During a year of ups and downs for many firms, not just in the legal sector, I am happy to report that Woolley & Co has performed well and expanded further. It leaves us in good shape for the 2012 Olympic year!
In recent months we have recruited three new family law specialists: Ian Giddings, based in Nuneaton, Warwickshire and Kate Brooks, in Market Harborough, Leicestershire. That brings our compliment to 23 (including me!) dedicated family lawyers across England and Wales (and Egypt).
This leaves us five ahead of where we were this time last year and this flies in the face of what many other firms are doing. Faced with “Tesco’s Law” which came into force in October, opening up the legal services market to other providers, many firms merged forces, thinking bigger is better in terms of client base but then cutting back on overall number of lawyers, and still offering a huge array of services rather than a specialism. Others stuck their head in the sand. Only a few have met the challenge head on in my opinion and they are the ones prospering. Offer top class customer service tailored around the client, with a real specialism and value added in terms of the additional support you can bring. This is what people want in a specialist firm and what differentiates from the rest.
The Family Justice Review has been another issue fogging the family law arena this year. A swathe of recommendations appears to have been watered down before the final report was published last month. It gave no more rights to grandparents, nor did it change outdated terminology. It did pave the way for huge cuts in Legal Aid which will affect those most in need of good legal advice.
It could have been this last point that piqued public interest in the sector, leading to the Family Justice Review featuring on the big wordle (yes, that’s right, a wordle) of niggles from the public shown on That’s Britain! hosted by Nick Knowles and the ever present Julia Bradbury. The first show in the new BBC series invited the public to tell them about the things that annoy them the most. The words in the wordle get bigger the more people mention them. Dog poo appeared to be the biggest gripe by the end of the show but the Family Justice Review was making strong running. Proof if ever it was needed that this family law is high up the public agenda.
Mediation was the other buzzword (or ADR if you want to be more technical) with the start in April of rules which pushed people more towards an initial mediation approach to reaching a settlement in a bid to free up court time. My thoughts on this have been well documented in this blog. Feel free to sift back through the year to find them!
So what has this meant to us ultimately? Well, we have seen a rise in cases, which to me justifies the approach we have taken in terms of providing high level family lawyers offering a specialist divorce and family law service. I hope 2012 will continue to see us succeed and that other firms will follow a similar approach.