The newest member of the Merrick team is looking forward to using her skills in family law to help people through their most vulnerable times.
Solicitor Gabrielle Dugan has joined Merrick after previously working with Co-op Legal Services in Manchester following training and being a paralegal in London.
She’s looking to help Merrick continue the progression of initiatives such as #LawtoDoor which sees the team on the road seeing clients in Cumbria, London and Manchester.
Gabrielle, who studied at the University of Law, said she was always clear family law was where she wanted to practise.
She said: “I personally think family law is the area that is the most sensitive and most important to people and their well-being.
“It’s not just about the matter that you’re dealing with. Family law affects so many other areas. You can end up dealing with property, litigation, wills and probate and all different areas of the law at some point.
“It’s a time when people are at their most vulnerable and need the most assistance. Nowadays some people think Google is their solicitor and they don’t need help but on reflection they often say, ‘I can’t do this on my own, I need help with this’.
“Because it is about people’s home lives, that changes the perspective for me because you know at the end of the day what you are doing is making a huge difference in their life.”
Gabrielle, 29, believes a natural instinct on dispute resolution is one of her key strengths as a solicitor.
She said: “Dispute resolution has always been one of my key characteristics, not just in the professional sense but around family and friends. I tend to be the person that people come to when they have issues.
“Being able to think about the other side is a strength I’ve always had because it helps not only provide perspective but makes you think about the arguments against that position or the flaws in your position.
“In the law there is always someone on the other side who’s going to say ‘no, I don’t think that’. So if you pre-empt their thinking it can help secure your position.”
Gabrielle’s interest in the law started at an early age from seeing her mum working in her own practice.
She said: “I grew up in and around a law firm and I think that was probably a very big influence for me in why I decided to go down this route for a career.
“I saw my mum’s dedication to the law and how interesting it is. I think it is one of the very few areas you can work in where there is constant change and development.”
It would have to be a child proceedings matter that I dealt with. A father had no contact with his child whatsoever, the mum had carte blanche said ‘no, you’re not seeing her’ and that was his position when he came to meet with me.
By the end I’d secured an order for almost shared custody. He was seeing her once a week, he had holiday provision, she got to spend Christmas with his family and that was a complete 180 from when he walked in the door in the first place.
That was very rewarding in the sense this is the sort of change you can make.
Asked why she chose Merrick over other firms, she said: “When I spoke to Amanda about Merrick Life (the firm’s platform promoting holistic support for those going through divorce) and the other initiatives I really liked that element of social responsibility.
“There are changes taking place in the law that restrict people’s ability to deal with matters in the way that they should be dealt with. I think one of the things I really like about Merrick was Amanda taking that step to say ‘how can I bridge the gap and how can I make the law more accessible for people’.
“I thought that someone with Amanda’s reputation, which precedes her, taking that time out to think about that and implement it in her business said a lot about the type of practice which she would run.
“Working with someone with a reputation like Amanda’s was always going to be an attractive possibility because she’s someone who’s very driven, and very direct in her overall approach to things and it felt like a good fit.
Gabrielle will be taking a lead on the #LawtoDoor initiative and building Merrick’s profile and client base in London.
Merrick principal Amanda Merrick said: “Gabrielle’s thinking very much fits with the ethos of the team here in wanting to make the law as widely accessible as possible.
“Her appointment is the next step in ensuring we can offer our knowledge and experience to those who need assistance.”