This article originally appeared in Edward Fennell’s weekly legal diary.
In the family law arena, there is really nothing more significant for a lawyer than ethics; the importance of ethics stretches far and wide, into every corner of practice.
But, for me, it is the issue of fees that I particularly want to focus on in my dealings with clients. At Laurus we always prioritise the client experience and that nearly always means reaching a solution as quickly as possible, often using ADR. We have very few final hearings. Not only is this better emotionally for the client, it prevents cases dragging on and costs spiralling.
Our priority is solely to drive towards the right outcome for each and every client regardless of the facts and complexity of the case and to ensure that the client receives the best possible experience during what is often a difficult time.
I’ve come across solicitors in my work who, without a shadow of a doubt, string out cases by generating correspondence and ramping up the acrimony so they go on for longer and generate larger fees. This generally results in the parties becoming more polarised than they needed to be and, of course, unnecessarily inflated costs. The Courts appear to have woken up to this and there is now a noticeable focus on fees from them. But while capped fees have been mooted for some time, in my opinion it’s unrealistic to expect this will ever happen - although I think the chance of capped hourly rates at some point in the future is more likely.
Being transparent, giving realistic estimates, keeping these updated and avoiding generating excessive fees is not just the right thing to do ethically, it also makes perfect sense commercially. We [at Laurus] don’t spend much on marketing because we don’t need to, all our work comes from reputation and word of mouth, referrals from clients who recommend us because of the positive experience they have had with us. It’s a virtuous circle as we aren’t under pressure to bring in fees to cover these outlays.
Ethics around fees is relevant to talent attraction and retention, particularly among the younger lawyers coming through who tend to be more purpose driven; if we want to bag the best talent for our firm, we must demonstrate the highest ethical standards in all that we do.
Ethics is also about how you manage your practice and for us, it doesn’t stop once a case is closed. We try to keep in touch and listen to what the clients are up to and how things are changing for them. I’d say that about 95% end up being in a good place. It’s incredibly satisfying for us to know we played a part in that.
Speak to a lawyer – get in touch with our Family Team on 020 3146 6300, or email@example.com for friendly, professional and strictly confidential advice.
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