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With the boat race last weekend and the Olympics now drawing ever closer, the word 'competition' seems to be inescapable. It is, however, not just in the social arena that this word is all around us, but in the workplace too.
The competitive market was a theme at the recent Resolution conference. All family lawyers will be more than aware of the increasing competition in the market, not just from other lawyers but from corporate entities, such as the Co-operative who are offering online divorce services.
Competition is not just coming from outside sources as it is undoubtedly clients too who are putting on the pressure. I would imagine that all of us have had clients come to us armed with a wealth of information (albeit of varying quality) that they have ‘discovered' on the internet.
So what are clients looking for in a family lawyer and are we at risk from non-specialist, non-practitioners? Value for money is understandably high on the agenda, particularly in these tough economic times. Certainty, efficiency and professionalism are also key for clients as they want to know that their money is being put to good use. This inevitably places pressure on us when many people can, for example, complete their own divorce petition or call a corporate agency such as Rocket Lawyer or Divorce Online to do it for them for a fraction of the cost. Some firms are moving towards fixed fees and this may certainly be an approach which appeals to many (although we all know that no divorce is the same as the next, especially when there are finances and children issues combined).
So are we under threat? Whilst I accept that lawyers have to try increasingly hard to stay at the top of their game (and this is no bad thing), I struggle to accept that all clients will be happy with a service which offers no personal touch (let alone skill, experience or tactical advice).
The issues that we have to deal with are often extremely personal, private and upsetting. For many clients we offer much more than professional advice alone and to know that they are in safe, caring and skilled hands is fundamental.
So whilst we are being challenged from all angles, I believe that so long as we play to our strengths, there will still be a place for us in the game.
Jenny Green is a solicitor at The International Family Law Group. Jenny undertakes a wide spectrum of legal issues resulting from family and relationship breakdown. She has experience in complex areas of family finance in the Principal Registry of the Family Division and in the High Court. She also handles cases concerning contact and residence of children and applications for permission for a parent to permanently take a child to live with them abroad. Many of Jenny's cases involve an international element.
The views expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily those of Family Law or Jordan Publishing and should not be considered as legal advice.