Most people begin their legal journey for a divorce with a phone call, an enquiry. Although this is a daily occurrence for lawyers, for clients this is a defining point in their life and an action that requires courage. They might make that phone call for a number of reasons; it’s a rough time in their relationship and they need to know what their options are, perhaps their trust has been broken, it might even be that they find the person that they married has changed beyond recognition. A client’s reasons are their own but how the lawyer on the other end of the phone handles the case will impact their life in immeasurable ways.
Lawyers are not always portrayed as trustworthy by the media and this is a huge problem in the industry, not only for lawyers but for clients too. So what can we do to change this? If we take the example of doctors; patients trust them to perform painful but necessary procedures, they trust them to do the same on their children. Medical professionals instil trust in their patients from the moment they walk through the door, their words and reassurance carry weight and nine times out of 10, we trust our doctor. Why is this not always the standard in the legal profession too? I don’t think that question is too hard to answer. At law school you are taught what it is to be a legal professional; the way you conduct yourself and the rules you are bound by, you are not taught how to empathise with a client. The fundamental flaw in this formula is that the legal profession is not seen as a caring profession, despite dealing with people in distress. If doctors are trained so stringently in bedside manner, then why aren’t the legal professionals? After all, their actions do impact the client’s psychological well-being.
“HONESTY IS THE KEY TO TRUST”
There are a number of blogs, written by both men and women, who have experienced the legal processes involved in a divorce. The common theme throughout was a lack of trust between themselves and the solicitor. Many of them found that their lawyer didn’t update them on the progress of their case. Not being kept in the loop only added to the worry and anxiety they were experiencing, they were left feeling defenceless as they had little to no knowledge of what was going on. Most people will never come into contact with the law (except the odd parking ticket of course). To most, the legal processes that underpin our society are a complete mystery and that is why it is so important for clients to be consistently informed. The reality of most of the cases was that the lawyer had done what they needed to do and the case was at a standstill. It is almost impossible to over emphasise the effectiveness of a quick phone call or an email to a client.
Transparency in costing is also a pertinent issue amongst client blogs and forums. In a number of accounts I read that clients felt their lawyer hadn’t been entirely open about how much the case would cost. They were disheartened to find that at the end of their case, once everything had been decided, once their world had crumbled and they were only just beginning to rebuild their lives again, a gargantuan bill came through the door that they were not prepared for. Openness in costing is not only a requirement by the Solicitors Regulation Authority but, on a human level, it is fundamental to securing the clients trust. Honesty is the key to trust and trust should be the foundation of client, lawyer relationships.
When I was asked to blog for Grayfords I was invited to the office to meet Sheata Karim, the Principal Solicitor. We started the meeting with a background of the firm as well as her own professional background. It was a breath of fresh air to hear her ethos on client care. She explained that honesty was key to her team as well as the growth of the firm. She explained that from day one the client knows how much the case is likely to cost and the client is updated on the case even when there isn’t much to say other than, “How are you doing? What can we do to help?” It seems that Grayfords doesn’t just give legal advice and advocacy, they give legal care. It was refreshing, but it shouldn’t be should it?
by Lewis Sweeney
This article was written by Lewis Sweeney, a guest blogger of Grayfords.
Lewis is a law student who studies at the University of Westminster.
He is in the process of completing his LLB and has aspirations of becoming a barrister.