Divorce Lawyers Called to “Raise Their Game”

These are the words of Chief UK Legal Ombudsman Adam Sampson in response to growing levels of complaints from clients in divorce cases.

A recent report from the Legal Ombudsman for England and Wales has shown that 13% of
clients were unsatisfied with their divorce lawyers; a proportion higher than that of any other category mentioned in the report. (The Legal Ombudsman is a body which regulates lawyer-client relationships, resolving disputes between the two.)

With the report come criticisms of those who are taking advantage of vulnerable clients. The watchdog expressed concern with lawyers who, they have said, are increasing the emotional and financial cost of divorce. Indeed around 25% of the complaints received were related to costs. Some clients ended up being charged up to £30,000 on top of the fee they had initially agreed on, with one woman receiving a £4,000 bill for photocopying costs.

A further 18% of complaints from clients in divorce cases were related to inadequate service, particularly regarding a lack of appropriate information.

While generally these kinds of cases can be resolved, the increased number of complaints has sparked strong interest and concern with regard to preventing cases like this happening with such frequency. Those responsible for responding are under increased pressure due to cuts to legal aid coming into effect in April. These cuts will mean that up to 200,000 divorce/family breakdown cases every year will lose public funding, causing more people to pay privately for their legal assistance.

Mr Sampson challenged unscrupulous lawyers to “raise their game”, criticising the exploitation of individuals in vulnerable situations for extra profits.

Access Solicitor, a recently launched online directory of legal professionals, helps consumers and SMEs to employ the most appropriate legal support for their needs. Access Solicitor supports the Ombudsman’s goal of ensuring that clients get the best legal services possible.

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