Despite not wishing to be thought a grumpy old lawyer I decided to look at the Legal Ombudsman’s recent report, The price of separation: Divorce-related legal complaints and their causes.
This report made the news as it features lots of stories about wicked lawyers. The press revel in bad stories about us. We are told that 13% of divorce clients are dissatisfied with their lawyer as against 7% of clients overall. As a glass half-full person that means to me that a very high proportion of clients are satisfied with our services.
Or perhaps I am being simplistic. My firm has, on average, a certain number of complaints per year. I am told the level is high and I always respond that our clients are vulnerable, challenging and often unwell. But I suppose that goes for all of us. We all act for clients who by their nature are often difficult.
What I wonder is how the satisfaction rate compares with other professions or services. This is not a reason for complacency even though it is obvious that divorce clients are not the easiest; litigation is often driven by high emotions and as someone once said, litigation always ends in failure for one party.
The report itself is sensible and fair. It led me to look at An ombudsman’s view of good costs service. It is a well-produced booklet, easily digestible and worth a look. Show it around the office. It makes the point that the legal market is changing. People can get divorce kits, fixed-price deals, and online advice. What does the high street lawyer offer that the online divorce-kit seller cannot? We can offer easy access and plain old-fashioned face-to-face advice.
Obviously the best way to deal with a complaint is to avoid it in the first place. The booklet goes a long way to help. I will drink to that.
David Pickup is a partner at Aylesbury-based Pickup & Scott