Ian Walker Portrait photoWe are recruiting: Family Law Solicitor: Divorce/Finance Law

We are recruiting a solicitor to join our divorce/finance team. NQ+

We already have one of the strongest family law teams in the south-west. This includes eight experienced solicitors.

We are firmly committed to the best practice divorce/finance law and to the Resolution Code of Practice.

Our director, Ian Walker is the long-standing chair of the Devon region of Resolution and a member of the Resolution DR committee. He is also a former member of the Law Society Family Law Committee, and a past trustee of the Family Mediators Association. Ian is an active collaborative lawyer and was instrumental in bringing collaborative law to Devon in 2005. Ian is also a member of the Law Society Family Mediation Accreditation Scheme and a Family Mediation Council accredited mediator.

the law society awards 2019Why join us?

We believe that being a dynamic niche practice gives us a long-term competitive advantage. How clients choose solicitors and utilise our services has changed considerably in the last 10 years and these changes are likely to continue. Being committed to sensible dispute resolution and being engaged in conversations about the development of the practice of family law will assist us to continue to attract good quality work.

  • We are a dynamic and growing practice. Our managing partner has been shortlisted for practice manager of the year in the 2019 Law Society Excellence Awards.
  • There is an opportunity to work with and learn from our existing team. In addition to Ian Walker, four of our solicitors have been partners and heads of the family law departments at previous practices.
  • Our IT structure is cloud-based and easily supports flexible working and homeworking and paperless working.
  • We hold Lexcel accreditation. We have the practice support you would expect including LEXIS PSL and software to create our own electronic bundles. We are also subscribe to various compliance and pricing software.
  • We a happy to consider both fee share consultancy and employment.
  • As the legal market develops it is becoming increasingly obvious that niche practice’s such as ourselves enjoy a competitive advantage over traditional high Street practices.
  • We attract quality work from across our office network which is in Exeter, Taunton, Torquay, Honiton, Yeovil and Weston-super-Mare.
  • We believe that skills are fundamental and would encourage training as a collaborative family lawyer and as a family mediator.

This is a fantastic opportunity with long-term prospects.

Person specification

the successful candidate:

  • will have a passion for children law
  • will have good/good IT skills
  • will be a team player with a sense of humour
  • will have a good knowledge of legal aid and good time recording discipline
  • they will either be a member of the relevant Law Society or Resolution accreditation is or ambitions to gain membership as soon as possible
  • they will have an interest in collaborative family law and or family mediation
  • they will be committed to the Resolution Code of Practice

A bit more about the job

Everyone in our team is theoretically based in Honiton office – which is the central location in our office network. This means they need to come into the office at least once a week so that they are fully part of the team (no competing and divisive branch cultures for us). However, there is very ample scope for flexible working.

Being based in Honiton has advantages. Our office is next to the A30 and has ample free parking. It is a 30 minute drive to central Taunton and to central Exeter. It is 45 minutes to Yeovil and under an hour to Plymouth. This means our office is centrally located between the courts that we cover. Coming into the office means avoiding commuter traffic.

Ideally the successful candidate will help develop our Devon work and in particular Exeter and East Devon – but we are happy to consider applicants who are located elsewhere – our practice is very much built around its team.

To find out more about our practice visit our website at https://familylawandmediation.co.uk/

Please send your CV and covering letter in confidence to Ian Walker at ianwalker@familylawandmediation.co.uk

Read More...

The Law Society Awards 2019We are recruiting: Family Law Solicitor: Child Law

We are recruiting a solicitor who is either a member of the Law Society children panel or who has ambitions to join.

We already have one of the strongest child law teams in the south-west. This includes three current members of the Law Society child law panel and two former members.

We regularly represent parents, children, grandparents and undertake local authority agency work.

Ian Walker photoWhy join us?

Our practice is owned and run by Ian Walker who is one of our children panel members – so you won’t have to worry about our commitment to children law! (In the last 10 years quite a number of firms – some of whom have had large and reputable child law teams – have surrendered their legal aid contracts).

  • We are a dynamic and growing practice. Our managing partner has been shortlisted for practice manager of the year in the 2019 Law Society Excellence Awards.
  • There is an opportunity to work with and learn from our existing team. This includes Kim Stradling who is one of the leading child law solicitors in the south-west.
  • Our IT structure is cloud-based and easily supports flexible working and homeworking and paperless working.
  • We hold Lexcel accreditation. We have the practice support you would expect including LEXIS PSL and software to create our own electronic bundles.
  • We a happy to consider both fee share consultancy and employment.
  • As the legal market develops it is becoming increasingly obvious that niche practice’s such as ourselves enjoy a competitive advantage over traditional high Street practices.
  • We attract quality work from across our office network which is in Exeter, Taunton, Torquay, Honiton, Yeovil and Weston-super-Mare.

This is a fantastic opportunity with long-term prospects.

