Mixed teams help family lawyers embrace non-court alternatives

Mixed teams help family lawyers embrace non-court alternatives

During Resolutions ‘Future of Family Practice‘ online conference, it was brought to light that those in family law are embracing mixed teams to ensure they can provide a wide range of services to clients, which don’t involve the court process.

The conference heard from the Family Dispute Solutions and the Hampshire Family Legal Solutions pods, who revealed that their teams involve lawyers and non-lawyers skilled in a number of specialisms. These include; mediation, financial advice, counselling and therapy.

Peter Martin, a consultant and arbitrator at London firm OGR Stock Denton, part of Family Dispute Solutions, explained:

“Our pod has a mix of mediators, collaborative lawyers, arbitrators and financial advisers. We wanted to show potential clients the choices and benefits of each, enabling choice of the route that best suits them.”

Fellow member Bindu Malkan, a senior family solicitor at SA Law, told Legal Futures:

“It’s not a case of one size fits all, it’s about what works best for clients and can be a combination of different methods.”

She added:

“It means that, [even] if a client has started under the collaborative process, they [can] then flip to mediation or do arbitration, or hybrid mediation.

“We are quite all-encompassing and in this way clients will be able to have the full spectrum of options available, plus within our pod we’ve got every single discipline you can think of in a way that helps with referrals and cross-referrals, so tailoring it more to the client.

“We all know how difficult the court process can be. Whilst it’s a system we’ve been used to, there’s a lot of drawbacks and flaws with it… If you need the court, it is there, but it comes with a lot of hurdles so we as family lawyers now… are always looking at things outside the court arena.”

She continued that what set them apart was having “clever, cost-proportional, out-of-the-box-type thinking because ultimately it is about the client and… we’ve got to tailor our approach”.

The Hampshire Family Legal Solutions model is similar, designed “to help couples separate with dignity and without using the court process” and identify “common goals and [work] as a professional team to ensure a fair and cost effective outcome is achieved”.

Catherine Sousa, Director of Sousa Law in Southampton, explained:

“The process starts with an initial fixed-fee foundation meeting… with the couple, a family consultant, a financial adviser and their solicitors.

“During the meeting we identify areas of agreement and areas of dispute so that we can then offer a plan of action for the couple in resolving all issues in the most cost-effective manner, taking account of their emotional, financial and legal needs.”

Please note this article has been previously published on Legal Futures.

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