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The Increasing Use of Alternative Dispute Resolution Procedures in UK Civil Law

Mediation and other alternative dispute resolution procedures (ADR) are going to become ever more important within the UK civil justice system going forward. Following government consultations and the success of the use of ‘negotiation dispute resolution’ (NDR) in family, housing and consumer cases, we can expect to see alternative dispute resolution procedures integrated in wider civil and commercial litigation.

This is primarily due to the ongoing backlog of cases being experiences across the UK legal system. It is estimated that the reforms already committed to will free up nearly 5,000 sitting days per year, which will reduce waiting times for more complex cases. But the adoption of ADR procedures is also designed to make mediation and other types of dispute resolution more accessible and to simplify the processes for civil cases, making them quicker and easier to resolve.

Which Cases Will Be Affected

As previously mentioned, in civil cases up to the value of £10,000 alternative dispute resolution procedures will become compulsory with 180,000 parties being referred automatically to free telephone mediation sessions during the first rollout of reform. However, personal injury and unspecified money claims will not initially be included.

These reforms go further than what was recommended by the Civil Justice Council which supported using alternative dispute resolution procedures only for cases up to the value of £500 and will require expanding the Small Claims Mediation Service (SCMC).

The Law Society has expressed reservations about the compulsory nature of the reforms, stating that “While mediation and other forms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) should be used wherever appropriate, we do not support the compulsory use of mediation where it may be detrimental to either party, or prevent access to justice.”

Types of ADR

There are several methods of ADR available for resolving cases outside of traditional court proceedings. For civil cases in the UK, the preferred method will be mediation, where a neutral third party helps disputing parties negotiate a mutually acceptable resolution. But there are other methods litigants may want to consider if mediation may be detrimental.

Arbitration involves a neutral arbitrator or panel making a binding decision based on evidence presented by both sides. Another option is adjudication, where an independent adjudicator makes a temporary decision that parties must abide by until a final resolution is reached. Finally, conciliation involves a third-party facilitating communication between parties to reach a settlement.

Alternative Dispute Resolution Skills You Should Be Hiring For

With mediation becoming compulsory for civil cases up to the value of £10,000 in the UK, legal teams are increasingly seeking individuals with specific ADR skills to navigate these changes effectively. Here are key skills and attributes that you should prioritise when hiring new talent:

  • Mediation Training and Certification
    Look for candidates who have completed formal training and certification in mediation or those who can demonstrate a foundational understanding of the mediation process, including communication techniques, negotiation strategies, and conflict resolution principles.
  • Strong Communication Skills
    Effective communication is key in mediation, as it encourages productive dialogue and helps parties articulate their interests and concerns. Seek candidates with exceptional verbal and written communication skills, including active listening, empathy, and the ability to convey complex legal concepts in clear, accessible language.
  • Negotiation Expertise
    Look for candidates with experience in negotiation roles and proven negotiation skills, including the ability to identify common ground, propose creative solutions, and manage conflicting interests diplomatically.
  • Conflict Resolution
    Successful mediators can navigate emotionally charged situations and facilitate constructive dialogue between disputing parties. Look for a track record of resolving conflicts in diverse contexts and the ability to demonstrate patience, impartiality, and resilience in challenging circumstances.
  • Cultural Sensitivity
    Mediation often involves parties from diverse backgrounds and cultures, requiring mediators to navigate cultural differences sensitively. Seek candidates with cultural competence, awareness of diversity issues, and the ability to foster an inclusive environment conducive to productive dialogue and mutual understanding.

By prioritising candidates with these ADR skills, you’ll be better placed to adapt to the mandatory mediation requirement in civil cases and any further dispute resolution reforms.

Clayton Legal has over 25 years’ experience helping clients attract and retain legal talent across practice areas that include Property, Personal Injury, Family, Criminal, and Costs law as well as Legal IT and Civil and Commercial Litigation.

If you are building your legal team, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

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Posted By

Lynn Sedgwick

Managing Director

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The Growth of Private Client Services and Its Appeal for Emerging Legal Talent

Once considered a niche practice area for British corporate law firms, private client services are increasingly central to many firm’s growth plans thanks to their resilience in a turbulent market – the sector grew 17% in 2021. Recent dips in activity could be reversed if predicted changes to income tax thresholds and adjustments to the non-domicile regime are announced in this year’s pre-election Spring Budget, with more taxpayers finding themselves in need of advice.

What’s Behind the Private Client Services Boom

This shift in popularity can be attributed to several key factors that are reshaping the landscape around financial law. A growing interest in personal wealth management has caused firms to broaden their service offering. Offering financial and tax advice to high-net worth individuals alongside their corporate services has proven to be popular, prompting them to expand their teams.

Technology has also increased the accessibility of financial planning and wealth management information and resources through the likes of digital trading platforms, investment apps, and online will and probate services. A wider range of individuals seeking advice in a challenging economic environment has meant an expansion of the client base for private client services. Greater accessibility has its downsides as it creates more opportunities for financial abuse against vulnerable parties, however this can lead to more work for private client legal teams.

