I was on a stag do the other week (yes, divorce solicitors do still get invited to weddings and the associated festivities) and I was chatting to a chap who was convinced that the only thing solicitors wanted to do in divorce cases was go to court. He was absolutely adamant that this is the norm, all cases end up before a judge and that solicitors actively promoted this because they made more money out of it. It took me some time to convince him that this was not correct.
I would guess that in excess of 95 per cent of cases at Woolley & Co are settled without the need to go into a courtroom. Of course, certain papers need to be lodged, but that does not mean a day in court for anyone. This fact absolutely staggered my new friend. But is this what most people think? Is the perception that solicitors love being in court and will go out of their way to get cases in there?
As I have said many times in these blogs, we would always try and reach an amicable solution and agree on the details of both financial settlement and contact and residence issues for the children without the need for going to court. Why? Well, firstly it is the most professional – and adult – way to do it. Shouting, screaming, trying to get revenge or washing dirty laundry in public will do nothing to help reach agreement. Getting all parties to a court date will only lengthen the process and make it more expensive.
This final point is key. If you go to court, costs go up considerably because of the time involved on all sides. If you want to keep costs down, do not go to court. But, some may say – including my new friend on the stag do – that’s what solicitors want, isn’t it? Well, we are not motivated entirely by money. An agreeable solution for the client is what we are after. We offer the best advice to help achieve the best solution for our client. Rarely does that involve a formal hearing.
However, even if we were driven solely by earning as much in fees as possible, taking cases to court would not be the most effective way to do this. I would estimate that we can probably complete three cases out of court for every one that goes to court and often with less stress and upset and hence a greater likelihood of recommendation and referral from the client.
As any family solicitor will tell you we rely heavily on satisfied clients who recommend us to others, so why would we choose court proceedings over a more straight-forward, less costly, less stressful route, if there’s a choice?
I am concerned that people are not taking legal advice in divorce because of their perception that they can’t afford it or that they will have to go to court. Spreading the message that this does not have to be the case is key to changing opinion.