An article in yesterday’s Independent told the worrying tale of a Birmingham firm of solicitors (Blakemores) who have an advertising board in the middle of a busy shopping centre, urging those who are “unhappy with their partner” to come and talk to them about their “options”. The ad, and the firm, have come under fire for pushing people towards divorce.

Now, I can understand why solicitors advertise – they are businesses after all, and all businesses need to make a profit – but at what cost? There needs to be a degree of responsible advertising, and while the SRA claim the ad did not breach its code of conduct, the advert must surely be a little on the unethical side? Its all very well of the SRA to say the advert is simply highlighting the services provided by this firm – but there are ways of doing so that don’t promote divorce, and therefore undermine the family.

Councillor Peter Osborn claims that the advert puts the idea of family “under attack” – that might sound a little strong, but I am inclined to agree that touting for business in such a way is not just unethical, it does absolutly nothing to promote the importance of family, and resolving issues amicably and with as little impact on the children in particular, as possible. The Lawyers2you website (which is owned by Blakemores) states “FAMILY PROBLEMS? UNHAPPY IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP? WE CAN HELP. We aim to resolve your matter sensitively and as quickly as possible” A quick call to the said firm to find out what my options might be confirms my concerns – the first option I am offered is a divorce. I say that perhaps divorce might not be what I would like, and are there any other options they could suggest. There is a reluctance to discuss any other options with me, although to be fair, after much verbal prodding on my part, I’m told that they do work with some “family support groups” – they are keen to take my details so that a divorce adviser can call me back. I decline and say I will call them back.

The current approach to divorce is one of an adversarial nature, spouse pitted against spouse. An all-out war. My own experience of divorce was not pleasant, my solicitor wouldn’t have looked out of place in Middle Earth and as I shook his hobbit-like hand for the first time, he bared his ochre-coloured pointy teeth and said “lets get everything we can out of the other side”. It was at that point I realised that my wishes as a client were not important, but simply how much money he could weasel out of me.

A non-adversarial approach to all matters of family law is required, one where clients are respected and treated as individuals, not simply as walking wallets. One where the needs of the family involved are paramount, and not secondary; and importantly, an approach that doesn’t encourage the harbouring of deep-seated resentment and conflict or continued and prolonged litigation – none of these help anyone in the family involved.

***Update***

I have just received an email from Cllr Osborn:

Thanks for your interest QV. Very relevant to need to keep families together and “dissatisfied with your Partner” next to the no win no fee board was too much – (what’s the next step ? Dissatisfied with your parents !?)

I have good news – today they have removed the sign on the grounds that “too many people were objecting to it – even though the Law Society regulation board say it is ‘legal’ , so we removed it so as not to antagonise people”

I am pleased, but not convinced that the moral – as opposed to the legal – aspect has been addressed.
The family is under attack from so many quarters I am surprised that some Lawyers do not appreciate this – it is in their real interest after all!

Regards

Peter