Know Your Solicitor: Melissa Cunningham
Name: Melissa Cunningham
Title: Senior Associate & Head of Family Law
Specialism: Family and children’s matters such as divorce, separation, child contact, financial settlements, among others.
What got you interested in the legal profession?
A burning desire for justice. I have always leaned towards that mind-set whether the issue relates to me or somebody else. With family law you need compassion but you also need to be interested in the area of law you go into. Family law was always my number one interest.
Why did you choose family law?
As a lawyer you are in a unique position to help others resolve their legal problems, and as a family solicitor I believe you can make a real difference to people’s lives. Family law is very important. At the heart of it are families and you need to be interested in them and the issues that are closest to them. You have to be good at listening but also focus on what is the best long term. It can of course be stressful for clients and you have to be able to manage this and find the right approach.
What does your role involve?
I joined IMD Solicitors LLP as a Family Solicitor in the Family department. A year later I was appointed Head of the Family Department; I now manage and mentor a small team including a Trainee Solicitor. This year I became a Senior Associate and business development is fast becoming a new focus of my role. It is so interesting to get out there and attend networking events and be involved in the changing face of the legal profession in terms of (ever hopeful) equality; I have met some fantastic professionals in my career so far and particularly enjoy the new and emerging groups such as Forward Ladies and Women in Law in Manchester.
What would you reform or change about family law?
It is not really the law as such but public perceptions of custody cases. One might wrongly assume that the mother always wins in this regard. Despite the fact that mothers are more often given residency of the children, it is far from being an ‘automatic’ fact in my experience; I have secured orders awarding sole residency to fathers and one’s for joint residency also. The children’s welfare comes first and that’s always at the forefront of a family lawyer’s mind.
Your most rewarding case?
It was actually a relatively straightforward divorce case. It wasn’t particularly drawn-out by any means and at the end my client wrote me a lovely ‘thank you’ card for the way I handled her case. The finality of divorce can go either way; not everybody wants to get divorced, some people have no other option, but when that end result creates elation and relief for a client, that is a great feeling. It is the same with children’s matter cases, when a parent has not had the best relationship with their child and then they are able to start again.
Tell us a fun fact about yourself
As you might expect from a lawyer some of my favourite movies involve the law; the classic courtroom drama 12 Angry Men is one of my favourites, it deals with issues of prejudice in the legal system and, for the record, justice gets served in the end.