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Family Law Blog

Comment on divorce & family law 

Trust is key for divorce lawyers

2 Comments

Divorce and family lawyers are a trustworthy bunch, or at least we should be. The good news on that front is that the public think lawyers are more trustworthy than accountants, bankers and estate agents. It may come as no surprise to find lawyers fall behind teachers and doctors. However, the recent YouGov poll for the Legal Services Consumer Panel also suggested that public faith in lawyers is wavering, with 42 per cent of respondents trusting lawyers to ‘tell the truth’, compared to 47 per cent in a similar poll two years ago. The fact that this decline is mirrored in other professions should come as no comfort.

Now there could be many reasons for this, not least a lack of faith in the legal services reforms that have seen Legal Aid swept away for most divorce and other cases, in turn colouring people’s view of the profession. Or it could be a negative reflection on professionals in general.

Part of the problem may be that, as a profession, lawyers are simply not as good at communication as we think we are. There is a tendency for us to think that if we have told someone something then they have listened, heard and understood what has been said, and can then recall the detail. This may not be the case. I know I have a tendency to "broadcast" information sometimes, rather than to communicate (or at least so my wife and family tell me!). So how can we improve this to both help our clients and work on their trust issues?

A simple way might just be to ask if a client has understood what we have said and ask them to explain it back to us. Though this may seem a little like testing them, it will quickly identify any shortfalls and may help us improve our delivery for future encounters. If a client can't recall being told something, they may later assume they weren’t told at all and this could lead to a lack of trust in the information we are supplying and our professionalism. It is down to us to tackle this.

The issue of trust and customer satisfaction is a very important one and we recently did our own survey among our divorce and family law clients. While it highlighted some areas where we definitely need to up our game, I am happy to report that satisfaction with the services Woolley & Co provides is up since the last poll two years ago. We’d like to think that this is because we’ve put such an effort into improving communications with our clients, as well as a real focus on meeting and exceeding client expectations in terms of speed of response, quality of advice and access to our lawyers. In fact when asked to rate aspects of our service satisfaction levels were exceptionally high with almost 90% saying they were either satisfied or very satisfied with the quality of our advice, and less than 9% of clients suggesting any areas where we might make improvements to our service.

For us one of the key pieces of information from our client satisfaction research is a client’s willingness to recommend us and on a scale from 1 (for unlikely to recommend) to 10 very likely to recommend we’ve seen a significant shift upwards into the 8s, 9s and 10s.

I mention these figures not to suggest we have no room for improvement, but merely to illustrate the detailed feedback needed from clients in order to improve our services. For only then can we offer truly world class service people can trust.

By Andrew Woolley
Family solicitor

Comments

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Regarding your para 3, Frank Zappa, the musician, made an excellent point, I think, when he said “Just because somebody hears something you say, or reads something that you write, doesn’t mean you’ve reached them”. When my brother and I had to sell our uncle’s flat (we have EPA), we appointed a lawyer who turned out to be technically proficient and tenacious but whose written communication was literally-and I mean, literally-incomprehensible. My brother has a degree in English and I am a professional journalist part time and we had to ask him to rewrite his emails in a way we, his clients, could understand! Asking people to explain to you what you have said to them is a good idea. If it were me, I’d be upfront and say, “In the past, some people have told me I tend to broadcast information, so I’d just like to check if I communicated X well”. The key thing, apart from the honesty, which is always winning, is that it isn’t about whether they’ve understood it-it is about whether you’ve communicated it well. Two principles of communication I find invaluable: - The meaning of a communication is what the recipient makes of it, - The outcome of any communication is what we intend it to be.

By Jeremy Marchant on Saturday August 10, 2013

Thank you, Jeremy, for that! I may well quote you in one of our training sessions. I have found that our 22 divorce lawyers are all easily good enough technically and so whilst we work hard—as we have to these days—to keep up to date on law changes, we also work hard on training in soft skills. Also, we recruit biased towards those very skills. I think you get it so right when you define communication.

By Andrew Woolley on Wednesday August 14, 2013

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