Person specification

the successful candidate:

  • will have a passion for children law
  • will have good/good IT skills
  • will have willingness to undertake advocacy
  • will be a team player with a sense of humour
  • will have a good knowledge of legal aid and good time recording discipline
  • they will either be a member of the Law Society children panel or ambitions to gain membership as soon as possible

A bit more about the job

Everyone in our team is theoretically based in Honiton office – which is the central location in our office network. This means they need to come into the office at least once a week so that they are fully part of the team (no competing and divisive branch cultures for us). However, there is very ample scope for flexible working.

Being based in Honiton has advantages. Our office is next to the A30 and has ample free parking. It is a 30 minute drive to central Taunton and to central Exeter. It is 45 minutes to Yeovil and under an hour to Plymouth. This means our office is centrally located between the courts that we cover. Coming into the office means avoiding commuter traffic.

Ideally the successful candidate will help develop our Somerset work in Taunton and Yeovil family courts – but we are happy to consider applicants who are located elsewhere – our practice is very much built around its team.

To find out more about our practice visit our website at https://familylawandmediation.co.uk/

Please send your CV and covering letter in confidence to Ian Walker at ianwalker@familylawandmediation.co.uk

Read More...

Autumn update/new arrivals and new Ian Walker Portrait photoopportunities

At Ian Walker Family Law and Mediation Solicitors we are constantly trying to improve the service that we give to our clients. So far 2019 has been a busy year.

New arrivals

This year Fiona Griffin joined our legal team in January. Fiona is a divorce expert (including high net worth clients) and a collaborative family lawyer. Fiona joined us from being a partner and head of family law at John Hodge solicitors in Weston-Super-Mare and Bristol.

Beyond Fiona, we have concentrated on reshaping our support team. In particular, we have decided to commit to the training of a new generation of family lawyers. Our first trainee solicitor is Tommy Fox. Tommy grew up in Honiton and attended Honiton Community College.

In September Tommy has been joined by Lydia Murray. Lydia joined us from Magdalen Chambers (barristers Chambers) in Exeter where she had been working as a junior family clerk after graduating from Exeter University. Like Tommy, Lydia is a Devon local having grown up in Crediton and attending Queen Elizabeth College, Crediton.

A further trainee solicitor is scheduled to start with us in December. More news to follow.

In addition, we already have Briony Phillips making good progress towards qualification as a legal executive. Briony is now working closely with our leading child law specialist Kim Stradling

Our Training Plan

Our plan is now to commence at least one solicitor training contract a year.

We are interested to hear from candidates for autumn 2020 with a good degree, and who will ideally have completed their LPC. Although we are open to running a training contract parallel to part-time LPC study.

We are particularly keen to promote the opportunity to enter the legal profession and to recruit talented candidates who want to enjoy a career with us. We do not wish to recruit graduate into dead end paralegal roles.

A passion for family law is essential.

Opportunities to join our team

We have finished work on a business plan to take us forward through the next five years. To this end there will be opportunities to join our team as our practice continues to grow.

We are happy to receive CVs from solicitors and legal executives who are newly qualified onward, and who might be interested in roles undertaking children law or divorce and Finance law. 

Roles could be as employed solicitors or legal executives or as fee share consultants. Either way its worth a chat….

We are happy to receive CVs from candidates who are already based in the south-west or who want to move down to our lovely part of the world.

Separate blog postings to follow…

The Law Society Excellence Awards

Following a successful first six years of trading, which culminated in our gaining the Lexcel practice management accreditation at the end of 2018, we were delighted to learn that Ian Walker has been shortlisted for practice manager of the year in the Prestigious Law Society Excellence Awards.

The award ceremony is at the Grosvenor House Hotel, Park Lane, London on the 23 October 2019. A few of us will be travelling up to London for the occasion. We will let you know how we get on…

Lexcel Legal Practice Quality Mark LogoImproving our client experience

Since achieving the law society Lexcel practice management standard we have taken further steps to improve the experience of our clients. Some of this is explained on our website, but other things are behind-the-scenes.

In particular we have adopted additional software solutions which we believe will improve how we assist our clients. We have also introduced a client service guarantee because we want our clients to know that we mean it when we say that we want to provide an outstanding service to them.

As a niche legal practice we are conscious that how clients wish to access information and advice has changed over the last 10 years and we anticipate that clients needs will continue to change.

It is therefore important that we are a progressive practice and the we are always open to new ideas to help us improve what we do.

That’s why we have taken the step to start to train our future lawyers and that is why we are open to hear from specialist family lawyers with differing PQE he wants to be part of our journey, and make a real and positive difference to the lives of our clients and their families….

CVs to ianwalker@familylawandmediation.co.uk

Read More...

Ian Walker Collaborative Family LawyerWhat is Collaborative Family Law?

In short Collaborative family law is an excellent process to resolve the issues arising out of separation and divorce.

The features of collaborative family law

the features of collaborative family law are that each of the couple instructs a specially trained collaborative family lawyer.

Each of the couple and their collaborative family lawyer will then sign a contract called the participation agreement. This is a commitment to resolve the issues that need to be resolved in connection with their separation and divorce (normally finance issues and child arrangement issues) through a series of face-to-face meetings.

