_MG_5336Current contracts with the Legal Aid Agency will come to an and in 2018

The Legal Aid Agency – LAA will shortly be launching a Procurement Process – to decide who can offer Legal Aid from 2018.

The last procurement process was the trigger for me to decide to set up my own practice.

Firms which wish to continue to offer legal aid will apply  through procurement process for new civil legal advice and civil face to face legal aid  and family mediation contracts which will now open in May 2017.

We remain committed to offering a legally aided service and renewed our quality standard – the SQM or Specialist Quality Mark in 2016 to ensure that we are ready for the tendering process.

It will be interesting to see which firms do/do not apply to renew their legal aid contracts.

Sadly, a number of Devon/Somerset firms have ceased offering Family Legal Aid in the last 5 years – including Ashfords, Clarke Willmott, Foot Anstey, Michelmores, and even smaller firms such as Butler and Co and Risdon Hosegood.

We fully expect more firms to drop their legal aid offering this time around – which will be a shame, but given that legal aid pay rates have not risen for over a decade, and have even been cut, and given also the level of bureaucracy surrounding legal aid, it is hardly surprising.

 

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_MG_53362016 has been a really exciting year for us so far. We have been joined by child law expert Kim Stradling (previously head of the family law department at Devon solicitors – Everys) and by office administrator Beth Hazeltine (whose background is the provision of outstanding customer service).

We are still recruiting.

We are immediately looking for a paralegal. For the right candidate this could lead to a training contract. Alternatively we will consider candidates who have good experience working as a paralegal in an established family law team. See below.

We also on the lookout for further practitioners to help us grow our team. Details also below. In all cases apply in confidence to ianwalker@familylawandmediation.co.uk with C.V. and covering letter

We have been successful in generating a good flow of both family law work and mediation work and there are clearly opportunities to generate more. We are receive referrals from satisfied clients and by word of mouth.

Trainee Legal Executive/ Paralegal /Potential Training Contract

You will need a strong academic background and clean driving licence.

You have successfully completed your LPC (Or will very shortly do so) and possess excellent organizational, communication and IT skills.

Alternatively you will be undertaking your LPC part-time and available to work four days per week. You will already have gained some relevant practical experience.

Alternatively you will have a sound track record of working successfully as a paralegal in a respected family law practice

The successful candidate must demonstrate a knowledge of and passion for this area of law and be a team player with good sense of humour.

Where the successful candidate has gained or is working towards an LPC then the paralegal position will be with a view to a training contract becoming available after a successful paralegal placement(subject to SRA approval), or an alternative route to qualification. Excellent long term prospects. We can arrange a secondment to an alternative practice for the third seat of a training contract. We will provide seats for family law and for child law. This is an opportunity to gain a training contract with two very respected and senior Devon solicitors.

Based in Honiton

Solicitor – Experienced – Fee Share – Genuine Partnership Opportunity

Businesses’ are at their most effective when everyone has a genuine stake in their success. They also need to have good long term succession plans.

In 2016 we were joined by Solicitor Carrie Meikle. In April 2017 we were be joined by Solicitor Kim Stradling who has a wealth of experience and expertise. I would like to grow the practice a little further.

I would like to recruit another experienced Solicitor, possibly with a view to them becoming a partner sooner rather than later(If they wish).

Fee share

Flexible working -including homeworking – but you will need to come into the office in Honiton for a day each week. You will be based in Devon or Somerset.

Our organised and professional – we have no desire to be anything other than an outstanding family law practice – we are not intending to become “corporate”

Help me grow the business and have greater control of your future.

Accredited Mediator

We would also be pleased to hear MIAMs approved and accredited Mediators. You would able to help grow our mediation service, particularly in Exeter and Taunton.

Small and Relaxed

We are looking for the right personalities, who are able to work hard and effectively but can have a laugh at the same time.

Ideally we will have a team of around 6 lawyers. We want to be a team, working for each other, with the ability to adapt to changes in the market. Neither too big or too small, but just right!

Realistic Targets

We like fee sharing – the advantage of fee sharing is the we are not going to pressure you to earn fees of £100,000 or more. We will work together for our mutual long term advantage.

