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Divorce lawyers 'walking tightrope'

Posted by: Laurence Simons 05/03/13

Legal careers that involve working in the field of divorce mean that lawyers need to get involved in a notoriously difficult situation, balancing their own needs with those of their client as well as treating everyone involved with as much sensitivity as possible.

According to the legal ombudsman, however, some are assuaging their stress and emotional difficulties by making as much money as possible.

In a report on the costs of separation, Adam Sampson suggested that certain solicitors may not be advising clients to end a courtroom battle despite the trauma it could dredge up, instead focusing on their own financial gain.

However, he admitted that lawyers in this situation often face a balancing act between a number of different commitments.

Nearly a fifth (18 per cent) of the 7,500 complaints his office resolved last year involved divorce or family law-related cases - this means it is the most contentious area for lawyers in England and Wales to work in.

Whether this is a result of poor standards from professionals or simply a testament to the high feelings aroused by divorce is uncertain.

The report, The Price of Separation, explained: "One of the reasons why costs can spiral out of control lies in the emotional rawness of many of those going through divorce proceedings."

In this situation, both people involved tend to rely on the expertise, awareness and sensitivity of their lawyer to guide them throughout the process, meaning legal professionals play a central role in helping couples cope with what can be a deeply upsetting time.

"Most divorce lawyers understand this dependency and discharge their responsibility to provide a measure of emotional support and guidance conscientiously and with admirable sensitivity. But there is a tension in what lawyers do, which is particularly acute when it comes to divorce," suggested Mr Sampson.

Which is fair enough - lawyers aren't just hitting the streets offering legal advice for kicks, they need to get paid like everyone else. However, it is particularly important those who work in the divorce field approach this ethically.

Mr Sampson summarised his report by declaring that a key legal role is "to save customers from themselves" - that is, stopping them from going through with a protracted, unseemly and emotional court appearance when that is unlikely to gain them any significant benefits.

"But law is also a business, and lawyers in an increasingly competitive and financially challenging market need to maximise their returns to survive," he concluded.