The couple and their collaborative family lawyer make a commitment in the participation agreement not to embark upon adversarial and divisive court proceedings.

 

Family lawyer meeting

The collaborative family participation agreement

The collaborative family law contract – the participation agreement – contains a clause which disqualifies the lawyers from acting for the couple if either or both decide to abandon the collaborative family law process. The disqualification clause means that if collaborative family law fails, then the couple will need to find new lawyers to represent them in a court process.

It is very rare for the disqualification clause to be invoked because the vast majority of collaborative family law cases achieve an amicable outcome. (There is also a small cheat in that if there was an issue which was contentious and which could not be resolved through discussion and sensible negotiation – then it is possible for everyone to instruct a private judge called an arbitrator to resolve that issue – which enables the collaborative process to conclude amicably. There is more on our website about arbitration – but couples choosing to instruct an arbitrator make a legally binding decision on a discrete issue is very different making an application and forcing the other through a court process).

 

The other features of collaborative family law

The other features are:

  • the collaborative agreement confirms that the couple will negotiate in good faith and in a transparent and open way
  • the issues are often resolved in face-to-face meetings (called a four-way meeting) with both the parties and
  • their solicitors (collaborative family lawyers) are present (this means that each of the couple are well supported)
  • letter writing will generally be kept to a minimum
  • the collaborative family law process involves a  holistic approach where the couple and their lawyers may also work with other professionals who are also collaboratively trained eg a financial neutral adviser, in a five-way meeting.

 

Cases that are suitable for the collaborative family law processchild with family cardboard cutout

In a case suitable for the collaborative family law process the couple will:

  • understand the general process options through litigation, mediation and arbitration
  • positively choose the collaborative family law process by making an informed decision
  • not be too positional
  • understand that they need to keep an open mind when engaging in collaborative work and not talk only of their rights but rather of the family’s interests
  • often talk about wanting to stay in touch/have a good relationship with their former partner and also indicate that they would like to choose an option whereby they are divorcing in a respectful way and with dignity
  • have a measure of goodwill to their former partner and be able to envisage sitting in a room together discussing issues
  • understand that they will be an integral part of the client-driven process
  • understand the disciplinary and holistic nature of the process

 

The role of the collaborative family lawyer

A collaborative family lawyer must be collaboratively trained and will:

  • discuss not only the factual history and legal situation with the client but also try to understand more of their client’s motivation and what works for them
  • assist their client in preparing an agenda and managing it
  • understand that there will be times when there may be conflict in the room and be able to manage it
  • assist the parties in negotiations—the parties will often do much of the negotiation themselves
  • organise/audit disclosure and give legal advice both inside and outside the four-way meetings
  • prepare documentation including the final consent order with the appropriate recital indicating that the case has been dealt with on a collaborative basis

 

Collaborative family lawyers in Devon and SomersetFiona Griffin - Divorce and Finance Specialist

We are very fortunate to have two experienced collaborative family lawyers in Ian Walker and Fiona Griffin.

In fact it was Ian Walker was responsible for arranging for Resolution (who oversee the collaborative family law process in England and Wales) to run the original collaborative family law training in 2006 – when the original core of Devon and Somerset collaborative family lawyers were trained.

We are happy to work with Collaborative family lawyers in Devon and Somerset and elsewhere. The numbers of collaborative family lawyers in Devon and Somerset are quite small. This means that most of us know each other well and have trust and confidence in working with each other.

Having a good working relationship between Collaborative Family Lawyers in Devon and Somerset is important. If we don’t have confidence that we can work with the other collaborative family lawyer, then our client is not going to have confidence that collaborative family law will work for them.

 

Choosing Collaborative Family Law

It is fundamentally important that the choice of a client to enter a collaborative family law process is an informed one.

Ian Walker says:

I am an experienced family mediator (having trained in 1996) family solicitor (qualifying in 1992) and collaborative family lawyer (since 2006) and I am very familiar with the pros and cons of court based and non-court based dispute resolution.

Going to court and saying hurtful things about the other parent with both spending thousands of pounds rarely helped anyone get on better with each other. Where a couple have children – successful talking dispute resolution is much better for the family – not only because parents are better able to maintain an ongoing relationship for the benefit of their children – but also because they are acting as role models in showing their children that they are able to put their own emotions to one side and reach sensible solutions in a sensible way. (Talking solutions are also better for couples without children – because discussing and reaching agreements is in the greater scheme of things a much less stressful way of ending one chapter in life before moving onto the next, with less baggage in tow).

In my own view family mediation is normally the best option for resolving issues concerning child arrangements.

However, mediation can struggle as issues become more complicated – particularly with regard to financial matters. A problem with mediation is that a couple can become used to saying no to each other and they become stuck. They can find it difficult to say yes – even where something reasonable is on the table. Sometimes clients struggle in mediation because they don’t have sufficient support.