Can you help us to grow?

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

Being open minded and creative (see our values); we are certainly very willing to consider any opportunities which may arise. We are recruiting for long term growth.

Committed to Legal Aid

Our Legal Aid Mediation Contract allows us to work from locations in; Exeter, Honiton, Exmouth, Cullumpton, Taunton, Okehampton, Torquay, Totnes and Plymouth. To do this we had to identify inexpensive offices/rooms which are similar to our headquarters in Honiton.

Our full Legal Aid contract for family services is from our office in Honiton, in the East Devon catchment area. Our SQM was renewed in 2016 and we are all set for the new round of tendering in 2017 for 2018 legal aid contracts.

Non-legally aided work is not limited to any geographic location.

No agencies

No consultants

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_MG_5336The Family Mediation Council (FMC ) is now the governing body for mediation. It is made up of 6 member organizations.

I received an email news update at end of March 2017

Mediator numbers

The FMC report that there are 982 mediators registered with FMC of whom only 687 who are accredited.

Last year I reported that they estimated that this number was around 800 accredited family mediators – so this means that there has been a reduction.

This means that there are only 687 mediators who are able to sign off Family Court Application Forms after a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting.

To put that in context; Resolution has some 6000 members – some 160 odd are based in Devon, but there are many more solicitors and ,legal executives and paralegals working in the world of family law who are not resolution members.

The number of accredited mediators is small and pitifully small in comparison to the numbers of lawyers and non-lawyers who have completed mediation training courses over the last 20 years. I would estimate that 000’s have trained as mediators, but have never found enough work to gain accreditation, let alone be able to make a living.

What is the problem with mediation?

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_MG_5336How successful is family mediation?

It is impossible to know for Non-Legally Aided Mediation. There are no central and independently audited statistics.

What the Legal Aid Agency Mediation statistics show

There are statistics for Legally Aided Mediation though.

The outcomes of legally aided mediations are audited by the Legal Aid Agency. If success is over claimed, the Legal Aid Agency will disallow the success fee that is otherwise paid. If there was a pattern for this happening – then there would be sanctions under the terms of the Legal Aid Contract.

We can therefore say that the Legal Aid Agency statistics are reasonably reliable.

The latest round of statistics have recently been published

Here is a table:Legal Aid Mediation Statistics 2017

The Legal Aid Agency say:

Family mediation can be used to resolve issues to do with children or property and finance following divorce or separation, and the ‘all issues’ category describes mediations which deal with both areas.

The children category consistently accounts for the majority of starts, comprising 64% of all mediation starts in the last year (this information is taken from the more detailed data published alongside this bulletin).

Mediations can either break down or result in an agreement.

Like other areas of mediation, agreements fell following LASPO. They have since stabilised at just over half of pre-LASPO levels (see figure 16).

Mediations in the ‘all issues’ category can reach full agreement, where agreement is reached on all issues, or partial agreement, wherein an agreement has been reached on either children or property and finance, but not both. As such, successful agreements include both partial agreements and full agreements.

Over the last year 62% of all mediation outcomes involved successful agreements. The rate of success varied between different categories of mediation, with the highest proportion of agreements (63%) in the children category (this information is taken from the more detailed data published alongside this bulletin).

What do the figures tell us?

 There is a lot less Legally Aided Mediation taking place than before the legal aid reforms which were supposed to promote mediation: 15000 ish down to around 8000 ish per year (the 2016-2017 were down so far from 2015-2016)

A greater proportion of mediation is about children issues and this is more successful than financial mediation

Success within these figures also includes partially successful. This is most likely to be where children issues have been resolved and financial issues have not.

If around 40% of mediation is unsuccessful – the failure rate for financial mediation will be higher – this is because success includes partial success. What this is most likely to mean is a failure to resolve financial issues but that there has been success in resolving child arrangements. As in my experience many couples tend to focus on one area of dispute, resolving children issues when finances are in dispute tends to be more straightforward.

40% failure rate means that nothing has been resolved at all.

