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Neil Hobden

NEIL HOBDEN is a partner at Shrewsbury law firm Aaron & Partners. He has specialised in family law for more than 30 years, and joined the company in January 2020 after spending 20 years working in Birmingham.

EXPLAIN A TYPICAL WEEK IN YOUR WORKING LIFE: There is no typical working week for me – it is one of the attractions and fascinations of life as family lawyer.

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE FACING YOUR INDUSTRY RIGHT NOW? The ever-increasing tide of bureaucracy and regulatory issues which we and our clients have to grapple with before we can focus on what really matters to them. These issues are important but can represent another obstacle to individuals who often come to me in a stressed and upset state.

AND WHAT ARE THE BIG OPPORTUNITIES? The combination of expertise, experience and first-class service delivery means that as a family lawyer I will continue to attract top quality instructions from across the region and beyond. Though based in Shrewsbury, I handle many cases which have an international element.

HOW DO YOU GET THE BEST OUT OF YOUR STAFF? My twin daughters are about to leave University and enter the workplace. I try to treat my team as I would like others to deal with my daughters in their workplace.

WHAT WAS YOUR LAST MEETING ABOUT, HOW LONG DID IT LAST, AND WAS IT PRODUCTIVE? My last meeting here was my first Partners' Meeting at Aarons. It ran for 90 minutes as scheduled and covered many important matters of common interest and concern. There is can do attitude at Aaron & Partners which encourages me to believe we will deliver on our projects – and on time and budget.

HOW MANY EMAILS DO YOU GET IN A DAY, AND HOW MUCH TIME DO YOU HAVE TO READ THEM? Most of my communications these days are by email and there is a large volume of traffic. I deal with all emails from clients and colleagues as soon as I am able. The emails I receive range from a line or two to many dozens of pages. I make time to read these emails during the course of the day or that evening if I am at Court or tied up in client meetings.

DO YOU ANSWER WORK CALLS OR EMAILS AT HOME? WHAT’S THE RIGHT WORK-LIFE BALANCE? I often receive emails from clients outside of working hours. However, there are very few telephone calls these days. The work I handle is intensely personal and clients tend to prefer the privacy of discreet email exchanges A number of my clients live overseas and so our working hours/days do not coincide. Others will use time whilst on trains or in airport lounges to catch up with me. I respond to these emails and calls as quickly as I am able to, even if only to acknowledge receipt and advise when a substantive response will follow. After thirty years (and a divorce along the way) I have arrived at a tolerable work-life balance. The right balance is ever changing depending on developments in the workplace and within the family.

HOW DO YOU HOPE YOUR COLLEAGUES WOULD DESCRIBE YOU? Proactive, strategic and energetic.

BREXIT – WHAT’S YOUR VIEW OF WHAT IT’S ALL GOING TO MEAN? Brexit means surprisingly little in the family law context. Personal relationships begin and breakdown all the time and without regard to political events. There is almost always a personal time pressure and imperative in family cases which is quite separate from the parliamentary timetable “Middle England cannot sleep in the spare room indefinitely”!

HIGHLIGHTS OR LOWLIGHTS OF YOUR CAREER SO FAR? Leading the family law team which was judged Family Law Team of the Year (Midlands and Wales) in the Family Law awards 2019. There have been a few cases over the years where my clients and I have struggled to understand the basis of the Court’s decision after a contested hearing. I’m afraid the quality of our judiciary and the Court process cannot always be taken as a given.

IF YOU COULD GO BACK AND GIVE YOUR YOUNGER SELF SOME WISE ADVICE, WHAT WOULD IT BE? Life is a marathon not a sprint – take time and enjoy the journey.

    HOW DO YOU RELAX AWAY FROM WORK? Attending literary festivals and author events across the country. A recent highlight was the inaugural Upton Cressett Festival last autumn.

    WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IS SPECIAL ABOUT THE SHROPSHIRE BUSINESS COMMUNITY? My impression is the business community here is a good deal more relaxed and friendly than that in Birmingham where I spent twenty years before joining Aaron & Partners. It must be due in part to the landscape and greenery here and the relative ease of travel by car around the region.

    TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT YOU THAT MOST PEOPLE PROBABLY WOULDN’T KNOW. I have spent time in North Korea… A fascinating and disturbing country and the one place in the world where you cannot be contacted!

    YOU CAN TAKE ONE BOOK, ONE FILM AND ONE CD ONTO A DESERT ISLAND – WHAT WOULD THEY BE? “The Great Gatsby” – the perfect novel. I first read it in my 20s and try to reread it every year. A box set rather than a film – “Boardwalk Empire”. Atlantic City between the wars – a remarkable place and time. CD would be Richard Burton narrating Dylan Thomas’ “Under Milk Wood”.

    OUR FIVE DREAM DINNER PARTY GUESTS, DEAD OR ALIVE? We are about to move to a house built in the early 1500s.I would love to invite someone who lived there in each of the last five centuries and ask what they remember of the house and life in the village at that time.

    WHAT WOULD YOU COOK FOR THEM…? It would have to be a meal with seasonal ingredients sourced locally.


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