For clients who need that extra support and for financial cases – and particularly as financial cases become more complex – my own view is that collaborative law offers a better alternative. Collaborative family law delivers many of  the gains from mediation – but with less stress.

 

Four-way Collaborative Family Law meetingsTeam work hands together image

Collaborative family law normally proceeds through a series of four-way meetings (sometimes five way meetings if there is a neutral – such as a financial neutral or a child neutral). There do not need to be an excessive number of these meetings. The first meeting will normally take place quite quickly after the clients have instructed their solicitors – in order to capture the early momentum. A timetable will then be agreed which will deal with matters such as financial disclosure and finding out the information needed to enable the collaborative process to then move on to finding reasonable solutions.

Because collaborative family law is very focused upon working together in a problem-solving way, integrating a financial neutral (a financial adviser who has had training about collaborative family law) can be extremely helpful – lawyers can’t give financial advice – financial advisers aren’t always clear/focused about how their advice sits against the legal negotiation – therefore including a neutral financial adviser into the legal discussion really helps there being a focused discussion on what realistic solutions are.

The final four-way meeting in a financial collaborative family law case will normally involve ironing out drafting points in a draft financial order and agreeing the other paperwork which need to be sent to the court for the financial order to be approved.

Long letters going backwards and forwards between solicitors can be expensive and can add to division – and collaborative law largely cuts this out.

 

Collaborative family lawyers in Devon and Somerset

In Devon and Somerset we are lucky to have an established group family lawyers who we are happy to work with. Collaborative family law is a different way of working – but for the right couples to can provide an extremely good process option.

For more information from one of our family lawyers in Devon and Somerset, please contact Ian Walker or Fiona Griffin. We are able to assist clients across our office network in Devon and Somerset including in Exeter, Honiton, Torquay, Taunton, Weston-Super-Mare and Yeovil.

Read More...

Ian Walker divorce SolicitorCan divorce settlements be reopened?

When a financial order recording a financial settlement is made it is intended to be final or at least as final as possible.

In many cases there will be a clean break. This means that the order is intended to be a final order.

In some cases there will be provision within the divorce settlement for maintenance. Maintenance can be varied (if there are changes in circumstances). Sometimes when maintenance is reconsidered, a maintenance order can be replaced by a lump sum order – which effectively pays off the maintenance claim and achieves finality at that point.

Normally when there is ongoing maintenance, there will be finality in the financial settlement so far as capital is concerned. (Assets such as houses, savings and pensions).

There are however circumstances where a divorce settlement can be reopened. This could be in the following circumstances:

If the court has made an error

If the court has made an error – then the divorce settlement can be reopened through an appeal.

There are various rules concerning the circumstances in which an appeal can be made which we will expand upon in a future blog.

If the court has not made an error

If there is no error from the court, then the divorce settlement can be reopened in the following circumstances:

  • A fraud has been committed
  • There has been a material non-disclosure
  • A subsequent event has occurred which was unforeseen and unforeseeable at the time that the order was made and which invalidates the basis upon which the order was made. (Lawyers will refer to this as a Barder event – Barder v Barder being the most prominent case when the courts gave guidance about the circumstances when a divorce settlement could be reopened in these circumstances).

No swimming sign on beachMaterial non-disclosure

There is a duty on parties within a divorce to provide full and frank financial disclosure to each other and to the court. This applies to both contested proceedings and to negotiations leading up to a consent order.

The form which is submitted to the court together with a draft order contains a declaration of truth which is signed by the party. The form E – which is the standard form used for financial disclosure also includes a statement of truth which needs to be signed.

The duty to provide full and frank disclosure is ongoing. This means that any changes in circumstances need to be disclosed in a timely way.

The duty to provide full and frank disclosure always arises.

If the divorce settlement order is made by agreement/consent then there must be a valid consent to the terms of the divorce settlement by both parties. A nondisclosure of material information will also mean that the court will have been asked to approve the terms of a divorce settlement based on incorrect information.

Applications to overturn a divorce settlement on this basis can be complicated and potentially expensive – although cost orders can be made against the person who has misled everyone – so if such a situation may have arisen you need to seek legal advice as soon as possible.

A subsequent event has occurred…

If a Barder event has occurred there can be an application to the court to overturn the divorce settlement.

The new event needs to be both unforeseen and unforeseeable and to have occurred since the approval of the divorce settlement and the events need to invalidate the basis of fundamental assumptions upon which the divorce settlement was approved

The new event needs to have occurred within a relatively short period of time after the approval of the divorce settlement. Normally no more than a few months and almost certainly less than a year. What will count will be very fact specific.

Examples of events could be the death of one of the parties (as happened in the case of Barder) or a party remarries rapidly after the divorce settlement was approved or one of the parties receiving a significant inheritance, or sometimes a significant in unforeseen change to 1 of the parties housing needs – perhaps children moving from one household to the other.

These cases are very fact-specific and it is important that if something has happened which might represent a Barder event that you seek legal advice as soon as possible.

couple pointing in different directionsWhy do I need to provide so many financial documents for my divorce?