The proportion of successful mediation is no better now than before the legal aid changes – why is this? 64% successful in 2006/7, 68% success in 2007/8, 66% success in 2012/13.  Arguably the previous legal aid rules pulled even more contact cases into mediation.

Lets have a look at success rates in more detail…

There are more detailed statistics published Mediation Stats ChartMediation success statitistics

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These charts are for the most recent full calendar year.

The overall success rate in finance only mediation is only 54%

When both finances and children issues are considered in mediation financial issues are resolved in only 51% of cases. Children issues are resolved in 60% of those cases.

Points to note/Questions

  • To have a legally aid contract for mediation a mediation service needs to have an experienced mediator working in the service and overseeing its mediators
  • Any mediator can undertake non legally aided mediation. Inexperienced mediators are likely to have higher failure rates.
  • If experienced and quality assessed mediators are more successful at children mediation than simpler financial cases – can we realistically think that they will be any better at more complicated financial cases – with multiple properties and significant pensions and other assets?
  • The normal family mediation model is only moderately successful in simpler financial cases – is it really suited for more complex cases?
  • There are a lot of mediations that break down – where to the cases go… largely to Court…where else can they go? which means the cost of mediation was wasted.
  • is a 54%  success rate for mediation in financial cases acceptable?
  • is a 63-ish% success rate in children cases acceptable? More so than finances certainly.
  • The help that mediation provides in successful cases shouldn’t be underestimated – this is a lot of families assisted to find a better way… but …
  • Couples entering mediation are ones where the couple want to mediate, they want to find solutions, and the mediator has assessed that there is a reasonable prospect of success. The failed cases shouldn’t be regarded as hopeless cases. The hopeless cases will already have been filtered out.

Our View

  • Mediation can be very difficult to set up – clients (often rightly) worry about whether the other is truly willing to negotiate, and sometimes they struggle themselves with the idea that they may have to compromise.
  • Sometimes mediation is undermined by solicitors. For example – I had one recent case as a solicitor where my client agreed resolution in mediation and shook hands – yet the other party’s solicitor immediately sought to renegotiate (despite her client having received advice in support of the mediation process). In the end my client paid some more to avoid litigation costs and because he had had enough. The mediator would count their work as a success – but this didn’t tell the whole story. In another case (financial) , as a mediator; I sent a couple off to get legal advice and a pension report and some legal advice. I was contacted some time later to sign the mediator part of the court application. They hadn’t obtained the pension report, but they had continued (unsuccessfully) negotiation via round table meetings and with counsel. The mediation had not broken down when I had last seen them – so why had they not come back?
  • The traditional family mediation model (mediator and clients in a 3 way meeting – with legal advice between meetings) struggles with financial cases and is best suited to children cases.
  • For financial cases it is often better to involve solicitors – but this means moving to a shuttle model with each team in different rooms. As a mediator who is also a Civil Commercial Mediator the different style of civil mediation is better suited to more complex and involved cases – including where professionals are involved. Involving Solicitors means that the mediation is less likely to unravel afterwards.
  • But no mediation can guarantee success. It cannot – because both sides are free to walk away – that is both a strength and a weakness. The voluntary nature of mediation helps because the couple are choosing to find a solution. It is their commitment. But there can clearly be no guarantees.
  • What can achieve 100% of decisions is going to Court! But this is very expensive and divisive. But Court decisions are not necessarily long term solutions
  • What can also achieve a 100% decisions – but at less cost by combining mediation with arbitration
  • Arbitration is another type of dispute resolution where a private judge (the arbitrator) is engaged. Arbitration is a flexible process which is much quicker than Court. There is a lot about it our website.
  • Under our mediation with arbitration scheme – if a mediated agreement cannot be achieved – then the case moves seamlessly into arbitration where an arbitrator (a private judge) makes a legally binding decision. But the process will be less divisive and perhaps 1/3 of the cost of a court process and much quicker – there is much more about all this on my website at http://familylawandmediation.co.uk/family-mediation/mediation-arbitration-scheme/ Many of the benefits of mediation are retained because the couple are also choosing together to arbitrate if the mediation fails. It is therefore a voluntary process with a binding outcome. This has to be the way forward… combining the benefits of negotiation with the certainty that there can be a quick outcome if the mediation fails.
  • But the better model for mediation for finance cases is the civil model – which is purer and less emotive negotiation which involves solicitors better.

