Why DIY law should carry a health warning

Following the arrival of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) in 2013 which, amongst other things, reduced the Public funding available for those going to the Family Courts, we have seen a significant rise in the number of Litigants in Person or “LIPs” for short.

Perceiving themselves to be unable to afford Lawyers` fees they decide to go it alone-after all, how hard can it be? “Very hard” is the answer if research by the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) is anything to go by.

Worryingly from a Lawyer`s point of view, that research suggested that  some choose not to be represented because they do not trust Lawyers or are not aware of the value that Lawyers can bring to their case.

Worse is the concern that, according to the research, the stress, responsibility and loneliness of conducting your own case and going to court without a Solicitor or Barrister can mean that “LIPs achieve worse outcomes compared with those who are legally represented”. Even worse, many found that the experience negatively affected their health, relationships, work or finances and, in some instances, the loss of their job.

Most tellingly, 70% of those surveyed after going through the Family Court process said that they would have benefitted from being legally represented.

Few can reasonably suggest that going to court is anything other than a tiresome and nerve-wracking experience so why would any sensible person burden themselves further by acting in person. As the very wise Abraham Lincoln memorably said, a man who acts for himself has a fool for a Lawyer and a greater fool for a client.

There are number of options available to reassure the client and to lighten their financial load. In Family Law work involving Divorce, Financial Remedy Proceedings, living together, children and the like we at Neale Turk Rochfort offer:-

  • An Initial Fixed Fee interview

This is for 60 minutes at a cost of £100.00 plus vat limit-usually adequate to ascertain the nature of the case, the steps to be taken, the likely cost etc.

  • An initial costs limit

In cases where it is difficult if not impossible at the outset to provide a realistic estimate of our fees, we agree an initial costs limit which we will not exceed without your permission. If our fees prove to be less than the agreed limit we will charge the lower amount. If it proves to be insufficient to do the work required we ask for your permission to increase the initial limit before doing further work. Depending on the nature of the case such limit might be as low as £250.00 plus vat

  • Unbundled services

Originating in the United States but becoming increasingly common over here, it is a Law Society approved method of providing legal advice and representation where Solicitor and client agree to limit the scope of the Solicitor`s involvement in the case to e.g. advice and the overseeing of the case, leaving the client to do the “leg-work” such as preparing and copying documents, liaising with the other party etc. The benefits are that the client has access to advice and guidance but is able to make a significant costs saving.

If the above is of interest to you or you would like further information about the services which we provide, please call Stephen Gallagher on 01276 20551.