Wednesday, 16 May 2012

You want me to .....WHAT?

Yesterday I tweeted about the fact that I was coming under pressure from the management of the firm where I work to undertake work with the primary objective being to generate fees.  So in a nutshell this means pushing clients into lengthy, acrimonious battles rather than doing things in a more amicable way.  I am being discouraged from referring them to mediation as we may only get work drafting an agreement out of this which generates much less fee income.

From an ethical perspective I would feel more comfortable murdering chickens in our reception (given I eat chicken this seems more acceptable).  My role as a family lawyer sees me deal with people at their worst, in very difficult and upsetting situations.  I strongly believe that my role is to help them as best I can and set them on course for the rest of their life.  I am always mindful that people generally feel better leaving the process feeling OK about the outcome and not spitting poison at their ex partner.  In cases where there are children these people will have to have a relationship for the rest of their lives and it needs to be civil.  In my mind I always think about the children's weddings.  Will these ex partners be able to be there for their child on their special day and behave appropriately?  My very strong view is that it's my job to try to assist them to make that happen.

I also believe that people generally feel better about decisions if they've had some input into them.  So if they've discussed a settlement with their ex partner (in mediation, directly or through their lawyers) then they'll probably feel more OK with the outcome than if a Judge has told them what to do.  Again it's my job to advise them about all this.

So to do something that is likely to not be in a client/family/child's interest to make money is something that goes against every molecule of the person I am.  I cannot put it strongly enough.

If we leave the ethics for a moment, it doesn't even make business sense.  If as a firm we want to survive in what is now a very difficult market, then we need to send away people that are vaguely contented and happy with their outcomes.  They are then likely to recommend us.  If we send away people that don't feel happy with what's happened and who are scarred by the experience (not to mention much poorer than they imagined) then they are not going to recommend us and so we are not going to get future business.

I don't in any way think this applies to family law or even just law.  This is about good ethics in business.  It is perfectly possible to have a profitable and thriving business and behave in a decent and honest way that benefits your clients/customers.   There are businesses out there that prove this.

Family law is changing and I sincerely hope that these costs focussed/outcome ignorant lawyers are left by the side of the road.  In all businesses if you're not providing a service that people actually want then your business will simply not survive.

To anyone going through a relationship breakdown I urge you to find a lawyer that will actually deal with things in a sensible and helpful way that focuses on you and your family and not on what money they can make.  Resolution is an organisation that represents family lawyers and has a code of conduct about dealing with matters in an amicable way.  You can find such a lawyer through their website at

If you think you've seen a lawyer that wants a battle and the costs then please find another one. This is your life and your money.  Use it wisely.


  1. I can't tell you how refreshing this is to read!

    The fee targets set for family solicitors is an issue that needs looking at. Financial rewards (and it has to e financial because that is what makes a lot of law firms tick) for early and peaceful resolution could be introduced perhaps? I'm not sure how that would work, but it might be something the government could consider as part of the Family Justice Review?

    On our websites we only promote Resolution member solicitors. But...why is there always a "but?"

    We come across correspondence written from some Resolution members (largely to dads) that, to put it bluntly, deserve nothing more than being chucked in the bin!

    Rude, aggressive, threatening...and designed to ramp up hostility. Let me be clear - many Resolution memers are quite superb lawyers - but a few really let your side down.

    I think it would help a lot if Resolution were to have a better complaints department and be willing to strike solicitors off their roll if evidence shows that they are not following their own code of ethics.

    I hope that makes sense.


    1. Bob,

      Thanks for your comment. I agree with you about Resolution. There are sadly some less helpful members which detracts from the strength of the code. I would like to see them better educated about the effects of their words rather than being "slung out" but ultimately yes I think, in some cases, stronger sanctions are needed.

      I had a letter this morning from a firm of solicitors that's one of the worst I've had. The parties were nearly fully agreed between themselves but this letter has nearly undone all the work the parties have done themselves. Things like that honestly make me a bit ashamed of my profession.

      I think lawyers are like all professions in there being good and bad but really only the good should survive and be allowed to work with people who are at a vulnerable time in their life.