A leading family charity has made repeat calls for changes in the legal professional to curb spiralling cost of legal fees on family matters.
Jane Robey, CEO of National Family Mediation, says too often mediators in her national network have to pick up the pieces of cases where one or both parties have run out of money due to a lack of transparency from solicitors in charge levels.
The calls come amidst a time of concern that many people have been prevented from accessing the courts due to high fees. This has been stifled by the decrease in available legal aid.
In May 2012, the country’s most senior judge, Lord Neuberger, raised concerns that charging hourly rates “leads to inefficient practices, at worst it rewards and incentivises inefficiency.” He said the time had come for a change to the time-old system of charging hourly for solicitor services.
However, Jane Robey has said little progress has been made since then, with the issue progressively made worse by a lack of initial capital and/or legal aid.
She said: “Two and a half years on, there seems to have been precious little progress; meanwhile separating couples are haemorrhaging money that could be better spent investing in their children’s futures.”
“To say it is ‘high time’ fixed rates for family matters become the norm wouldn’t do justice to the scale of the problem.”
Whilst charities are able to help individuals bear the brunt in cases financial issues, it is not a sustainable solution, with sector experts pointing to the need of a compromise from legal firms offering the service, or additional methods, such as mediation, to help families resolve their issues.
Jane Robey continued to say: “At National Family Mediation, we have countless cases of clients coming to us having previously engaged solicitors but then running out of money.
“Having run out of cash, these people have then found themselves working through mediation instead, often wondering why they hadn’t been informed about this possibility previously, given the process was staggeringly cheap compared with what they had been paying in legal fees.”
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