The reason why both parties need to provide so many financial documents is because there is an ongoing duty on both parties to a divorce to provide full and frank financial disclosure.

Full and frank means not simply telling the other person what assets are worth, but producing documents to prove the value of assets.

If a solicitor is instructed to advise a client in connection with their divorce settlement they will wish to ensure that there has been full and frank financial disclosure. If their client instructs them not to seek full and frank financial disclosure – the solicitor will wish their clients to sign a fairly full disclaimer – which passes responsibility for the consequences of not having full and frank disclosure to the client. The solicitor is not able to do their job properly unless they are satisfied that they have full information.

If a client does not seek full disclosure from the other party – then it is likely to make it much more difficult for them to try and claim later on that the divorce settlement was bad and/or that they have been misled. They should have sought full disclosure for their own protection in the first place.

If there are negotiations through solicitors (including through collaborative family law) or if there is a court application, the solicitors will expect their clients to complete form E and will ask for all documents in the checklist at the back of for me to be provided. Further documents can also be requested. If there are transfer values to any pensions of more than £100,000 then there is also a likelihood that a specialist pension report will be sought.

The same follows for financial disclosure in family mediation. A lot of time at the start of the family mediation process will be spent in the gathering together of the parties financial information. The mediator will also produce a joint financial summary. This is a necessary task which is for the protection of both parties. If mediation takes place without there being financial disclosure – then any reasonable solicitor will advise their client against proceeding with what has been discussed in mediation at least until such a time as they are satisfied that full and frank financial disclosure has fully taken place.

Therefore, in answer to the question – everyone needs to provide so many documents in order to ensure that they are making good decisions and also decisions which are going to be as final as possible.

completing a jigsaw puzzlWhat happens if we don’t get a financial order?

The alternative to achieving a divorce settlement based on full and frank financial disclosure is to do nothing. This might save money in the short term – but this could also/is likely to mean that one of the parties is not receiving what they should receive as a fair divorce settlement.

The potential financial claims that both are able to make following a divorce can still be activated years later and the financial claims from each party to the divorce are only terminated by their own remarriage or death or the eventual making of financial order at a later date.

If a financial claim is pursued years after a separation – the date when the court considers the circumstances of the parties will be the current date – although the court will take into account the situation of the couple when they separated and what has happened since. Seeking a divorce settlement after a long delay is not normally a good idea.

Divorce settlements should be dealt with at the time of the divorce. Divorce settlements can be dealt with in an amicable way. We are of the view that collaborative family law and family mediation supported by legal advice are normally the best ways to proceed. If everyone is proactive and constructive then the obtaining of a divorce settlement does not need to be excessively expensive. Naturally, there is a cost involved – but this is inevitable. High conflict will add to cost.

Therefore, if you are divorcing – best to get good legal advice as soon as possible. We will be happy to help.

Celebrating excellence awardsIan Walker Family Law and Mediation Solicitors are here to help

Our team of experienced family lawyers are here to help.

If you’d like divorce advice or divorce information, we can answer your and family law questions including What happens if we don’t get a financial order? Can divorce settlements be reopened? How long does it take to get a divorce in the UK?

We have offices in Honiton, Exeter, Torquay, Taunton, Yeovil and Weston-Super-Mare to help you with

We have been shortlisted for the 2019 Law Society Excellence Awards.

Call 03339 390188 to arrange an initial meeting.

Read More...

 

The Law Society Excellence Awards 2019 – We have been shortlisted

 

 

The Law Society Excellence Awards 2019 – We have been shortlisted

We received a very pleasant surprise this week when we were notified that our founder Ian Walker had been shortlisted in the category of Practice Manager of the Year

Managing Partner of the year in the prestigious Law Society Excellence Awards.

Ian Walker Divorce Lawyer Photo headshotWhat are the Law Society Excellence Awards?

The Law Society Excellence Awards are designed to celebrate the hard work and inspirational achievements of solicitors, legal teams and law firms of all sizes across England and Wales.

The Awards have been run for for the past 12 years.

These are national awards – organised by the Law Society (of England and Wales).

Essentially the aim is to promote the legal profession. Lawyers are often portrayed negatively in the media, but in reality they play a very important role in society, in assisting clients to resolve personal/family problems (e.g. family law), sort out their personal affairs (moving house, making and administering wills et cetera (private client law), helping businesses interact with each other, resolving personal injury disputes and other forms of litigation, protecting human rights, ensuring that those accused of crimes have a fair trial, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Practice Manager of the Year – what the judges were looking for

The specification for the Practice Manager of the Year award is as follows:

Law firms often operate in a highly competitive and volatile business environment, which creates risks but also huge opportunities to thrive and develop. We are looking for individuals who help their firm to:

    • drive excellence in business management
    • focus on continuous improvement
    • demonstrate sound financial planning and risk management principles
    • encourage technological innovation around data and cyber challenges
    • develop innovative learning and development strategies
    • future proof and work collaboratively to reduce the regulatory burden.

