitors who offer fixed-fee services, to whom we refer clients to draft the various orders required to formalise matters.
However, divorce isn’t just a legal issue, and we have also paired up with independent financial advisers, therapists and one of the UK’s leading experts on parenting for separating couples. One thing that we are all passionate about is helping parents move on from separation with a good co-parenting relationship.
Since “no fault divorce” came into effect on 6 April, we have noticed an influx of client enquiries, with more and more couples wanting to find out about our holistic, multi-disciplinary approach. The increased media awareness that divorce doesn’t have to be acrimonious has really helped in terms of people seeking out services like ours rather than each spouse just instructing a solicitor and setting up an adversarial situation from the outset.
During the partners’ meeting we discuss any important issues arising from cases and explore how we can make our new process go as smoothly as possible for our clients. I feel incredibly grateful to work with such a great, supportive and close-knit team of women.
A two-hour mediation with clients in London via Zoom. Following the pandemic, more than half of our clients now prefer to have online mediations.
We can offer our service virtually from start to finish and so we are finding that we are now getting enquiries from clients from much further afield – and are able to work with clients anywhere in the UK, or even abroad.
For some couples, working together without being in the same room can feel a lot more comfortable, particularly in the early stages of separation – and the waiting rooms function enables us to manage any heated situations really effectively.
In this case the couple want to sort out their finances as quickly as possible, so we are carrying out the first stage of that process: financial disclosure. We go through their Form Es together and create a spreadsheet of everything in the “family pot”.
After the session, they will get the opportunity to review the documents with their chosen solicitor from our panel and obtain their own independent legal advice about settlement options, before returning to the negotiations at the next session.
I write up a detailed summary letter following the mediation so that the clients can share the information with their solicitors if they wish to do so.
We all divide our time throughout the week more-or-less equally between working from home and the office. I tend to work at home in the mornings then, at lunchtime, I drive to the office, which is on the main High Street in Tunbridge Wells. The journey can take anything between 15 and 45 minutes depending on the traffic, so I always leave plenty of time to get in and find a parking space.
I grab a sandwich and a coffee from the local Italian deli and head into one of our meeting rooms to prepare for the next clients. I am going to be co-mediating with my fellow partner, Jane, because it is quite a high-conflict case and it can help to work together if, for example, we need to break into shuttle mediation (working with the clients in separate rooms). I then quickly check my emails to address any queries from clients or from our office manager, Lizzie.
A two-hour mediation working with clients to agree arrangements for their children moving forwards. Within our fixed fee process, clients are invited to attend an online workshop for separating parents designed by leading UK parenting expert Denise Ingamells.
These clients have attended the workshop and the difference is already noticeable since the last session. They report that they are coping well and managing their communication so much better, and have managed to attend a school event together with the children.
We agree a detailed schedule for the arrangements along with a parenting plan setting out all their agreements in relation to how they are going to work together to meet the children's needs moving forwards.
I write up all the paperwork, including the parenting plan, for the clients following their session. Then I make some time for emails and making telephone calls.
A mediation with clients who have obtained legal advice and now want to explore their settlement options together. We have invited one of our independent financial advisers to the meeting, who talks the clients through the relevant finance issues, including sharing their pensions, their respective mortgage borrowing capacities, and the cost of life insurance.
We then go through the clients’ detailed monthly budgets and discuss the affordability of their different options moving forwards. The clients make some good progress and arrange to return to agree further terms of their financial settlement the following week, to keep the momentum going. Most of our clients are able to reach financial settlement within three-to-six months.
Time to head home to do the boys' bath and bedtimes followed by dinner and a relaxing bath!
- Connect with Juliette Shaw via LinkedIn