Ian talks about us for Devon Life

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We are currently advertising in Devon Life Magazine. We have an advertorial coming up. This is a piece I prepared. Ultimately I have used something else because this was too long. Hopefully it gives you  good idea about us. Please read on…

What makes Ian Walker Family Law and Mediation Solicitors different from other practices?

We are both a specialist family law solicitors and a mediation service.

What is the difference?

Mediation is assisted negotiation.

A neutral mediator assists a couple to undertake confidential negotiations and to make informed decisions to achieve an outcome acceptable to both. It is particularly helpful in family situations, where a couple’s ability to communicate can be impaired by the emotions arising from their separation. Making informed decisions can also include taking legal advice at the right stage.

As solicitors we give clients confidential advice of their rights and we are able to represent clients in court proceedings. Advice Is based upon the Client’s Best Interests.

Can you be both a mediator and a solicitor for the same client?

I am not able to do both roles. There would be conflicts of interest.

However if a potential client is not sure whether to instruct me as a solicitor or as a mediator, I am able to see them to discuss the options.

Unless/until I am asked to give legal advice then I am able to be a mediator. It is only when advice is given that a choice has been made. If a potential client is not sure how they wish to proceed then I would always say that it is best to come in for a chat and we can then decide how to proceed from there.

What is the advantage of a mediator who is a practising solicitor?

When I am assisting a couple as a neutral mediator I cannot give legal advice. I can however give information of a legal nature (for example about the process or general principles). I am particularly sensitive to when a question arises when one or both of the couple will need to take legal advice to enable them to make informed decisions.

I am able to help my mediation clients obtain legal advice in a focused way and I’m able to refer them to other solicitors to get this.

What is the advantage of a solicitor who is an experienced mediator?

In most divorce/financial cases an agreement is reached through negotiation. Sometimes this is direct solicitor/solicitor negotiation. Other times it is with a combination of Family Mediation and legal advice. As a professional mediator I recognise the benefits of family mediation to my legal clients (in terms of time and overall cost and personal relationships).

When I refer my clients to mediation I can also give them advice about how mediation works (based upon my experience) which enables them to make the best use of that process. If a referral to mediation is not appropriate or the other party is unwilling to mediate, I can also add value through my experience as a negotiator.

What is your experience?

I qualified as a solicitor in 1992 and have always specialised in family law. I trained as a mediator in 1996 and achieved accreditation in 2001 (there wasn’t so much mediation work around in those days). I am the current elected Chair of the Devon region of the family solicitor’s organisation Resolution (my second term in that role).

In the past I have also been a Trustee of the Family Mediators Association (FMA) and I have been a member of the National Family Law Committee of the Law Society. I have accreditations both as a mediator and a solicitor from both the Law Society and Resolution. I set up my own practice in 2013.

Who are Resolution?

Membership of Resolution commits family lawyers to resolve in a non-confrontational way. Members are required to follow a code of practice. We have around 170 members in Devon and it is a great honour to be their Chair.

You use offices in Exeter and Taunton, but why is your main office in Honiton?

I worked in Exeter for nearly 10 years and was a partner in one of the most respected family law teams.

I then spent nearly 5 years with a large specialist family team in Plymouth.

I don’t live in Exeter myself and spent many hours sitting in traffic jams whilst commuting in and out of the city. Over the years, like everyone else, I’ve noticed the traffic getting worse and the cost of parking getting more and more expensive.

I could have based the practice anywhere but I found offices in Honiton which are next to the A 30 (10 minutes drive from Sowton/M5) and which have loads of free parking outside the front door. The offices are convenient for me. As well as attracting clients from all over East Devon, I have had clients from around Tiverton, Okehampton, Newton Abbot and South Somerset.

I have attracted clients who want to see a specialist but can’t face the stress and hassle of driving into Exeter. I have also attracted clients from Exeter who come to see me in Honiton. Our location works very well. Not paying for city centre offices also allows me to keep my own overheads down and I can pass this on to clients in a lower hourly charging rate than I would have had to charge if I was city centre based.

I can of course see clients in Exeter and Taunton for both legal advice and for mediation if they wish.

Tell us a bit about yourself?

I have been married for 21 years. Together we have four children the oldest of whom is about to go off to University. We have lived in East Devon since 1999. We are very family focused and enjoy all the normal sorts of things like walks through the countryside, going to the beach and arguing. My oldest son has started supporting Southampton FC and so we have started trying to go to the occasional game (that is where I am originally from and Saints are the team I support).

You are also a bit of a runner?

I went on a diet about 10 years ago and managed to lose about six stones in weight. I took up running as a hobby to try to help me keep the weight off. I have found it to be a brilliant hobby in terms of stress relief. It is quite a stressful and tiring job at times and running gives me a chance to unwind.

I particularly enjoy the local cross country races and amongst other things I have now run the Grizzly seven times.

This year I ran the London Marathon for the first time having gained a running club entry. I used it as an opportunity to raise some money for a local Exeter/East/Mid Devon charity called Balloons which offers a free bereavement service for children. I didn’t quite break the four hour mark which was a bit of a disappointment so now I’m going to have to find a way to do it again!

Is there any advice you can give to someone who is separating and is not sure what to do?

Doing some research before making an appointment is always a good idea. I have tried to include a lot of helpful information on my own website. It is better to pay a fee for an initial meeting with someone experienced than to see someone because they’re offering a free 15 minutes/30 minutes.

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