Star of football and Walkers Crisps advertisements Garry Lineker last week hit out at divorce lawyers claiming that they manipulate the legal system for their own financial gain. He suggested that lawyers rile their clients up causing them to spend more money during divorce and that the process of financial settlement should be left to nothing more than a mathematical equation.
Mr Lineker and his former wife Danielle Bux divorced earlier this year paying a fee of around £400. I think Mr Lineker’s assertions are for the most part unfounded and I don’t think it is fair to tarnish all divorce lawyers with the same brush. Whilst Mr Lineker’s divorce might have been quite straight forward – his case was not all that complex and from all reports – the separation was uncontested and amicable. It is true that if couples can agree on key aspects of a divorce e.g. how assets will be divided, child contact arrangements, etc. then the process can be relatively straightforward. But what of the couple that cannot agree? This brings legal and emotional complexity to their case which is almost impossible for the layman to navigate, most importantly they can find themselves in tempestuous waters without someone to guide them through it. The consequences of getting it wrong can often be permanent and unexpected and can leave one partner at a disadvantage.
The key is to shop around until you find the right lawyer for you. A benchmark of a good lawyer is one that keeps the principle of client choice at their core; the client knows how much their lawyer will charge them for everything they will do and the client is given complete freedom of choice as to how they wish to proceed. It is a lawyer’s job to receive and act upon instruction from clients not the other way round. A lawyer will advise you on what your options are but essentially it is up to you on which option you choose, furthermore a good lawyer will make clear how much each of those courses of action will cost.
Reducing the divorce process to a mathematical formula is entirely impracticable and frankly disregards the fact that a divorce always involves real people with real emotions and real consequences for all. A court’s job is to come up with the fairest and most just answer to the questions put before it, a mathematical formula disregards the very human aspects of divorce such as custody arrangements and these aspects must be talked about and tested in order to deliver such an answer. If a couple can agree on the division of assets than the courts role is minimal but when this is contested and an issue of fairness raised then a court must be able to test this.
I can fully understand why some people may be wary and distrustful of the legal profession but I would argue that the stereotypical view of lawyers being dishonest or manipulative is based on a tiny minority and bears no resemblance to most legal professionals. The Solicitors Regulation Authority, the public body which regulates solicitors, has strict rules on how clients must be treated and at the core of these rules are the principles of honesty and transparency. Failing to meet the high standards of what is expected of a solicitor results in suspension and in many cases lawyers being stuck off. It is not in the interests of the legal profession to harbour a culture which results in clients distrusting lawyers and of course given the circumstances in which a person may require the advice of a lawyer it is essential that relationship be one of the upmost trust.
Mr Lineker’s comments don’t seem thought out and perhaps he didn’t anticipate they would receive such attention. However perhaps he has had a bad experience in the past. Divorces do cost money and like any service the cost of the process will depend on the provider. If we think of getting some building work done for example; do we go with the first builder we find? Do we go with the builder who provides the cheapest quote? The cheapest quote isn’t necessarily that of the best provider and as I am sure many find the cheapest quote is often exceeded due to an unrealistic builder underestimating the actual cost, whether deliberately, negligently or incompetently. Or do we look around for quotes and make a balanced decision between cost, reputation and competence?
Grayfords believes in absolute transparency in costing and client choice is at the core of practice. Recognising the impact a divorce can have on a client’s life Grayfords works tirelessly to ensure the people it represents know the progress of their case and how much it will cost.