Tag: legal aid

A new year but always focussed on clients

Last year marked the start of major changes for Merrick and in 2019 we’ll be doing more of what we believe it means to be a firm of family lawyers in today’s world.

The legal profession is undergoing a good deal of upheaval. From challenges to its long-established services, to the pace of technological change and the continued lack of availability of legal aid that means funding for clients is only infrequently available.

Our response to this has been rooted in both the traditional and a fresh perspective to ensure our service continues to add value.

First and foremost, we’re about helping people when they need it most; it’s why we exist. We call it #LawforGood.

Family is fundamental to our lives. Problems with our closest relationships can impact all areas of our lives from financial to social and everything in between.

It’s because no aspect of life is untouched by family issues that the expertise we can offer people is so important.

Out of reach

The withdrawal of legal aid for most cases has had a negative impact for many in failing relationships. Without that financial assistance, many believe qualified legal help will be too costly and out of their reach.

Because of this there’s been a large increase in people representing themselves to save on costs. This puts them at a distinct disadvantage when they find themselves dealing with all the complexities of the law.

Such is the concern of one judge that in October he used a documentary to highlight the difficulties faced.

His Honour Judge Stephen Wildblood QC, the most senior family court judge at Bristol Civil Justice Centre, spoke as part of a BBC investigation into the pressures on the family court system.  He stressed the challenges of litigants in person going into a courtroom full of barristers, experts and other professionals.

#AccessUs one of the initiatives we launched in 2018, is designed to help.

If there is a case to answer and limited resources to meet it – we believe people should still be able to access qualified legal support. After witnessing the eagerness with which it has been taken up, we hope to expand it so that the profession embraces this social enterprise in the same way.

By offering comprehensive support at a price to fit stretched finances we’re doing all we can to ensure people have access to the help they need at a crucial time in their life.

High net worth litigation

While we’re excited about #AccessUs, we’re also delighted that our reputation for dealing with complex and high net worth litigation continues to be recognised.

We were named Divorce Law Firm of the Year in England in the Global Law Expert (GLE) Awards 2018 for our client services.

And we’re grateful to all those who kindly recommend our services. Rest assured this will remain a strong focus for us in 2019.

We also believe in a holistic approach. Getting divorced or separated is one of the most stressful life events. It’s not uncommon for people to feel disoriented and a little lost.

Self-care such as eating healthily, exercising and getting enough rest can often be forgotten about in the pressure of the situation. We launched Merrick Life in recognition that sometimes people need more than family law advice.

A helping hand in lots of related areas such as health and well-being or adapting their role as a parent to fit new circumstances is all very much appreciated.

We’ve connected our readers to a lot of experts in the last year. We believe this is of benefit and we want to continue developing these relationships in 2019.

The feedback from both clients and our family of experts has been very encouraging. In 2019 we will build on this platform to ensure it helps those who reach out and connect with it. Watch this space.

2018 was the year we laid the foundations of our purpose and the vision that is #LawforGood.

In 2019 we will bring that vision and purpose to life.

Our thanks go to everyone who has been part of the journey so far; without you we wouldn’t be where we are now.

And to the team – #YouGotThis





Why we all need to support Justice Week

Those working in family law can see on a daily basis that all is not well in the legal world.

Monday sees the launch of Justice Week, a way of ensuring those problems are highlighted to a much wider audience.

Justice Week is a new initiative setup by the three legal professional bodies. The Law Society, the Bar Council and the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) argue that many parts of the system are at breaking point. And now is the time to make a strong case for why they are fundamental to society.

It’s more than five years since the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) came in to force. It brought wholesale changes to the legal aid system for family law.

It removed that vital financial assistance for so many people. Now, to end a marriage and sort out financial and familial affairs, most must be prepared to pay. The alternative is to represent themselves.

2017 figures show the proportion of family law cases before the courts in England & Wales where neither party had legal representation was 36%, up by 19% in just four years.

Justice Week: October 29 – November 2

In an unusual move this month, a leading family judge spoke out highlighting the difficulties faced by these ‘litigants in person’ because of legal aid cuts.

His Honour Judge Stephen Wildblood QC, the most senior family court judge at Bristol Civil Justice Centre told the BBC.

“If anyone watching this can imagine themselves in court faced with somebody that they once loved on the other side of the court, supported by a barrister, and they are on their own, then I think the point answers itself. It is very difficult indeed for them.”

Problems are not confined to family law. The chronicling of issues felt at our criminal courts have been turned into a best-seller by The Secret Barrister.

Only by getting the effects of what’s happening out to this wider audience is there hope of change.

Until this issue becomes widely recognised by society as whole it can be minimised as simply the legal profession moaning about its lot.

Campaigners want to at least restore funding for early legal advice. The Ministry of Justice is due to publish its review of LASPO by the end of the year.

Justice Week runs until Friday November 2.  We’ll be taking part to highlight the issues and be part of a much-needed conversation about solutions.

We’ve previously written about the changes to legal aid – ‘The erosions to this system have been gradual but ultimately seismic.