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Head of Family Law Department at Pearson Hinchliffe Responds To Legal Ombudsmen Report

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RESPONDING to a scathing report by the Legal Ombudsman regarding complaints against family lawyers, Daniel Prince, who heads the Family Law Department at Pearson Hinchliffe LLP, said he was shocked by claims that 1 in 5 people felt they had been overcharged and were not aware of what legal fees could amount to.

“I do find this shocking, in any case, right from the outset, a client should be given as accurate cost information as possible, and then sent a terms of business letter setting out in writing likely costs of the case”, said Mr Prince.

He went to say that it was often difficult to predict exact costs, especially, if there were several issues to resolve, such as divorce, finances and children issues. 

“It is for this reason that we send clients very regular interim bills and costs updates, so that they are kept fully informed as their case progresses. This helps clients budget for their fees, especially in this difficult financial time and we can enter in to arrangements with them to pay by standing order and keep this under review as their case progresses. Our clients are often very grateful and relieved about this facility,” he added.

Pearson Hinchliffe is a Lexcel accredited firm, which means that all files and procedures are externally audited against defined Law Society standards and guidelines and such costs information issues are closely monitored.

“We have held the Lexcel accreditation for over 10 years now, a fact which we are very proud of, it means that these issues and correct procedures are firmly embedded in our client care ethos, I believe this is the basis upon which our successful business is based”, stated Mr Prince, who acting as Compliance Officer is the partner with overall responsibility for quality and compliance issues in the firm.

The Ombudsman’s report also mentioned one case where a client was charged £4,000 in photocopying charges. “I cannot comment about the specifics of that case, but generally speaking we do not charge for standard photocopying, and if we were to charge, in exceptional circumstances, for copying any documents then we would agree the charges with our client beforehand.

“Our success is based upon our reputation, positive client relationships and recommendations and we would not wish anything to damage this,” said Mr Prince.

He also noted that the Ombudsman stated that 18% of divorce complaints related to a failure to provide an adequate service, such as providing poor information, or a lack of it.

“We have safe guards in place to ensure that client’s cases are worked on and progressed, and pride ourselves at the level of our client care. Our solicitor’s files are regularly reviewed by other solicitors within the firm, and our solicitor’s case loads are monitored on a monthly basis, so as to prevent any such issues from arising,” he said.

The chief Legal Ombudsman Adam Sampson has said that some acrimonious divorce cases were exploited by unscrupulous lawyers to maximise their earnings, and that the best of the lawyers prioritised the needs of an individual.

“I am saddened to read this, as such behaviour should not be happening in today’s day and age. We pride ourselves on being approachable and non-confrontational, which our clients do appreciate.

“Each solicitor in my department is a member of ‘Resolution’ an organisation which commits family lawyers to resolve disputes in a non-confrontational and constructive way, to preserve dignity and to encourage agreements, which ultimately leads to savings,” commented Mr Prince.

“With the demise of legal aid from the majority of family cases in April 2013, it is more important than ever that clients have faith in their solicitor and clarity about the costs involved in their case.

“I am sure it will also be a great relief to many clients that they are able to agree a method of payment with us that spreads the costs of the case out over the length of the case, and possibly even after the case has finished. We would discuss this with the client at the very first meeting to settle any fears or concerns that they may have”.

Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers Ltd or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.

This blog was posted some time ago and its contents may now be out of date. For the latest legal position relating to these issues, get in touch with the author - or make an enquiry now.

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