solicitor relationships in family law

Why finding the right family law solicitor is more than just finding a qualified lawyer

Successfully representing a family law client requires strong client relationship skills

A recent client story involving a single mother on universal credit experiencing difficulties with a case, in particular with her solicitor, underlines the importance of working with the right solicitors. However, choosing the right solicitor isn’t just about experience and qualifications, it’s about relationships too.

Search Google for family lawyers in your area and you’re bound to uncover a considerable number of firms. Most of these firms will have sections on their site that will tell you why they are the best in town. Scratch the surface of these firms and you’ll find a team of legal professionals with years of experience and if you’re lucky, you’ll see a face too.

On the surface choosing a reputable firm of solicitors, in this case ‘family law solicitors’, seems pretty straight forward: Find the firm, check out their reputation online and in social media, find the practising family law partner in the firm and check them out online too. Do that for a couple of firms, call and ask about their first meeting terms and conditions – some offer a free half hour or so and then bill thereafter if instructed. Pick a firm and go meet with them. Simple, right?

It should be and by and large it is. You’ll come away from your meeting likely feeling that the firm can assist you, you’ll have met a nice friendly face or two. Then you decide to instruct. However . . .

Not all solicitors are the same

That heading reads a bit cliched and obvious, because every solicitor is different from an experience and qualifications perspective. But here, we’re not thinking about professional qualifications and experience – they are a given expectation. Family solicitors are a somewhat different breed of professional altogether. On the one side they have to be qualified experts in their area of law, on the other side though, they have to be ‘family’ oriented, in other words, sensitive to individuals feelings and circumstances. Family law cases, especially those involving children, are highly sensitive in nature, requiring a considerable degree of empathy and people skills. Some are specially trained in mediation skills and even trained neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) specialists.

While it is important to appreciate how such skills are valuable in mediating family disputes, which are quite often hostile and argumentative, it’s also very important to understand how a family law solicitor manages the relationship with their client too. Not all family law solicitors are as good at managing their client relationship as they are the actual case.

This was particularly true for a client we took on recently.

Trust breakdown between solicitor and client

Few cases are ‘plain sailing’ and disappointments are likely to arise. Family disputes, especially those involving separated couples with children, often require compromise – something one or other party is unlikely to want to do, particularly when emotions become highly charged. In these circumstances, you’ll want to be 100% confident that your solicitors is fighting for you all the way.

With the case in question, the client believed her previous solicitor wasn’t 100% behind her position – a case in which the father of the child wanted to spend time with the child, but where she felt the child would be put at risk. The situation had resulted in the client becoming distressed, creating a lot of stress and anxiety for the her, something the previous solicitor hadn’t managed effectively and sympathetically. As such she lost trust in her solicitor and decide to find a new one.

The client isn’t always right and the law isn’t always on their side

No matter how strongly one may feel about their circumstances or how they feel the law should take this into account, that’s not always the case. Obviously, this can create a very distressing scenario for a parent. A solicitor has to be able to balance the law and facts in the case with the mental state of the client – which is no easy feat.

This is where the interpersonal skills of the solicitor are critical and an aspect of a solicitor’s abilities that clearly differentiate some ‘professionals’ from others. What could be tougher than trying to explain to an emotionally charged mother(as it was in this case) that despite her protestations, likely despise of the father and gut feelings, that the Court may take the view that it is still in the interests of the child to see their father.

Only a highly qualified family lawyer, one with considerable interpersonal skills, empathy, sensitivity and mediation experience could handle such scenarios.

How do you know that you’ve found the ‘right’ family solicitor?

When you meet people for the first time, especially if you have checked them out prior to meeting them, you’ll get a first impression. For some a gut feeling develops after a few minutes of interaction with them. Don’t dismiss that feeling, it’s often correct. It’s incredibly important that the relationship with the solicitor ‘feels right’. Ask yourself the following questions about your meeting with the solicitor:

How did they make you feel?
Did you feel that the solicitor was treating you as a ‘person’ or as a business client?
How much did they listen to you, rather than talk ‘at you’.
Did you feel that their interest in you and your circumstances was genuine and that you’re not just one of many such cases they are handling?
Were they able to explain your legal position in a sensitive and sympathetic manner?
Did they adequately share how they have assisted others in similar situations to yours?

The simple answers to these questions will help you get a feel for how the relationship you have with the solicitor is going to develop and naturally how much trust you are going to have in them.

The right or best solicitor isn’t always the one with years of experience and professional qualifications – those qualities are key to all solicitors. The defining quality in a family law solicitor is ‘empathy’ – the ability to understand and share the feelings of another, to a level that engenders total trust with a client.

The outcome of this particular client’s case?

The case is still ongoing. However, most importantly though, this client requires a lot of personal support through the process of resolving how much time the father can spend with the child. It can take some time for issues such as these to reach an outcome in the courts. But time is no friend of somebody who is afraid for their children, and this can take a huge emotional toll on an individual such as the mother in this case. She will want a quick resolution to her situation, so she can get back to a normal, happier life.

We are providing representation for her in the Sheffield Family court and helping her understand the process, her position and the arguments we are putting forward in her favour.

Critically though, we are supporting her through this traumatic period of her life.

Contact Foys Solicitors for family law services today

For a free initial consultation or more information on how our caring family law team can assist with you situation, give us a call on 01909 500511. You can also email us at enquiries@foys.co.uk or complete our Contact Form.