As you will be aware, the interim report of the Family Justice Review suggests that there are likely to be sweeping changes to family law in this country. Some of these changes may not be entirely to our benefit. The Partners have therefore been considering what opportunities there will be to make a suitable profit after the final recommendations of the Review are implemented. We realise that this may still be a considerable way ahead but there is, of course, no time like the present to consider the 'bottom line'.
Here are our initial thoughts:
1. Contrary to reports in the uninformed media, the Review is unlikely to recommend better contact rights for grandparents. This does, not, however, prevent us from 'encouraging' grandparent clients to believe that they do have greater entitlement, for which they should of course fight tooth and nail.
2. An online information 'hub' (whatever that is) and helpline is to be established, to give "information and support for couples to resolve issues following divorce or separation outside court". Obviously, it will be imperative that all efforts should be made to discourage clients from accessing this 'hub'.
3. Provision is to be made to ensure that a signed 'Parenting Agreement' has weight as evidence in any subsequent parental dispute. We therefore recommend that an additional copy of any such agreement should always be prepared containing more favourable terms for our clients, in order to encourage future litigation.
4. Compulsory mediation is likely to be introduced. We have, of course, already set out some strategies to deal with the scourge of mediation, including creating a power imbalance, non-cooperation and playing the 'domestic violence card'. We could also consider offering mediators financial 'encouragement' to certify that cases are not suitable for mediation.
5. Cases dealt with by the court will be allocated to a track system according to complexity. Obviously, we should ensure that all of our cases are allocated to the most
6. Apart from the curse of mediation, the Review has, thankfully, not got its hands upon ancillary relief. It should therefore still be possible to make a reasonable profit doing ancillary relief work, and accordingly we should seek more such work, to make up for any profit shortfall that the Review may cause elsewhere.
7. Lastly, undefended divorce has, of course, been an easy money earner for solicitors for many years. Sadly, however, it appears that this particular gravy train is likely to come to an end, with undefended divorce being dealt with administratively by the 'Family Justice Service'. It will therefore be even more important than now to ensure that all respondent clients defend divorce proceedings whenever possible.
Any further suggestions from staff members as to how to maximise client fees are, as always, welcome.