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Family lawyer and mediator Mary Banham-Hall, who has launched a Change.org petition calling for the proportionality rule to be made to work, says that when legal fees reach 20% of the value of the dispute litigants should be automatically referred to an accredited mediator to hear how mediation can resolve disputes, before the level of costs may prevent an agreement.
The legal profession must restore value to the services it offers clients and mediation could be its salvation.
The Family Procedure Rules 2010 and Civil Procedure Rules 1998 require costs to be proportionate to the issues, but lawyers are stuck between a rock and hard place. Professional guidance frowns on 'unbundling' legal services to limit what tasks the lawyer does, and thereby control costs, and tells us that charging less for less does not relieve us from an onerous duty of care. Our insurance premiums reflect these burdens, yet we are supposed to compete in a de-regulated market against the unqualified and uninsured, with Joe Public ricocheting between us and the cowboys, comparing us on price. Mad, isn't it?
Lawyers are destroying their markets trying to deliver within an antiquated broken system, not fit for purpose. There is no brake. The proportionality rule is ineffective, so we must give it meaning and make it work, as lawyers are blamed when it fails. This might seem common sense, but ‘bonkers’ cases like the recent dispute between two neighbours over £4K worth of plumbing costs which racked up £300K of legal fees (and still going!) are destroying the public's trust in lawyers and thus the market for their services.
Compulsory referral to medi
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