What the president of the Law Society had to say when the shortlist was announced

Law Society president Simon Davis said:

“There are more than 140,000 solicitors in England and Wales – to be shortlisted for an Excellence Award is to be recognised as among the very best of the profession.

“The firms and solicitors shortlisted should be commended for going above and beyond to support their clients, often navigating tricky and sometimes contentious areas of the law.

“With the justice system so under strain, we should take this opportunity to celebrate the incredible work solicitors do day-in and day-out – and to recognise the immense contribution they make to our society.”

Winners are announced at the Law Society’s Excellence Awards ceremony in London on 23 October 2019.

Our shortlisting for the category of practice manager of the year 2019

As a practice, we have now been in existence for 6 1/2 years. For the first two years the practice was simply Ian a computer.

We have since grown into a practice that consists of eight solicitors and legal executives (nine if we include Briony who is a trainee legal executive) and a total headcount of 16. The practice has more than doubled in size in the last 18 months.

Lexcel Legal Practice Quality Mark LogoIn the last 18 months we have also:

  • achieved the Law Society Lexcel practice management accreditation
  • renewed our contracts to undertake legal aid work for family law and for mediation. We took on an additional contract for family law legal aid work from our Taunton office.
  • Achieved Cyber Essentials
  • adopted additional software solutions aimed at enhancing our client service, including Egress email encryption and the SettIfy client engagement tool.
  • We have introduced processes through which we can meet the demands of clients for the offer of fixed fee legal services. Fixed fees being tailored to a client’s particular case. We have also introduced a client service guarantee.

There are also other improvements that we have adopted which we do not have the space to deal with here.

Family Lawyers team photoA team shortlisting and not really an individual shortlisting

Whilst the shortlisting of Ian Walker in the Law Society Excellence Awards category of Practice Manager of the Year is an individual category, we are of the view (quite rightly), that this is a nomination for our whole team.

Continuous improvement/development and positive change requires working together as a team and everyone sharing in the vision of achieving continuous improvement. No one has all the ideas. A good team will always outperform a group of individuals.

Our shortlisting is therefore in our mind a shortlisting for us all.

Why are there so many different awards ceremonies for everything these days?

If you scroll through LinkedIn, there seem to be endless awards and endless awards for similar things.

These are marketing opportunities. Many firms will employ PR consultants to make sure that they are entered into every award competition and directory going.

We don’t enter many Awards

As a practice, our priority is, and will always be to prioritise meeting the needs of our clients. As a consequence we are busy because we are working hard to meet their demands and the demands for our services.

This is only the second time we have entered an awards in the existence of our practice. We simply haven’t had the time or the inclination to enter the multitude of other awards.

We were therefore very surprised and flattered when we receive the shortlisting. We didn’t employ anyone to nominate us. Obviously not every practice/practice manager for a law firm in England and Wales will have entered, but because these are national awards, we anticipate that the number of entries will have been much higher than more localised awards.

In our view, within the legal profession, these are the most prestigious awards. It is very nice to have been shortlisted (Ian is one of four on the shortlist), if by chance we did win, that would be very nice, but ultimately this changes nothing about how we want to run our practice and our never-ending striving for improvement.

The best recognition that we get is from our clients

It’s very nice to have some recognition for all our hard work – but the best recognition is always unhappy clients, for whom we have achieved good outcomes!

Read More...

Ian Walker Divorce Lawyer Photo headshot

On 11 July I attended the annual get-together of mediator professional practice consultants. Here is the write-up of the day which I wrote for Resolution’s member magazine.

If I had written this is a blog post I would have included more subheadings and pictures to break it up a bit!

Resolution PPC forum 11 July 2019

For several years Resolution have been running an annual training day for Mediation Professional Practice Consultants (PPC’s). Originally this was just for Resolution registered PPC’s, but in the last few years Resolution have invited PPC’s from all Family Mediation Council representative bodies. In the historically fractious world of family mediation this has been a very helpful step by Resolution and the PPC Forum has become a central date in the mediation calendar.

This year, to coincide with the opening of Resolution’s new offices at 91-95 Southwark Bridge Rd, the PPC day moved from its previous home at Woburn House, Tavistock Square to the training suite at Southwark Bridge Road.

The downside of the change of venue was that the number of PPC’s who were able to attend was reduced from over 100 down to only around 50. The upside was that this made for a more intimate occasion and the Q&A and debate sessions became much more inclusive. There is also scope to record the highlights of this and other training for inclusion on the Resolution training portal.

The day was hosted by Resolution’s Angela Lake Carol and Suzy Power. The main event was a presentation by Robert Creighton, Chair of the Family Mediation Standards Board, ably supported by Helen Anthony, Executive Officer of the Family Mediation Council followed by Q and A.

Now, I appreciate that all this may not at first blush be very interesting to most Resolution members, but please bear with me!

There is an ongoing tension within the world of mediation. This is between those who view mediation as a professional activity (many of the lawyers) and those who view mediation as a profession in its own right. This tension manifests itself in part in the way in which the standards provide a route to accreditation and practice. (Compare with family mediation the lack of requirements to practice as say a workplace mediator).