Is a 54% -ish success rate for financial mediation acceptable? You can see why people are wary – particularly when money is tight – but Court is rarely the answer. We think that our combination of mediation with arbitration provides the best option.

If you want to see the legal aid data look here https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/legal-aid-statistics-october-to-december-2016

Should clients be put off  trying mediation?

No – remember overall 62% of cases were resolved. Resolution would have saved clients a lot of cost and should also have preserved or improved family relationships.

But – prospective clients need to be realistic – mediation is no magic wand.

For mediation to work, clients need to fully commit to the process and deliver on commitments made during the process. They must be prepared to have some give and take.

Perhaps also clients need to be more selective in their choice of mediator?

What are the mediators skills and background. Personally I always refer my clients to specific experienced mediators who are either practicing solicitors or who are non-practicing solicitors. But – I think my model of linking my mediation practice to a panel of arbitrators who are known to me is the way to go (although unfortunately legal aid is not available for arbitration – although if the matters still unresolved at the end of a mediation are reasonably narrow then a paper based arbitration can be inexpensive and certainly cheaper than the alternative)

Me – Family Law Solicitor/Family Mediator/Civil Mediator/Arbitrator

I have been a Family Mediator since 1996 and am a supervisor of other mediators. I am accredited by the Family Mediation Council and the Law Society. I am also a Civil/Commercial Mediator and member of the Devon and Somerset Mediation Panel. I am a Family Law Arbitrator (Children Scheme) via IFLA and I am a practicing Solicitor with Accreditations via the Law Society and Resolution.

In other words I am quadruple qualified.

This means I am aware of the pros and cons of all relevant practice models and am well placed to comment.

I have been undertaking legally aided mediation for nearly 20 years. I have my own Solicitors practice based in Honiton but covering Taunton and Exeter. Our Mediation with Arbitration scheme is portable to anywhere within a reasonable travel distance…

But, all this means that I understand how the different styles of practice work – and don’t work – and perhaps also how they can best work together…

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_MG_5336Since founding Ian Walker Family Law and Mediation Solicitors in 2013 we have grown from just me to the largest family team based in our part of East Devon and comparable to/ bigger than the family teams of some much larger firms based in Exeter and Taunton.

Kim Stradling joining us will really add to the strength and depth of our team.

Kim has joined us from Devon Solicitors Everys – where she was a partner and head of the family department

We assist clients from our offices and consulting rooms in Honiton, Taunton and Exeter.

Meet the new team

The team now consists of:

Ian Walker: Solicitor

Member Children Panel, Resolution Accredited Specialist, Arbitrator, (An Arbitrator is a private judge who is able to make legally binding decisions) Family Mediator both Law Society and Family Mediation Council Accredited Civil Mediator Member of Devon and Somerset Mediation Panel

Kim Stradling: Solicitor

Member Children Panel, Resolution Accredited Specialist, Family Mediator

Carrie Meikle: Solicitor

Resolution Accredited Specialist

Karen Elliott: Chartered Legal Executive

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KimOn 3rd April 2017 our team was joined by Kim Stradling

Kim Stradling – outstanding family solicitor

  • Kim joins us from Devon Solicitors Everys where she was a partner and head of Family Law
  • Kim qualified as a Solicitor in 1992 and has been a member of the Law Society Children Panel since 1999. Kim regularly represents the child through their Children’s Guardian.
  • She has particular expertise in complex Care Proceedings involving suspected non-accidental injuries, and multi-disciplinary medical evidence and over the years she has seen many cases progress through the Family Courts and to the Court of Appeal.
  • In 2014 Kim was the winner of The Lawyer Monthly – Family and Succession Lawyer of the Year Award and has been recognised by the Legal 500 in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
  • Kim’s expertise also includes qualifying as a Mediator in 1998 and as a Collaborative Family Lawyer in 2007.In 2011 Kim qualified as a Resolution Accredited Specialist in Private Law Children and Advocacy, and in 2012 added the Domestic Abuse specialism.
  • Kim is also a member of Resolution, the Association of Lawyers for Children, the National Association for Guardians Ad-litem and Reporting Officers, the local Collaborative Law Pod, and she is currently Chair of the East and Mid-Devon Domestic Abuse Forum

A testimonial from an experienced Children’s Guardian

An experienced Children’s Guardian says of Kim:

I’ve known Kim for about 20 years. I first met her when I was a social worker.

