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From the other side…

Are clients really prepared to tolerate service like this?

Recently I have had to instruct solicitors to act for me – not in a divorce but on a matter that has been deeply upsetting and has caused me real concern. For the first time in nearly 30 years I have found out what it’s like to be on the other side of the desk. It isn’t a pleasant experience!

First of all there is the lack of control. I had to travel a long way to see my new lawyer and, as with many of my own clients, this experience removed me from my comfort zone. Instead of advising, I was being advised. Was he giving good or bad advice? I didn’t know. Certainly, it would cost me a small fortune if I lost. So much depended on that lawyer’s skill and the trust I had placed in him.

The opulence of his offices only made me more fretful. When I walked through the door and noticed the firm’s uniformed concierges and stainless steel glass lifts, I saw that the place was steeped in affluence. I wondered how much of this I would be paying for – a concern that was exacerbated an hour into my appointment when the lawyer, clearly wanting to get away for lunch, began glancing at his watch.

Worst of all, when I left his office I felt uncomfortably dissatisfied. My fears, anxieties and worries had not been soothed. It seemed that I had paid a small fortune, yet had received little concrete advice and had instead been left floundering. Why hadn’t the lawyer taken my worries on his shoulders and endeavoured to let me walk out of his office feeling lighter and reassured? That is what I try and do with all my clients.

I decided to give this man the boot and am jolly glad I did. My retained lawyer delivers exactly what I’m looking for and I’m confident of a win. Should clients have to put up with my experience? Scared rigid at the thought of my case in his hands? Left churning inside out? I hope not.

In the week following my own experience, I have placed myself firmly in the shoes of our clients at Stowe Family Law LLP. I have let the clients talk – really talk. I didn’t interrupt as lawyers are often tempted to do. The truth is, empathising with my clients and taking the time and care to understand their needs puts me way out in front.

I also believe that I have been right to keep our office bright, welcoming and cosy. Clients don’t need the most ornate offices on the planet. When it is their own money they are spending and not the company’s money, what they want is a lawyer in whom they have the utmost confidence – and who can be trusted to spend their money wisely. Above all, when they walk out of the lawyer’s office, they want to have left many of their worries behind.

Anxieties will never affect the outcome of the case. But having a strong lawyer who understands you, is there for you, is strong for you and relieves you of your fears, is priceless. And that, believe me, is worth paying for.

The founder of Stowe Family Law, Marilyn Stowe is one of Britain’s best known family law solicitors and divorce lawyers. She retired from Stowe Family Law in 2017.

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