I regularly write a column for Modern Law magazine and last month I was asked to comment on the high number of complaints made to the legal ombudsman about solicitors instructed to act in family law matters.
My start point was to look at the website for the legal ombudsman. The website sets out an amazing amount of data about the nature of complainants, the sort of legal transactions complained about and the nature of complaints received eg delay, costs information and failure to follow instructions. It makes interesting reading.
Of those members of the public making complaints during the 12 months to 31 March 2012, only 1.26% related to commercial transactions whilst the highest number of complaints, 17.87%, related to family law cases. So why do family law matters attract a higher number of complaints to the Legal Ombudsman than any other area of law?
One might venture to suggest that all too often the provision of family law advice is not taken seriously enough by legal firms and clients are often seen by more junior members of the profession not qualified to handle this type of matter. At a time when there is a need to provide cost effective legal advice it is all too easy for law firms to compromise quality legal advice for reduced overheads by employing insufficiently experienced staff.
Family law can be a complex area not least because there are often a number of different matters running side by side: I will often be handling a divorce for a client, negotiating a financial settlement involving property, savings and pensions, splitting a family business, agreeing contact arrangements for children and at the same time resolving immediate interim maintenance needs.
It is not surprising that complaints arise when inexperienced staff handle matters which are beyond their ability and are not able to provide the support, knowledge and advice which the client needs.
When it comes to family law it is essential to ensure that the legal advice is provided by properly qualified, and indeed properly experienced, solicitors. For a client to settle for less could significantly affect their future – clients should always establish who will actually be handling their matter.
The data provided by the Legal Ombudsman is to be welcomed. It should raise the question “Is my legal advisor properly qualified and experienced to advise me at a critical time in my life?” At Jarvis Family Law LLP all our Solicitors are very experienced having practised solely family law for very many years, are members of Resolution (conforming to a required code of practice) and are accredited to provide the highest level of family law legal advice. Family Law is all we do: we are experts specialising in family law. We aim to combine that high level of expertise with good customer service and value for money thereby avoiding being another one of the Legal Ombudsman’s many statistics.
I believe that all clients deserve a high quality of legal advice by experienced solicitors – never is this more important than when it is their family and financial affairs that are involved.
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