A woman unsuccessfully sued two law firms, claiming they had not advised her that divorce proceedings would inevitably result in the end of her marriage.
The claim, reported by the Independent, was one of several made by the woman against the firms. As a devout Roman Catholic the woman reportedly wished to avoid full divorce, and believed her lawyers should have recommended judicial separation as an alternative.
In a recent appeal court judgement, Lord Justice Briggs explained:
“The most striking of [her] many allegations of negligence against her solicitors was that, having regard to her Roman Catholic faith, [her solicitor] had failed to give her the advice which was requisite in view of her firmly held belief in the sanctity of marriage…either in terms of the alternative of judicial separation, or about the impossibility of pursuing divorce proceedings to a clean break settlement, without thereby inevitably bringing about the final termination of her marriage, which she wished to avoid.”
Her various claims were all dismissed, the paper reports. Why did the client turn on her solicitors as she did and pursue them to these lengths? This is the bleak downside of being a family lawyer. Not every client is pleasant, not every client reasonable to deal with. It is yet another example of how deeply distressed a divorcing client can be – here a woman with conflicting religious and legal needs. I can’t pretend that I can hit it off with every client. Sometimes what they ask is beyond what any lawyer can deliver. Here she apparently gave conflicting instructions. A more common form of conflicting instructions is a request to “find every penny” coupled with “settle it on my terms” and “keep the costs to a minimum.” Of course the client is terrified, distressed, deeply unhappy. But the client needs to keep real, commercial, calm, as objective as possible. Otherwise the solicitor-client relationship, which needs to be operated as a mutually beneficial partnership, will simply fracture.
It is another reason why counselling in some form, rather than an immediate requirement to mediate, is in my view so very necessary.