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18 NOV 2014

Leading family charity renews calls for fixed fees for family matters

Leading family charity renews calls for fixed fees for family matters

A national family charity has repeated its calls for the legal profession to introduce a fixed-fee tariff for its work 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 simply run out of money, because the level of charges made by solicitors was not transparent.

High legal fees in divorce cases hit headlines this week with reports of a separating UK couple having spent £920,000 on fees in just eight months. It led to Mr Justice Mostyn calling it 'madness' that had led to 'grotesque leachings of costs'. Worryingly he declared this was not unusual. And 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', urging the time for change had come.

'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,' said Jane Robey.

'To say it is "high time" fixed fees for family matters become the norm wouldn’t do justice to the scale of the problem.

Fixed fees for family matters are years overdue and the legal profession owes it to families up and down the country to get it sorted.' 
She went on 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. We’ve been told the bills have escalated like a Blue Peter totaliser, with scary and alarming consequences.

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.

They’ve come to mediation through the back door, having been seduced by the inviting high-street façade of solicitors’ offices promising them "victory" over their ex.'
Jane Robey herself raised the need for fixed fee direct with solicitors in a speech to Birmingham Law Society’s annual conference last month. She said: 'For us to be able to tell clients that they can have advice on the options they have developed in mediation and drafting services for a fixed would be enormously beneficial.'

What do you think? Here at Jordans we are sure that many practitioners will not necessarily agree with these comments. Why not add your view to the debate?
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