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Nicola Laver

Editor, Solicitors Journal

Face-to-face client meetings mustn't be left behind

Face-to-face client meetings mustn't be left behind


Lawyers have been urged not to leave face-to-face client communication behind as they emerge from the covid-19 crisis, following a recent survey 

Lawyers have been urged not to leave face-to-face communication with clients behind as they emerge from the covid-19 crisis, following a recent survey on divorce trends.

A recent report from financing provider Ampla Finance Legal followed a YouGov survey of 1,005 divorced adults in the UK.

The survey explored issues such as the importance of the professional relationship between family law clients and their solicitors, including the continued relevance of face-to-face communications in an increasingly digital age.

According to the report, Londoners expressed the strongest preference for digital methods of communication with their lawyers, while individuals from the North – and in Wales – strongly preferred face-to-face communication.

A key conclusion of the report was that clients still prefer to speak to their family lawyer face-to-face instead of over email or over the phone, but this is quickly changing.

It also said firms need to adapt to meet the needs of generations that are more comfortable with technology, particularly for younger people who “are less likely to seek help from independent legal professionals”.

The report added: “For the forward-looking law firm, this means expanding channels of communication and refining digital.”

Nigel Shepherd, strategic adviser at Ampla Finance and a consultant at Mills & Reeve, commented: “The message that stands out for me from this survey is that, despite the needs must reliance on remote working during the covid-19 pandemic, the professional relationship between the client and their lawyer is still key and the face-to-face meeting remains an important aspect of that.”

He said there has been much debate about what the “new normal” will look like as we emerge from lockdown.

“Practitioners may have embraced the online world with general, although not universal, enthusiasm”, he added, “but we must not lose sight of the fact that what works for us may not work for many of those we’re advising and representing.

“Zoom or Teams are imperfect platforms for establishing the empathy and human connection that is at the heart of family law work.”

According to the report, “the security provided by a face-to-face meeting cannot be discarded and still plays an important role in reassuring those seeking a divorce”.