Thursday, 28 February 2013

Are lawyers really ripping us all off?

Divorce - a sad experience
In the Guardian today is coverage of a summary of complaints made to the Legal Ombudsman, and top of the list is Divorce. It is said that:-

"The Legal Ombudsman has warned that some solicitors are failing to advise divorcees to settle courtroom battles before costs rise out of control because of the "emotional rawness" of those involved. In a report on the costs of separation, Adam Sampson says that in the economic downturn there is increasingly a tension between lawyers financial self-interest in prolonging legal action and their responsibility to offer clients informed advice. Nearly a fifth (18%) of the 7,500 complaints Mr Sampson's office resolved last year involved divorce or family law-related cases, making it the most complained about area of law in England and Wales. "

This is a difficult point. The client has to be listened to and advised. Many of them come to us because they want a scrap. If we tell them that is a bad thing because divorces are meant to be convivial, then it can sound as though we are not listening or fighting the sort of battle the client wants to fight.

Obviously we have to advise on costs. Indeed there are developing at the moment - we are developing such a model - fixed price modules for different types of work, where it is possible to predict costs due to the type of work involved.

It is standard practise to advise on costs in a client care letter. Often, however, clients are very happy for us to fight their battles until it comes to getting the bill, when suddenly they become unhappy because it dawns on them that we are not working for nothing.

Somewhere between the two extremes there is a middle ground. In an emotional situation, however, there will always be the client, who doesn't want to pay, doesn't want to settle, and wants to fight on. It is the nature of the beast. Divorce brings the worst out of all of us.

With the withdrawal of legal aid in April, there are going to be many many litigants in person, who can't get any justice and who clog up the courts with enquiries. The courts are anticipating this and are coming out with pilots to assess staffing needs. All this, of course, when the government are closing court buildings and getting rid of staff....where will it all end...Armageddon, that's where.

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