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28 February 2013

News about divorce lawyers being greedy is “an unfair generalisation”

A report published by the Legal Ombudsman today (28 February), entitled “The Costs of Separation”, has featured highly in today’s news.  The report found that divorce lawyers have the highest number of complaints from clients, compared with other areas of law.  The report also found that some divorce lawyers are failing to advise their clients to settle financial matters out of Court, therefore resulting in unnecessary costs.

Emma Alfieri from Steeles Law’s family team commented that she is “not surprised” by the report, having heard stories of previous experiences from her own clients, and added that, as a family lawyer, “you must provide your client with a fee estimate at the outset, and keep clients regularly updated with issues that arise later on during the case, which may have an effect on the initial fee estimate”.

However, Emma also feels that some media reports have been “an unfair generalisation”, based on the actions of a small number of unscrupulous individuals: “Nowadays we find that very few cases proceed to Court.  The focus is now on settling matters out of Court, using alternative methods of dispute resolution, such as mediation.  An application cannot be made to the Court until mediation has been attempted.  Where mediation is not appropriate, or parties do not feel that they wish to attend, we can offer what is known as a “round the table meeting”.  This is where both clients attend a meeting with their legal representative, in different rooms.  This is another way of encouraging settlement without the use of the Court.

Family lawyers are now trained in this way and follow a code of practice that promotes a non-confrontational approach to family problems.

At Steeles Law we recognise that costs are an issue for clients going through divorce and separation.  With this in mind, and due to the need for our clients to have certainty as to their costs, we have recently launched fixed fee divorce packages, which allow our clients to know from the start exactly how much the divorce is going to cost them. 

We suggest to all clients that they attend one of our offices for an initial consultation and then, at that meeting, we can advise them whether they would qualify for a fixed fee service.  This very much depends on the complexities of the case and bearing in mind that everybody’s circumstances are different.  For example, a person wishing to bring a divorce (without children) would be offered a fixed fee of £650 plus VAT, plus Court fees of £385.

Emma Alfieri commented: “We also ask clients for partial payment at set times during the process.  This enables clients to budget and know from the outset how much the whole divorce is going to cost.  We also provide fixed fee financial settlements for clients wishing to finalise financial matters.”

For further information about fixed fees please contact a member of our family team on 01603 598000 or email family@steeleslaw.co.uk.

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