I have instructed Kim in my role as children’s guardian for 14 years.

Kim is a pleasure to work with ,level headed with a great sense of humour. She is reliable, fully committed to her job and very competent.

Kim is realistic, practical and gives good sound advice. She is good at interacting with the children we visit.

Why Kim has joined us

Kim explains why she has joined us:

The legal climate is changing. Firms that used to pride themselves on providing a broad spectrum of legal services, including legal aid, are moving away from it.

Ian Walker is different; he is committed to access to justice and to filling the holes that others are leaving behind. Ian is offering a full family service to whoever needs advice or mediation, and (through Legal Aid) whatever their ability to pay.

His vision matches my ethos.

I have known Ian for a long time and I am really excited to be joining his team.

A combined 39 years of Children Panel Membership

This means that between Kim and Ian we have 39 years of Children Panel membership in our practice.

We are a practice which is moving forwards

We are delighted to have been joined by a Solicitor of Kim’s calibre. This shows the progress that the practice continues to make. We are now the largest family team in Honiton by some way and our family team is now larger than some much larger Exeter and Taunton based practices – including Kim’s former practice.

We are committed to offering Legal Aid both for family law and for family mediation.

Central to any legal practice is the quality of the lawyers and Kim is clearly first class.

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_MG_5336Friday 30 June 2017 will see the third annual Devon Resolution Conference at Buckfast Abbey Conference Centre, Devon.

This year the Keynote Speaker is His Honour Mr Justice Baker

Our other speakers include;

  • Nigel Shepherd -Chair of Resolution
  • District Judge Arnold
  • David Tyzack QC (retired judge)
  • Christopher Sharp QC
  • Susan Campbell QC
  • Kate Branigan QC
  • Rhys Taylor (36 Bedford Row)
  • Ben Laskey (Psychologist)

The flyer is below:

Devon Resolution Family Law Conference 30 June 2017 updated 01 April 2017

As the Chair of Devon Resolution, I came up with the idea because as a regional Resolution Committee we wanted to do something different and because the national conferences don’t seem to come to Devon any more.

We have had around 140 delegates each year and outstanding feedback. It has been a truly great day. This year, it looks like the numbers will be even bigger than last year.

We are happy for solicitors and barristers and other family law professionals from outside of Devon to attend as well.

Its the only family law training which I have ever been to where delegates have received a goody bag including a full bottle of Buckfast Tonic Wine!

Book early to avoid disappointment…

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bethAs part of our period of growth we have been joined by Bethany Hazeltine

As part of her role Bethany is responsible for looking after our clients and potential clients, including arranging meetings and dealing with non legal queries.

Outstanding Customer Service

Bethany has a background in customer services which has included working at Rick Steins Bistro in Cornwall as one of his Supervisors including running the restaurant on a regular basis.

Beth has also worked privately owned company providing very high end, catered chalet holidays in Verbier, Switzerland with guests come from all over the world and range from families to groups of friends, from corporate groups to members of the aristocracy.

A good client experience as well as excellent legal advice and representation.

We aim to offer our clients a good client experience as well as excellent legal advice and representation.

Bethany’s experience and people skills will help us achieve this

If you would like to arrange an appointment, please give Bethany a call on 01404 819098

 

 

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_MG_5336We are now offering clients an innovative way to resolve their divorce issues. This is through a scheme combining mediation (to achieve negotiated solutions) with arbitration (to guarantee finality).

In the scheme, I will normally be the mediator.

