Personal Insight on Troubled Marriages; Marriage, Says Divorce Lawyer Diane Benussi, Is a Different Kettle of Fish for Men and Women
Byline: Steve Pain
Diane Benussi holds some very firm ideas about marriage - not surprising when she heads up one of Birmingham's leading firms of divorce lawyers.
A divorcee herself, her professional life is concerned only with troubled marriages.
Born in Birmingham, she has seen the good times and the bad times. Experiencing the trauma of divorce - particularly as a mother of two children - has, she says, given her a real insight into the needs of her clients and the very personal issues involved when a marriage hits the rocks.
From the boardroom of Benussi & Co's offices on the seventh floor of Newater House, Newhall Street, she says: 'As a divorce lawyer my own divorce changed my outlook completely - I think it makes you much more understanding of what people are going through.
'It's a very unpleasant experience. It is very disturbing - it is an attack on you as a person and it is very difficult to go through and not come out of it very scarred.
'It also takes a long time to get over it. One of the things I say to clients is that 'if you are bitter you have lost everything - if it destroys your personality you have lost everything'.
'There is no point in fighting for money or anything like that because you are over as a person. Most of my clients are able to reach an accord and move forward.'
As managing director, the professional demands on her time are enormous. But despite the pressure Diane, who originally set up Benussi & Co in Sutton Coldfield some years ago, is still very much at at the coalface, as she likes to term it.
'I take on all the new clients. I interview all of them, first on the telephone and then personally, to make sure we are going to be able to do the job for them and that they are the right type of clients for us,' she explains.
'We reject an awful lot of clients - we filter a lot out - because they are not the right kind of case for us. We have a forensic accountant here, a tax lawyer, and we are all very up to minute on what we do.
'There is not much point in us taking on everyday cases when we are carrying those extra services. Most people are not going to need a forensic accountant.
'When I set this practice up it was with a view to being totally focused on the niche of clients that really need our talents.'
Home for Diane is in the centre of Birmingham. She admits that she loves the city centre and really would not want to live anywhere else. 'It really is a wonderful place to be,' she says.
Professional matters take up much of her spare time. She is a council member of Birmingham Law Society, runs its social committee, is a board member of Birmingham Forward, sits on the West Midlands Regional Chamber and is a trustee of Birmingham Settlement.
She is also actively involved in charity work helping to raise funds for the Birmingham Heartlands Cystic Fibrosis appeal. What time is left is spent either cycling, watching movies at the cinema, reading, music and her own company. She enjoys solitude.
'Birmingham is a brilliant, vibrant city which caters for all my other hobbies,' she adds. But it was not always so.
Although born in the city, Diane left the West Midlands at the tender age of 12 when her parents decided to move to Cornwall.
'We moved to Porth, just outside Newquay,' she said. 'That was when the Beach Boys were just becoming famous - it was a very trendy place to be.'
She recalls: 'We had a good time in Cornwall - it was brilliant.
'My mother still lives there, so I go to Cornwall quite a lot. She is now retired, but she did have a guest house, called Sheldon, which she ran with my father. It was a haven for non-smokers - it was the very first place in England that was non-smoking.
'She loved looking after people, baking her own bread, making fresh marmalades, all the soups, doing her own washing, starching of white cotton, all that sort of thing. …