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Who has control - the solicitor or the client?

Who has control - the solicitor or the client?

A Wikivorce member posted in the forum that solicitors have a lot of power.  I wrote a response and another member told me that she thought it should be added to the library.  This is it, albeit slightly edited.

In truth, solicitors only have power if you give it to them or let them take it.

If you going through solicitors, you need to remember who is paying the bills and that solicitors are there to do your bidding - not the other way round.  You need to be assertive - which is not always easy when you are confronted by a highly educated specialist in a pin-strip suit.  But, if the two of you know what you want to do, you must stick to your guns unless you are presented with a proper legal reason why you should not, otherwise you could end up in an expensive fight.

I have seen some lawyers’ letters making ridiculous demands that would never ever be acceptable.  All they do is increase the animosity - which is especially despicable where children are involved – and this is not necessarily the fault of the client, who may have lost control of the situation.

I am a mediator and you could say that I have a vested interest in denigrating solicitors, but that would not be correct and is not my intention.  There are times when we need their expert knowledge of the law, and I am happy that I or my clients consult them should that need arise.  But they are not necessarily the only route to divorce.  One of the (many) reasons I keep banging the mediation drum is that the separating/divorcing couple have a real input into the process.  The division of assets etc is treated as a problem that needs to be sorted out by negotiation and compromise by both sides, rather than by a declaration of war.  So the mediator does not have control either, but acts more like a guide to draw the couple towards the agreement.

When I have completed a mediation, I strongly recommend that the couple take their draft Separation Agreement or Memorandum of Agreement to their solicitors for approval.  I warn them that solicitors are likely to say either 'I can get you more' or 'You don't need to part with that' - and in more than 50% of cases my clients come back and say that the solicitors tried to re-open negotiations and generate a fight.  But, having been forewarned, my clients have all insisted that they are happy with their agreements and the solicitors have had to settle for a significantly more modest fee!  Thus the clients kept control - it can be done!

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