Threats to the delivery of family law services: A good time to be niche
In 2017 the family Family Solicitors organisation, Resolution published a briefing paper on the future of family law called : Law and Justice briefing ; The current landscape and direction of travel
Here is a link to the paper: http://www.resolution.org.uk/editorial.asp?page_id=1292 but it is in the members only section.
For those who don’t know, I have been a member of Resolution for over 20 years and I am the longstanding Chair of the Devon Region. I am also a member of the national Dispute Resolution Committee.
The paper was written by my old friend Angela Lake-Carroll who I first met nearly 20 years ago when I was one of a handful of solicitors invited by the Legal Aid Agency to participate in their FAINS: Family Advice and Information Networks project. Angela is well respected in the family law community and also a member of the Dispute Resolution Committee.
Threats to family law practice
In summary, the paper analyses the market for the demand for and the delivery of family law (and mediation) services and discusses threats and opportunities.
Threats will include:
- Artificial Intelligence and automation
- Increasing demand for unbundled and pay as you go services
- government reforms; including reducing funding of the courts and the ongoing crisis in Legal Aid
- The decline in marriage (and consequently divorce)
- the move to a non-court future
Time for family lawyers to become depressed?
On one level, the paper is pretty depressing. The practice of family law would seem to be a shrinking market place. It is noteworthy that Family Law is no longer a compulsory learning subject for aspiring solicitors training with the University of Law.
There also seem to be more lawyers leaving family practice than joining. Some of the larger firms in Devon and Somerset have very visibly scaled down their teams of family lawyers in recent years.
I would be much more worried about the future had I not founded Ian Walker Family Law and Mediation Solicitors 5 years ago.
The advantages of being niche
Being niche means we can just concentrate on the delivery of quality family law services: advice and representation and mediation.
Before setting up my own practice I endured many years of working in practices run and mainly owned by non family lawyers, who didn’t really get family law. This meant more profitable areas of law practice were prioritised or simply those areas that the majority of the partners practiced themselves, or better met their vision of what they wanted their firm to be.
A competitive advantage
Being specialist in only family law and mediation, means we can focus on just this. This is good for our clients and our team because we are better placed to deliver to clients what they need and want.
- We are able to continue to offer a legal aided service because it fits with our values and through keeping our overheads as low as possible, we are to make it pay from a business point of view.
- We are committed to fair charging and being transparent about our charges. We are one of a small proportion of legal firms which publishes charging rates on its website.
- We are able to charge lower hourly rates to comparable city centre based teams, but by being a good sized team, means we can afford to include the best family law library and practice support service within our overheads.
- We are open to fixed fees and to unbundled work.
- We are committed to the use of family mediation and other forms of dispute resolution where this is best for our clients.
- Through the use of smart working, cloud technology and business centres, we are able to offer or services over a wide area.
- We can devote all of our website to providing helpful information to clients and potential clients.
- We can justify the time in participating actively into the work of Resolution.
We are hopefully in a position where we can easily adapt to ensure we offer clients what they need and want. But also where we can continue to grow our practice and offer a our team an enjoyable and secure place to work.
Join our team
We are recruiting at the moment… visit our news section and work for us page: https://familylawandmediation.co.uk/meet-the-team/ but we are always genuinely pleased to hear from applicants who can add to our team.