Professional Negligence & Divorce Solicitors – Why The Trend?
Divorce solicitors are on the receiving end of more professional negligence claims than any other specialist in the profession. Why?
To answer that, we must first understand what is required to be successful in a professional negligence claim. Put simply, when acting for a client, a solicitor must have fallen below the standard of a reasonably competent professional in their field. If that is established, it must be shown that their failure to adhere to that standard caused a loss to the client.
For an example, let’s consider divorce proceedings between Mr and Mrs A, who own three properties; two in the UK and one in Australia. Mr A’s solicitors discuss with him how the assets could be divided. In doing so, they fail to advise him to obtain valuations of the UK properties, meaning the valuations are based on unrealistically high estimates. The settlement sees Mrs A receive a fixed sum and the property in Australia. Mr A receives one UK property and must sell the other to pay for Mrs A’s fixed sum. When Mr A comes to sell the properties, he realizes they are worth a lot less than the estimates. His share of the division of assets is therefore a lot less than he was entitled to because of his solicitors’ failure.
Mr A potentially has a case therefore based on his solicitors’ failure to advise him to obtain reliable valuations for the UK properties. Mr A will argue that such a failure was below the standard one would expect of a reasonably competent professional. As to his loss, Mr A’s would seek damages based on a calculation of what he should have received in comparison to what he actually received.
Let’s return to our original question. Why divorce solicitors more than any other?
What makes divorce proceedings exceptional is the often debilitating emotional and financial strain put on the parties involved. Even the most amicable of separations can turn into a long, drawn-out process when clients do not get the result they want.
Divorce solicitors find themselves dealing with highly emotional, strongly motivated clients. A solicitor’s wish to provide a good service and get the client what he/she wants can mean that they neglect to give accurate advice. In divorce proceedings there is often a strong focus on beating the opposing party meaning the big picture is lost in all the hostility. When the dust settles after a decision is made, the big picture can be ugly.
Also, divorce law is an area which often requires advice covering many different specialism, most frequently property and tax law. If the solicitor, possibly trying to save costs or to keep the costs for themselves, does not seek specialist advice there is an obvious chance of getting things terribly wrong.
Finally, the divorce solicitor may simply not be very good. As unacceptable as that sounds it may very well be true. If this is the case you should not be afraid to make sure they are accountable.
If you believe your solicitor has not represented you to the standard required and you have suffered a loss because of this, please contact us.
Special thanks to Tom Beaumont for assistance and research in writing this article.