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From care proceedings to studying for the Bar… how?

Anahita Tashvishi reflects on her journey.

Those who study law and pursue a career in the field tend to first realise their attraction for the subject through a TV show, a news story, or a familial inclination… but this was not the case for me. My interest bloomed during my personal experience as a child subject to Care proceedings aged 11. “Aged 11?!” I hear you say… yes.
The local authority became concerned when I was aged ten due to domestic violence and the ensuing custodial battle that my parents became involved in. I could remember the endless, non-stop, ceaseless arguments and fights between my parents, which would lead to the police knocking on our door at various times of the day. My parents’ clear dissatisfaction with each other [to put it mildly] led to a fight which grew far too out of control, which led to a divorce, which led to a court case.
The first year of the court case was gut-wrenching. It was decided that my brother and I should remain in the care of our mother yet I loved and felt safe with my father. Aged 10, I was furious, confused, and distraught. “Why didn’t my social worker listen to me?”, “Why was my dad being taken away from me?”, “Why is this happening?”, those are but a few of the thoughts running wild in my head at the time.
For serval weeks, I didn’t see my Father at all. He couldn’t teach me sports anymore, come to my gymnastic classes, pick me up from school, have dinner with me, read me stories, or spend time with me. For the next six months, I had supervised contact with my Father, meaning that a social worker was always watching and recording a note of what they saw during my allotted 1 hour, once a week visit with him. I felt uncomfortable and embarrassed that the person I would make jokes with, who taught me karate, who I looked up to, was being watched like a hawk if there was anything of substance to report back to social services. Later came unsupervised contact, except the contact I had with my Father had to be in a place that my social worker accepted and thought was appropriate. The extra level of control exerted on my life during this time was a struggle, as my Father, in his care, before the divorce, allowed me to feel like a normal child. I had on numerous occasions, spoken to my Guardian, my Social Worker, my School Counsellor, and anyone who would listen to my wishes and feelings. Still, I only felt as though my School Counsellor was truly understanding. On one occasion, I had handed my social worker a note of things I felt, only to find out later in proceedings that the note I had given was discarded, and there was no trace of it anywhere. On another occasion, I had told my Guardian things to say in Court, only to find out he never did, and when later questioned, said nothing to that point.
Therefore, at that point, I had finally had enough. I knew that the final hearing was coming up, and I knew I had to do something; otherwise, I’d be stuck in a home with someone who was abusive and who I did not feel safe with. So, I ran away from home. Not once, but twice, as social services tried to put me back with my Mother, and on the second occasion, I took my brother with me.
Due to running away, I was informally assessed by my Guardian and solicitor, who both agreed that it was time I was separately represented. This meant I was “Gillick Competent”, meaning that my Guardian would no longer instruct my solicitor; instead, my solicitor and my [newly appointed] barrister would take instructions directly from me. Having a barrister and solicitor give me their advice, allow me to listen to that advice and think carefully about the next steps made me feel both understood and cared for. I felt as though control had to be taken for my wishes and feelings to be [finally] heard. I found during proceedings, prior to having my own representatives, that my voice had indeed been lost for a long period of time; however, it gave me an early appreciation of the role of a barrister and solicitor. I look back at the representation I had and feel a true sense of gratitude. As a result I was placed back into my Father’s care.
My early and unique experience in Court, aged 11, coupled with work experience at a local firm [in 2015], catalysed a desire to learn the law at university [in 2018]. I soon acknowledged my ability within advocacy in my first year of academia by ranking highest against my classmates in our “Mooting and Advocacy” module, marked as “best legal analysis of the day” and “best of the day” by Chambers. While taking my undergraduate degree, I have worked as a self-employed clerk in Family Law in public and private law matters. Being placed on the other side of the spectrum in Court, working in a legal capacity instead of being the client, has really increased my understanding of what it is that goes on behind closed doors. The endless work, the preparation needed for every case, the all-nighters the constant client care. All of this, coupled with the positive feeling of helping someone achieve their outcome is a feeling that I enjoyed and wanted.
Therefore, since leaving university, I continued working on a self-employed basis, which enabled me to grow a network of contacts that has helped me gain experience. I contacted a number of Judges’ in the hope of marshalling. I was kindly allowed to marshal HHJ Jones, HHJ Dias, HHJ McKinnel and Recorder Main-Thompson in the Family Court in Barnet in May 2021 to gain more of an understanding of Family Law through the eyes of the Judge this time.
I was recently picked amongst nine other people out of a choice of hundreds to have their legal stories published on the Bar Council website in collaboration with Bridging the Bar. After a successful application, I was picked to share my story on the Bar Councils’ website, under the section “#IAmTheFutureOfTheBar”. Additionally, I was nominated by Michael Sternberg QC to become a member and a fellow at the Royal Society of Arts [RSA] and since then have become ‘Anahita Tashvishi FRSA’ after a successful written application, as well as being handpicked by the panel as being an “extraordinary young person”. Since becoming a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, I have interacted with several other fellows who are currently thinking or have started such work that I am interested in [in relation to Family Law].
Since starting the Bar Course at BPP in Jan 2022, I have felt that all my experiences and choices in life have led me to feel incredibly confident in my ability to not only act as a barrister but soon become one. I am now part of the BPP Pro Bono Family Law Clinic, assisting those who cannot achieve legal advice due to financial constraints. Working with the BPP Pro Bono clinic has given me further insight into the preparation needed for a conference and allowed me to use what I have learned so far during the Bar Course and demonstrate what I have learned
Consequently, it is, because of the empowerment I had, to use my voice aged 11 and be heard through my barrister, together with all the experiences since, that I pursue a career at the Bar. Being a family law barrister is to be part of the Bar and profession, in which a circulation of thanks and help operate, which I would like to be a part of.