We officially introduced our pay as you go legal advice services last year
Who is it aimed at?
Anyone who doesn’t have a spare £10,000 to £20,000 to get divorced – so nearly everyone really.
How does it work?
Unlike a bespoke legal service where we act for a client from start to finish, writing their letters/emails, preparing their documents automatically for them at the correct time, dealing with the court and the other party as and when required, with pay as you go we only do what we are specifically asked to do by the client.
The client is on the court record as acting in person. We help behind the scenes. The cost saving is dramatic and the client is generally happier because not only does this service cost less but he/she remains in control throughout.
In a family law case this is particularly important. Family law is personal. It has far reaching effects long after the court proceedings have ended. It involves people who have no say and no control over what happens in court – the children.
To allow strangers to exert control over how often a child sees a parent or where he/she lives is prone to the risk that what is best for that child will not be achieved. This is especially when the strangers (lawyers) make more money generally from cases where there is continual dispute than from those where agreement is swiftly reached.
It is frequently the parents themselves who are to blame for these protracted and hostile disputes, but the lawyers will never come out of it smelling of roses.
Pay as you go advice reduces the risk of lawyers getting too involved, taking too much responsibility for the future of your family and your children and imposing their own views on how you should manage your arrangements. You need advice not another mother-in-law (or father-in-law).
Lawyers have also come under fire recently for the amount that they charge and for failing to give cost estimates or update them appropriately during a case.
It is never easy to give an accurate cost estimate at the outset of a case. Based on limited details taken from one party (and with no real idea of how difficult or otherwise the other party is going to be) how can we accurately predict how much work we will need to do?
And so what you end up with is a general best and worst case scenario. But since a worst case scenario is likely to scare your client off, these are usually not the really worst case scenario.
Really difficult cases are probably less than 10% of an average case load whilst mildly fed up clients (let’s not forget they are getting divorced, moving out of their homes, surviving for the next few years at least on a fraction of the income they had whilst together) account for probably half to two thirds. The mildly fed up group can generally see the difference between being fed up with their circumstances and with the service they receive. Usually their cost estimates are about right as we calculate estimates based upon the average for the majority – like any other business.
It’s no surprise that the minority of people with really difficult cases end up with higher fees than they anticipate and whilst we have not ever had a formal complaint brought against us about fees, we can understand the figures relating to complaints against divorce lawyers set out in the recent legal ombudsman’s report suggesting that around a quarter were indeed just about fees.
Pay as you go is designed to avoid these issues.
The client is self-representing. There is no need for an overall cost estimate as the client is in control of how far the case proceeds and how often along the way he/she will seek advice or professional document drafting.
The client is charged only for the face to face meeting, or email or letter to them, one item at a time. Work does not build up. Unpaid fees do not mount up. We do not become embroiled in lengthy, often pointless, correspondence with other solicitors.
It is a new way of working and we are still finding our feet. We are also finding that clients like it.
Yes they have to do more of the work themselves but pointed in the right direction they can do this easily as well as a new paralegal. And they are focused and committed to the case and don’t forget where they are up to.
To help our pay as you go clients we have a page on the website dedicated to helping them understand how to make the most of the service.
You can link to it here.
In summary our pay as you go legal advice service is proving popular with clients because it costs less and keeps them in control. For us it is a success because we have better cash flow and we like happier clients.