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Recently an article in the Guardian described family law as a “time-consuming and morally shadowy activity” and suggested that family lawyers “sleep in a bed that has been paid for by the unhappiness of others”. This was an article on “gold diggers”, a group hardly representative of the general population. But if ever a profession needed good PR, it’s family lawyers. The legal profession as a whole gets a pretty bad press, making it a pretty easy task for the government to promote other methods of obtaining legal advice and dispute resolution, as if entering the office of a lawyer who works with individual clients is something to be avoided, an easy way to empty your wallet with no obvious benefits.
Go for a trusted brand seems to be the message, bring in the corporate “big boys” and all will be fine for individual clients and the law. Of course, all of us have had personal experiences of large corporations that were less than positive, whether it was dealing with a frustrating call centre or simply a purchase of shoddy goods. A company’s raison de etre is to make profits for its shareholders. That isn’t to say that lawyers can’t learn from corporate models, a recent survey found that only 20% of those who had used law firms and solicitors in the last three years were asked to complete satisfaction surveys. Clearly this is missed opportunity to improve service and client satisfaction and this must change.
Competing on price: a race to the bottom?
So, how are family lawyers fighting back? Well, largely it seems with fixed fees and more transparency on costs. While greater transparency is to be commended (and surely something required for many years by way of costs estimates in any event) I won
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Geraldine is Head of LexisPSL Family. She was admitted as a solicitor in 1992 and was in practice for 15 years, most recently as a partner and head of the family team at Hart Brown, a large Surrey firm.
Geraldine writes for Butterworths Family Law Service and is a past editor of the Resolution Review. She has been published in the New Law Journal, the Law Society Gazette and the District Judges’ Bulletin as well as in the national press including the Times and the Telegraph.
When in practice she was a member of the Law Society Family and Children Panels, and an accredited Resolution Specialist with a focus on advanced financial provision and pensions. A past Resolution regional secretary and press officer, Geraldine also contributed chapters to the Resolution publications, International Aspects of Family Law (3rd Edition 2009) and The Modern Family (2012).
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