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How we communicate with our clients

The new methods of resolving family disputes for changing families means there is a need for us as solicitors to look at how we communicate with our clients, with other solicitors, with our clients’ families and former partners if they are not represented by a lawyer or anyone else in the family justice system. Poor communication is one of the biggest complaints made about solicitors.

Until now written correspondence has been the main method of communication in family disputes.  It remains essential for certain purposes but it is no longer the main method of communication in many cases. When it is used, it should comply with the Resolution Code of Practice Good Practice Guides.

Generally this says that it is good practice to engage verbally on a regular basis with clients and others, particularly at the most important stages of cases, and not to hide behind, or default to the written word because that is what we have always done.

We will try to put ourselves in the shoes of the recipient of our proposed communications and to ask whether it would be better to pick up the phone to talk things through, to update our clients and others etc.  We consider whether written methods will really benefit our clients, taking account of their personal situations

The reason for this shift is the recognition that the written word is often misinterpreted and misunderstood particularly when the reader is under stress and may be inclined to think the worst. Such misunderstandings can be sorted out as quickly as they arise in verbal communications. This means that meeting around the table or picking up the phone will often result in more effective communication, which is absolutely critical for dispute resolution in all its forms and must therefore help our clients and others in a more non-confrontational way.

We already have WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, Facebook Messenger, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facetime, Skype, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc. Many of these platforms were unknown a few years ago and they demonstrate the vast range of forms of communication which also includes interactive and usually short written communications (eg emails), recorded video and audio or video calling and podcasts.  The traditional methods of communicating have changed so we now make conscious decisions about how best to meet our clients’ needs compared with sending the traditional letter.

We always try to explain what we’re doing, how we will do it, why we are doing it, when we’ll do it and how much it will costs but we understand that ours is an area full of uncertainty for most clients so there may be things you don’t understand. To us there is no such thing as a stupid question – please ask us anything, because what we need to do is really important and we are here to help you.

Ian Stirzaker

Ian is the Senior Partner and Head of Family Law at SME Solicitors. Please contact him, Joanna Gardner or Denise McCabe for specialist help and advice in all aspects of family law at   or  or

Added: 20 Nov 2023 14:04

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