Funny question. We are a private detective company. Surely the answer is obvious. It would not have occurred to us to ask the question 20 years ago or even 10. Divorce is still the most common things we are employed to gather evidenceBut now the position has changed.
- Google has provided the wherewithal to demystify specialist professional knowledge. The flip side of the coin is that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing?.
- For the first time in 37 years, there has been a sea change in the layout of forms, making them much more user friendly. For example, the average, reasonably literate person will not have difficulty in following the process or completing the forms necessary to obtain a divorce.
- The Government is about to cut out legal aid altogether for the vast majority of family law related matters. This has been universally criticised by all professionals (not only lawyers) connected with family law issues. We are sure that it will create chaos for a few years and there will then be backtracking.
- For a number of reasons, there is a belief that we can de-lawyerise the law. More and more people are deciding to act for themselves. The Courts are going to be clogged up with people who think that because the process is being simplified, the law itself is also becoming simpler. This is not the case.
- There is now the requirement that before financial or children related court proceedings those involved should have explored resolving matters by mediation.
We are having more and more clients who want to save money by doing as much as they can themselves. However, we would also want the client to know what they could safely do themselves and where they need specialist advice.
Before we solicitors would act for a client throughout the case. Now the client may only wish to consult us for advice. Or the preparation of legal documents. Or if matters do not settle within a certain period. Or if there are complications.
One problem we face is that if we are asked to dip in and out of a case we may be asked to advise or act on the basis of imperfect information. What seems to be relevant to the person acting for herself/himself may well be irrelevant. What he/she neglects to tell his/her solicitor may be of vital importance.
Our initial advice is to consult a solicitor at the beginning of a case, so that you understand the process, the cost and can decide what you can do yourself and where you are going to need legal assistance.
We offer half an hour free. However, this is often insufficient. Furthermore, if the person becomes a client we are forced with the technicalities of opening a file, recording the meeting and writing to you afterwards meaning realistically that you are looking at perhaps £150 + VAT on the basis that the initial interview lasts an hour.
We can see that a lot of people are only going to see a solicitor when a mistake has been made or they are otherwise out of their depth. We would not offer a half-hour free for any rectification work. Often the work is urgent, sometimes it is complicated and it is almost always messy.