I don’t know about you but, generally speaking, I think customer service is getting worse, not better. I seem to be constantly disappointed by service providers, whether it is waiting for a plumber to call me back, expecting my broadband to function at the speed advertised, getting service with a smile in a coffee shop or expecting a civil person to be on the other end of the phone when I call a business with an enquiry. The simple solution I guess is to lower my expectations. That’s what my wife says anyway. But don’t we deserve better? Aren’t we entitled to a quality service, particularly if that is what we strive to offer in our own working life? Why should it be such a shock when we actually find someone who does what they are supposed to?!
When I established Woolley & Co in 1996, I wanted a firm based around making best use of the latest technology (to better serve clients), Plain English (to help clients understand often complex issues), transparent pricing (so clients know what our services cost) – and first class customer service. It was about offering a quality service as an organisation. I believe we perform very strongly in this area and the feedback we get bears this out.
But the quality of service also means the quality of our lawyers and the advice we give. It is unfortunate that I hear so many stories of bad experiences people have had with solicitors. The perception of solicitors is that they charge a fortune, just want to go to court and are all geared up for confrontation with the other party. For an organisation fighting hard to change this perception, it can take the wind out of our sails sometimes.
Quality needs to be the watchword, breaking the stereotype of “Rottweiler” lawyers and demonstrating that we don’t want to go to court unless absolutely necessary because it bumps up costs, we want to be transparent about pricing and we advocate a conciliatory approach rather than an adversarial one.
How can we do this or how can clients guarantee they are going to a quality family solicitor? Hard to say and I think more needs to be done in the industry. It would help if there was a register of recommended family solicitors, for instance, those who have taken certain qualifications yes, but also those assessed as adopting the right approach. A Good Family Solicitor Guide wouldn’t be a bad idea!
Selecting a specialist family lawyer is a start. In our experience some general high street firms have too many “dabblers” – those solicitors who only take family law cases every now and then. The danger here is that they are not up to speed with the latest case law and practice in the ever changing area of family law. Our lawyers are regularly frustrated by solicitors on the other side who quite frankly get things wrong.
Perhaps the time is right for a licence system for family law practitioners. That way, clients could be sure they are employing dedicated specialists who have demonstrated they can offer the quality service all people should be able to reasonably expect.