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Family Law Blog

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Supermarket law - dangerous in family law cases?

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I nearly choked to death on my toast this morning when I heard a debate on BBC Breakfast news about the new “Supermarket Law” companies which are likely to be spawned by the Legal Services Act (LSA) which comes into force today.

One guest was passionately arguing that it would be “dangerous” for certain types of law (family law being one specifically referred to) being dealt with over the phone, rather than face to face! Whilst dealing with clients in this way may be “revolutionary” for many firms, it is what Woolley & Co has been doing since 1996.

I have practised family law for 18 years now, most of those years in a traditional high street firm. Clients would have to book time off work, drive into town, pay for extortionate parking, then sit and wait to see me. Rather like going to the dentist – something they needed to do, but which was very inconvenient and not exactly something to look forward to. Having an hour’s slot, it often felt as though the client wanted to fill the time, even when it was not really necessary.

Coming to Woolley & Co just over 4 years ago was like a revelation. Gone was the diary packed with hour long appointments back to back throughout the day. Meetings have been replaced by and large by telephone appointments – slotted in to client’s schedules for their convenience. I now only spend the time we need talking about relevant issues, which keeps the client’s costs down.

Corresponding by email has also made life so much easier, and the cases progress much more quickly! When everything needed to be dictated, typed, printed off, copied, enveloped, stamped and posted – inevitably backlogs would arise and a client sometimes wouldn’t see what had come in for a couple of weeks. Now our turnaround is 48 hours (and very often more quickly than that). Pressing “forward” is a lot simpler than using snail mail.

My clients come from all over the UK and indeed many are dotted around the world (China, Thailand, USA to name but a few). Being “virtual” has vastly broadened my horizons and it is very liberating to be able to act for clients regardless of where they are located.

I agree that family law is a very personal, and a personality based area of law. For some clients a face to face meeting is still important, and this is of course accommodated whenever practicable – but generally at a location and time which is convenient for them. But ask my clients whether we have a rapport – the testimonials speak for themselves.

So – all hail the Legal Services Act, if what that means is that legal advice will be dealt with in the client focussed, convenient and accessible way that Woolley & Co has been doing it for years.

Kate Butler
Divorce and Family Lawyer

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