Beware of cheap imitations!

I recently have had the privilege of delivering training to trainee solicitors and, judging by the enthusiastic response to the Family Law element of their compulsory training, there may be a few who will find their way into this specialist field. However, not every solicitor who terms himself or herself a “specialist” family lawyer is in fact truly experienced in this area. Unfortunately “dabbling” can lead to protracted negotiations or litigation, often increasing the acrimony between the parties.
When would-be clients trawl the internet or search Google they might find a bewildering choice of solicitors claiming expertise and specialism in family law. Who do they choose? What do they need to think about when choosing a family lawyer?
Forget about the most eye-catching website or even the name of the site. Many are just sites where any solicitor who is willing to pay the fee to join can be listed. Things to consider – is the solicitor accredited as a specialist by the Law Society of Scotland? While there are a number of very competent and experienced family lawyers who have not sought accreditation, this does at least show that the solicitor has satisfied failry strict criteria to obtain this accreditation. Do they offer a variety of dispute resolution methods, such as collaborative law and mediation, as well as traditional negotiation or litigation? Are they members of specialist organisations such as the Family Law Association, CALM (solicitor mediators) or FLAGS (the family law arbitration group). One size does not fit all and a particular dispute resolution method might be best for a particular individual as opposed to an often aggressive approach, by a lawyer, for example, more used to the cut and thrust of the criminal courts. It can make the difference to achieving a settlement with minimum acrimony and a better chance of keeping the focus on the impact on the family if “softer” methods of dispute resolution can be offered. So, for the new client looking for a family law solicitor the motto is choose carefully and “buyer beware”!