Reeds Solicitors, a Public Law Team of the Year finalist at this year’s Wales Legal Awards, opened another branch for Court of Protection in Bristol on 4th April 2022.
Our incredibly close-knit team of COP solicitors is led by Sarah Griffiths-Jones who was one of WalesOnline ‘30 Young Lawyers to Watch’ in 2018. Sarah is also a highly respected mental health solicitor and is a member of the Law Society Mental Health Panel, the Mental Health Lawyers Association, and the Court of Protection Practitioners Association
Sarah attributes her departments success to the high calibre of individuals within her team. Two of the solicitors working closely alongside her are Molly Fensome-Lush, who was named Rising Star of the Year at the 2020 Wales Legal Awards, and Sadé Asker, who Sarah will often refer to as her right arm!
In celebration of the department’s expansion, as well as being shortlisted as finalists for the Wales Legal Awards, we sat down with Molly and Sadé to discuss their passion for COP law, the triumphs and heartaches associated with their work, what makes the Court of Protection team at Reeds so special, and their friendship which began on their first day of University.
Thank you for chatting with us. Firstly, how did you come to be a COP specialist?
Molly – My background was working with vulnerable children, so I was drawn to helping vulnerable adults. I applied for a paralegal role in a COP team and was then offered a training contract.
Sadé – I was working as a family law solicitor previously and while I was at University I volunteered at a law clinic advising people having problems with their disability benefits. Molly and I have been friends since our first day at University and when an opening came up in the COP team I jumped at the chance to focus on COP law and also work with Molly.
What is it about COP law that makes the work so meaningful?
Sadé – COP is an area of law where you immediately see the impact your work has on a vulnerable person’s life. Molly and I specialise in health and welfare COP law, therefore, most people we advise and represent have been deprived of their liberty. For example, a person who lacks the mental capacity to decide on their care and treatment may be subject to the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards, meaning they are not free to leave the hospital or care home in which they have been placed. People subject to Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards may be safe in terms of having the necessities of life provided for, such as food and shelter, but they can be desperately unhappy because sometimes social workers and staff are overworked and are unable to take the time to discover what brings them joy and makes life worth living. We become involved when someone, usually the person’s advocate, contacts us asking us to challenge decisions made by a public body.
Molly – As solicitors, we have much more time and resources available to examine what is best for the person who lacks capacity and how their quality of life can be increased. It’s no criticism of professionals on the ground at all, it’s the workloads they have.
Sadé – For example, I have a 96 year old bedridden client who was placed in a room with nothing but blank white walls. After communicating with the client and talking with her family I discovered that she had always had pet dogs, so I arranged for a therapy dog to visit her. I had her move to a room with a view out to a garden and brought in a special chair so she could sit up. I also found out that she was an opera singer when she was younger, so I was able to have a fellow opera singer visit her. These small changes dramatically increased my client’s quality of life, and she has put on weight, a good sign when you are in your 90s!
Molly – In COP law, success is not always defined in terms of winning a major case that creates or changes legal principles. Rather, success can be about increasing the quality of life of vulnerable people and getting them something that brings them joy.
Do you always meet with the person who is deprived of their liberty?
Sadé – If possible we always see a client in person. In terms of communicating with them, Molly and I both have the Mental Capacity Welfare Accreditation from the Law Society of England and Wales. This shows that not only have we achieved excellence in COP law, but we have also undergone extensive training in how to effectively communicate with people who lack capacity.
Molly – It is important to see the client in person because you learn so much from someone’s surroundings. We always find creative ways to communicate, for example, one client was able to say what she wanted via a picture book. Speaking to family and friends is also incredibly valuable in terms of getting to know who a person truly is and how we can change their circumstances for the better.
What makes the Reeds COP team special?
Molly – Every member of our team came into COP law via a different route. I worked in public children law, Sarah was a specialist in mental health and serious crime, and Sadé was a family lawyer. Other members of the team came from diverse backgrounds including finance, the care sector, and community care management. It cannot be emphasised enough how much we work as a team to provide a holistic service to clients. This is extremely important because COP cases almost always involve more than one area of law and very few teams can match the variety of knowledge and experience we at Reeds can provide.
Sadé – We all benefit enormously from each other’s expertise. Sarah is committed to everyone achieving excellence in terms of results for our clients and their advocates and we have weekly meetings to ensure our knowledge is shared and each of us can benefit from a different perspective if we are dealing with a tricky situation. We all support each other too. Because we grow so close to our clients, when one of them passes away or we don’t get a positive outcome it affects their solicitor deeply. As a team and as a wider firm, we look out for each other.
Molly – It is an extremely positive line of work – we all celebrate when things go well.
Reeds Solicitors is an award winning multi-disciplinary law firm, which specialises in Court of Protection, Mental Health and Family law. As you can see here, our team of Solicitors are experienced and passionate in delivering the best possible client care.
To contact us about your situation, please contact us through our contact us page or through the services page which best represents your situation.