For members who wish to undertake legally aided mediation, accreditation is necessary in order to meet the requirements of the legal aid agency. It is quite possible to practice as a mediator without being accredited – but to be a resolution mediator – it is still necessary to have a PPC and to undertake professional supervision and to comply with the requirements of Resolution, which in turn comply with the standards of the Family Mediation Council – of which Resolution is of course a member.

A key theme in the presentation by Robert Creighton was the ongoing review of mediation standards. The Standards Board were focusing initially on accreditation and more specifically the route to accreditation. Over the years, too many Resolution members (and others) will have undertaken the mediation foundation training but will have found the pathway from training to accreditation to be impossible to traverse. The current pathway is considered by some to be unnecessarily bureaucratic and onerous – requiring the demonstration of the required level of competency for accreditation through the preparation of a portfolio, submission of three completed Memoranda of Understanding (final mediation summaries) and the completion of at least 10 hours supervision with their PPC.

Robert Creighton had written to PPC’s in June about the work of the Standards Review Accreditation Working Group – and this letter (which is hopefully reproduced somewhere on the resolution website) formed the starting point for discussion.

Robert Creighton outlined how, whilst the plan isn’t to water down the standard of skill which it is necessary to demonstrate, thought is being given to how to make the demonstration of the necessary standard of skill easier. He indicated the intention of the FMC to ask Stan Lester – who had been heavily involved in the drawing up of the current standards/pathway – to look at how the pathway could be recast in a more flexible way – retaining the principle but improving the practical.

Robert outlined how changes could include increasing the time through which it was necessary to achieve accreditation after training, allowing evidence from mediations which did not complete successfully – but where a mediator could demonstrate their skill, perhaps introducing a better proportionality regarding the 10 hours of PPC consultation before accreditation requirements (no one in the room – including organisation representatives on the FMC could quite remember how the ten-hour requirement had been set at that level).

Robert tantalisingly suggested that it may be possible to move to a position where we end up with an enhanced foundation training (perhaps modular?) Which ends in accreditation. Before anyone got too excited about what would have been a comprehensive solution to the difficulties of the route to accreditation for many, he pointed out that the Standards Board had limited time and would initially concentrate on making the current pathway a bit more straightforward – (rather than focusing the available time on finding an all embracing solution which provides a simple pathway to accreditation for everyone – my words! – But at least the genie is out of the bottle on this).

An excellent idea from the floor (from our own Karen Barham) was the idea of the option of the equivalent of an observed driving test – where the unaccredited mediator could demonstrate their competency by actually showing what they could do in real life – as opposed to writing reams and reams and reams analysing how what they have done met the standard. Imagine if we all had to prepare the equivalent of a mediation portfolio instead of undertaking a driving test! Hopefully this is something which will gain traction.

In the afternoon, we looked at the President’s Private Law Report – from Mr Justice Cobb, which is currently out for consultation. Everyone please respond – it’s important. Unfortunately, the revitalised MIAM being promoted in the consultation seemed to all those in the room to be exactly the same as what a MIAM should look like anyway! Perhaps there was insufficient of mediator input in the private law working party? But, there’s no getting away from the fact that the Private Law Programme does require reform and we all felt that given that applications to the court are increasing, and the uptake of MIAMs and mediation has not, that court applicants (and respondents) need to be doing more to try and resolve their disputes sensibly out of proceedings.

Between these discussions were challenging scenarios for discussion between the attendees as to how they would deal with problems arising for their consultees and the usual networking with colleagues from across the mediation world.

There was an unintended theme within the day which was not unnoticed – of the apparent randomness of some dates around mediation: why should a MIAM become invalid after four months? Why should it be a requirement to achieve accreditation within three years of foundation training (without seeking extension)? Why should a prospective accreditee need exactly 10 hours PPC supervision before accreditation? No one quite knew. This reminded me of Henry Brown (mediation pioneer, FMA founder, founder of SFLA (Resolution) sole mediator offering and after whom the Henry Brown lecture at the DR Conference is named in honour) explaining to me at least once, that there was no science involved when the length of a “normal” mediation session was set as 1.5 hours – it just seemed like a good idea at the time! Mediation should always be able to be flexible.

We learned on the PPC day that there are currently around 700/750 accredited mediators in England and Wales and the population of mediators is around 1100 if we include those working towards accreditation. We were told that both numbers were currently reasonably stable. However from looking around the room, I didn’t see many new faces, and I think everyone understands that the population of mediators is ageing – and whilst it may be able to cope with the amount of work that there currently is – it is probably insufficient to cope with the amount of work that there should be – in which case hopefully the current review of process will lead to better routes to accreditation – which will ultimately make the proposition of training as a mediator more attractive. From my own perspective – I have never met a lawyer who has not become a better lawyer after training as a mediator and simply as a skills course the foundation training is highly recommended. Hopefully we will see more new faces in the next few years?

