Initial Meetings / New Year’s Resolutions
I am writing this blog on Monday 04 January 2016.
Already this year we have received a number of new enquiries. January is a busy time for family solicitors. This is not so much because marriages breaking down over Christmas.
It is more the case that the New Year brings a resolve to sort out problems which we have often avoided dealing with in the run-up to the Christmas break. The run-up to Christmas can be busy and tiring and it is sensible to await the New Year and to make important decisions with a clear head.
Making informed decisions
We have long since abandoned the “free half hour” initial meeting. This is with good reason. Half an hour in our experience is not enough time for a new client to explain to us in detail the problem about which they are seeking advice. Half an hour is not enough time for us to ask the questions that we need to enable us to give good advice. Half an hour does not provide enough time for the client to then ask the follow-up questions they would want.
As a solicitor, I would not wish to give advice without having a clear understanding of the problem. My client relies upon the advice that I give them. If the advice is not good there is potential for a complaint or indeed a claim for professional negligence. I have never been the subject of a professional negligence claim.
What can easily happen with the free half hour is either the solicitor (or more junior colleague) will not actually give advice – but instead talk about procedures in a more general way, or the meeting overruns and the client is then asked to pay the solicitors hourly charging rate.
We want to give good advice from the outset. We therefore charge an initial meeting fee for legal clients of £80 plus VAT for a meeting of one hour. We are clear from the outset that if the meeting does overrun then we will move on to our hourly charging rates. An hour is normally sufficient to get a good idea of the problem and to be able to give advice and to answer questions and to decide with the client what to do next.
January is a good time to make decisions and to get on with sorting out problems.
The reason for this is because we have had a rest over Christmas and we are able to think about the future more clearly.
Family problems can take time to resolve, particularly if a court process is required.
Once a decision is made to do something then it is best to get on with it. Many problems can be resolved using Family Mediation – with the assistance of legal advice in support – but if mediation does not work and a court application is required, it is better to get on with the application to have the best chance of achieving Resolution before the next big school holidays or indeed the holidays after that. Equally, the whole process of divorce is now much slower as a result of delays arising from the introduction of centralised – regional Divorce processing centres. Whereas a divorce could have taken four months with a fair wind in the past, divorce is now much slower with it taking at least a month for the regional Divorce Centre to deal with any piece of paperwork and a divorce will now take the best part of the year – even if not overly complicated.
New Year’s Resolutions for clients
We suggest the following as good resolutions:
- Obtain independent legal advice from a solicitor who is a member of Resolution and he follows the Resolution Code of Practice
- Be open to trying to resolve the case through the use of Family Mediation
- Try to take a long-term view – look forwards and not backwards wherever possible
- Think about what you really want to achieve and what you think the other person would realistically like to achieve (as opposed to what they say). On one level it can seem like you are in dispute with each other. It is also the case that you have a joint problem. Once a couple recognise that they have a joint problem it is easier for them to find a joint solution.
Our New Year’s Resolutions
- We have Held our charging rates from 2016. This means Ian’s charging rate is £160 plus VAT per hour. Karen’s is £140 plus VAT per hour. These are highly competitive.
- We aim to give our clients and even better service this year than we did last year.
- We aim to give our clients the best advice at all times
- We aim to be open and honest and realistic about charges. Legal Services are not cheap. Keeping costs down is not just about charging very competitive hourly rates (which we do) but also about trying to take a problem-solving approach. If negotiations do not work – whether through mediation or solicitor/solicitor negotiation then it is best to recognise this and to move on with a court application. The costs finish when the case is concluded. It is therefore best to get the case to a conclusion.
We have appointments available
Although we have received a number of enquiries today already, we have kept appointment slots available over the next few weeks to accommodate the increased number of new enquiries.
If you need assistance then please do give us a call.