We have a panel of highly respected Arbitrators, namely:

  • Barbara Corbett | Partner, Benest Corbett Renouf, Jersey.
  • Ian Taylor |Partner Coodes, St Austell. Deputy District Judge
  • Rhys Taylor |Barrister, 36 Bedford Row Chambers, London
  • Karin Walker|Partner KGW Family Law, Woking

Excellent Feedback from our launch

On 26 January we launched the scheme to local solicitors and received excellent feedback.

I was joined by Karin: Who is a member of the National Committee of Resolution and its Dispute Resolution Committee and by Barbara Corbett who is the reigning Jordan’s Family Law Partner of the Year.

Me and Karin are in the pictures below. Barbara took them

Our scheme offers a much better option to going to Court and also to normal family mediation: because the built in route to arbitration will secure certainty.

There is much more about it on our website

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_MG_5336In just over four years Ian Walker Family Law and Mediation Solicitors have grown from being just me and a computer to a team including myself, an assistant solicitor and a legal executive.

We will soon be joined by another solicitor, who is one of Devon’s leading child law experts.

We are primarily based in Honiton, but have consulting rooms and a good stream of work in Taunton. We renewed our SQM in 2016 and are looking forward to expanding our legal aid offering in the next contract tender round.

Our work is a mix of Private Work and Legal Aid, including Divorce, Finance, Child Law (both private and public law) and mediation.

I am the current chair of Devon Resolution. I am a Solicitor, Mediator and Arbitrator

My firm is small, specialist, flexible and relaxed. We have now been trading for over four years and recently moved into a larger workspace. We have reached the point where we can take our next steps. Find out more about us at www.familylawandmediation.co.uk

We have the following vacancies:

Trainee Legal Executive/ Paralegal /Potential Training Contract

You will need a strong academic background and clean driving licence.

Ideally you have successfully completed your LPC and possess excellent organizational, communication and IT skills. The successful candidate must demonstrate a knowledge of and passion for family law and be a team player with good sense of humour.

The position is as a paralegal for a probationary period of 6months, but with a view to this being a training contract (subject to SRA approval), or an alternative route to qualification. (We have arrangements for a non family seat). Possibility for this to start in summer/autumn 2017.

Excellent long term prospects

Based in Honiton

Paralegal/Administrator

You will have a background in family law. Good admin and organisation skills. You will organise us in the office. No audio typing.

Ideally you will be a graduate.

Possibility of the role being school hours

Based in Honiton

Solicitor – Experienced – Fee Share – Genuine Partnership Opportunity

I would like to recruit another experienced Solicitor, ideally with a background in divorce/finance with the possibility of them becoming a partner sooner rather than later.
Fee share

Flexible working -including homeworking – but you will need to come into the office in Honiton for a day each week. You will be based in Devon or Somerset.

Help me grow the business and have greater control of your future.

Accredited Mediator

We would also be pleased to hear MIAMs approved and accredited Mediators. You would able to help grow our mediation service, particularly in Honiton and Taunton.
Small and Relaxed

Be part of our team

We are looking for the right personalities, who are able to work hard and effectively but can have a laugh at the same time.

Ideally we will have a team of around 6 lawyers. We want to be a team, working for each other, with the ability to adapt to changes in the market. Neither too big or too small, but just right!

Realistic Targets

We like fee sharing – the advantage of fee sharing is the we are not going to pressure you to earn fees of £100,000 or more. We will work together for our mutual long term advantage.

Can you help us to grow?

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

We are recruiting for long term growth.

Committed to Legal Aid

Our Legal Aid Mediation Contract allows us to work from locations in; Exeter, Honiton, Exmouth, Cullumpton, Taunton, Okehampton, Torquay, Totnes and Plymouth. To do this we had to identify inexpensive offices/rooms which are similar to our headquarters in Honiton.

Our full Legal Aid contract for family services is from our office in Honiton, in the East Devon catchment area. Our SQM was renewed in 2016 and we are all set for the new round of tendering in 2017 for 2018 legal aid contracts.

Non-legally aided work is not limited to any geographic location.

No agencies

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