Ian Walker is a Solicitor (qualified 1992) and Mediator (qualified 1996) and a current member of the Resolution DR Committee and Chair of Resolution Devon Region. The views expressed here are entirely Ian’s own.

Read More...

Family Law Paralegal/trainee solicitor/trainee legal executive wanted

We are seeking an additional Family Law Paralegal sought to join our growing specialist practice.

You will work with our experienced solicitors undertaking a range of tasks including; attending clients, preparing briefs to counsel and court bundles, liaising with expert witnesses, preparing documents, occasionally attending Court to provide assistance to client and advocate.

You will be based at our office in Honiton.

For graduates who are taking or who have passed their LPC there is also scope for this to become a training contract after a six-month probationary period. Seats would be family law/divorce, children law and mediation.

Essential

– Previous experience as a paralegal

– Experience and commitment to a career in family law

– Strong IT skills

– Being highly organised and tidy

– Team player

– Strong communication skills.

– Car driver

Desirable

– Experience with SOS connect case management.

– Desire and drive to achieve professional qualification as a legal executive or solicitor.

– Alternatively, experience of legal cashiering/solicitors accounts rules, or costing of legal help files

– Sound understanding of legal compliance

– Sense of humour.

Qualifications

– Good A levels with experience in a similar role

– Graduate (but with paralegal experience).

– LPC

Salary

As a company we do not pay less the Real Living Wage. Actual salary will depend on qualification an experience.

5 Weeks Annual Holiday.

We have achieved not opening over Christmas so far

Read More...

Ian Walker Divorce Lawyer Photo headshotWe have one of the strongest child law teams in the South West, which includes 3 current and 2 lapsed Children Panel Members. There is between 80 – 100 years of children panel membership between our team!

We regularly receive instructions to act for children and as agents for a local authority.

We remain committed to Child Law Legal Aid work.

We are now looking to add to our team.

Ambitious Solicitor – Child Law specialist

We are looking for an ambitious solicitor with ambitions to join our equity.

Person specification:

  • Good academic background.
  • Good grounding in child law (ideally within a larger practice/team)
  • Existing Children Panel Member or ambitions to join children panel
  • Willingness to undertake advocacy
  • Good IT skills
  • knowledge of legal aid and good time recording discipline
  • A team player with sense of humour
  • Passion for child law
  • Ideally practicing in Devon /Somerset or South West
  • Enjoys networking/practice development
  • Partnership ambitions

Kim Divorce Lawyer Photo headshotGenuine long term opportunities.

We have Lexsis PSL and Library

There are definite partnership opportunities for the right person.

Why join us?

  • The practice is run by Ian Walker – who is one of our children panel lawyers – so you don’t need to worry about our commitment to children law!
  • You will have the opportunity to work with and to learn from specialists; Ian, Kim Stradling and Sandy Powell.
  • We are not getting younger, so we need a dynamic children lawyer to maintain the balance within the team.
  • Sandy Family Lawyer PhotoWe have a good IT structure which supports cloud working, flexible working and paperless working – which is important in maintaining a financially viable practice in the face of the pressures of legal aid funding.
  • The number of firms offering a legally aided service continues to reduce. The level of care work continues to rise. Therefore best to have safety in numbers.
  • Realistically – it is ever increasingly difficult for a lawyer with a legal aid practice to achieve equity in a multi-service practice. However there are no glass ceilings on ambition with us. Quite the opposite, we need to recruit into our equity in the medium to long term. So the opportunity is genuine.
  • We are Lexcel accredited and the business is in good financial health.
  • We are all based in Honiton – good location, no traffic jams in the morning, car park outside our font door. We move around our network as we need to.
  • Because you will love working with us!

Please send your CV  and covering letter in confidence to Ian at ianwalker@familylawandmediation.co.uk

Read More...

Ian Walker Divorce Lawyer Photo headshotWe are recruiting – Family Law Paralegal wanted

We are seeking an additional Family Law Paralegal sought to join our growing specialist practice.

You will work with our experienced solicitors undertaking a range of tasks including: attending clients, preparing briefs to counsel and court bundles, liaising with expert witnesses, preparing documents, occasionally attending Court to provide assistance to client and advocate.

You will be based at our office in Honiton.

Essential

– Previous experience as a paralegal

– Experience and commitment to a career in family law

– Strong IT skills

– Being highly organised and tidy

– Team player

– Strong communication skills.

– Car driver

Desirable

– Experience with SOS connect case management.

– Desire and drive to achieve professional qualification as a legal executive.

– Sound understanding of legal compliance

– Sense of humour.

Qualifications

– Good A levels with experience in a similar role

– Graduate (but with paralegal experience).

Salary

As a company we do not pay less the Real Living Wage. Actual salary will depend on qualification an experience.

5 Weeks Annual Holiday.

Applications

Please send your CV and covering letter in confidence  to leannecornock-stark@familylawandmediation.co.uk

or ianwalker@familylawandmediation.co.uk

Closing date

Closing date is 30/06/19 – unless we find an ideal candidate before this.

Read More...