Solicitors blamed again
The National Audit Office today reports that "too many family breakdown cases are going to court rather than being settled through mediation". I've not yet read the full report, but it seems the NAO is firmly blaming solicitors: "although solicitors and legal advisers have a duty to advise their clients of the option of mediation, a survey of clients indicates this isn’t always happening". It goes on to say: "there may be a financial disincentive to solicitors of advising people about mediation: if a case is settled out of court, this will result in a loss of potential fees for them . The NAO recommends that those solicitors who have significantly lower numbers of cases which go to mediation should be investigated to find the reasons for the low take up and, where these reasons prove unsatisfactory, should have their [legal aid] contracts curtailed".
Well, I can only speak from my own experience. I certainly do discharge my duty to advise clients of the option of mediation. However, I find that the vast majority of my clients don't want mediation, or can't afford it (mediation is not free for those ineligible for legal aid), and most of those who do try it find it unsuccessful in settling the matter - so mediation often simply results in delay and wasted expense. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying mediation is a bad thing - it's just not the panacea many people (and government) seem to think it is. And I'm certainly unhappy that solicitors are once again getting the blame for failure.
Incidentally, perhaps I'm being pedantic but I was amused by a mention of this report on the BBC this morning. The presenter said that "couples who divorce should resolve their differences without going to court". Quite how they get their divorce without involving a court, I don't know.