The rise of digital assets and the complexities surrounding inheritance and estate planning in the digital age have further heightened the demand for specialised legal expertise. Even though the legalities and tax implications around digital currency remain vague many individuals are keen to seek advice in this area adding an additional layer of complexity to the field.

Private client services are also an increasingly popular choice for young law graduates or those looking to expand their skillset and shift into a new practice area.

Why Private Client Services Appeals to Early Career Talent

For early career solicitors, private client services present a unique and attractive opportunity to engage with a diverse range of clients and navigate the challenges of modern wealth management. For those looking for an interesting, potentially lucrative, and dynamic legal career it makes an attractive choice.

Working in private client law allows emerging talent to build strong relationships with their clients and help individuals personally. It also intersects well with other areas of legal practice giving young graduates the chance to work closely with colleagues in family law, corporate and civil litigation, and legal IT amongst others.

Attracting and Retaining the Next Generation of Private Client Talent

If you are considering expanding your private client services team, you need to attract and retain the very best talent. You can ensure that you appeal to both early and mid-career private client professionals by:

Providing Training & Professional Development

Look at tailoring the training and professional development programs you offer towards the skills and expertise needed for private client services. This could include workshops on the latest developments in wealth management, estate planning and digital assets. If you have existing senior professionals with private client experience, you might consider offering mentorships.

Supporting Work-Life Balance

Implement policies and procedures that recognise and support the importance of work-life balance. Offering flexible work arrangements and promoting a culture that values personal well-being can be instrumental in attracting and retaining talented individuals in a competitive legal landscape.

Investing in Technology

Invest in cutting-edge legal technologies to streamline workflows and enhance efficiency in private client services. The integration of digital tools can not only attract tech-savvy lawyers but also contribute to a more dynamic and engaging work environment.

Creating a Culture of Diversity and Inclusion

Fostering a culture of diversity and inclusion within your firm will help you attract a broader pool of talent and contribute to a vibrant and collaborative team. Those different perspectives will then help you in addressing the unique needs of a diverse clientele.

Offering Competitive Compensation and Benefits

Acknowledge the specialised expertise required in private client services by offering competitive compensation packages and benefits. This includes not only financial incentives but also healthcare, retirement plans, and other perks.

Clayton Legal has over 20 years’ experience helping clients attract and retain legal talent across practice areas that include Property, Personal Injury, Family, Criminal, and Costs law as well as Legal IT and Civil and Commercial Litigation.

If you are building your legal team, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

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Posted By

Lynn Sedgwick

Managing Director

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What the Introduction of a Cap on Clinical Negligence Costs Means for Your Firm and Your Team

From April 2024, the government is set to introduce limits on the amount law firms can receive from clinical negligence claims. This cap on fixed recoverable legal costs is intended to stem the almost £2.6 billion the NHS spends on clinical negligence by reducing legal costs for cases that settle under £25,000. It is the government’s stance that a cap on clinical negligence costs will not only save the beleaguered health service an estimated £500 million over the next decade but that it will be fairer for claimants – whose legal costs are often more than double their settlements – and encourage those with smaller claims to seek justice.

However, legal firms and clinical negligence lawyers argue that the sweeping changes have been brought in too quickly and with little consultation, and that the Department of Health and Social Care has set the cap on clinical negligence costs too low, undervaluing the expertise it takes to bring these claims to court. Something the government seems to agree on, as they are set to increase the limit before the new regulations are enforced.

Representatives for patients have also protested, saying that vulnerable claimants and their families could be excluded from bringing claims as firms refuse to take on work that require more time, expertise, and sensitivity than the value of the claim reflects.

How This Will Affect the Legal Market

On the face of things, the new limits on clinical negligence fixed costs shouldn’t have too much of an impact, especially for large firms since they are limited to small claims with a value of under £25,000. However, in the longer term the cap on costs could cause upheaval for smaller firms and clinical negligence departments. Unless the government can get the limits on clinical negligence costs right, we could see:

  • An exit of smaller more specialised firms from the market, funnelling customers to larger businesses who may not have the time or inclination to take on small claims.
  • Greater competition amongst firms for claims with the potential for larger payouts.
  • A rise in class-action claims as firms group claimants together to maximise resources and returns.
  • The potential for larger numbers of specialist lawyers to enter the job market, which could prove beneficial for employers who are looking to access key skills but will lead to greater competition among candidates for fewer roles.
  • The profession will experience a loss of critical knowledge and expertise as departments contract and firms exit the market.

What It Means For You

With less than two months before the limits on clinical negligence costs come into effect, are you ready for the changes? There will be more competition for claims, and smaller gains from cases. In terms of your wider business growth, now is the time for careful consideration of your strategy.

1. Think ahead with your workforce planning

Effective workforce planning will help you navigate business changes. Succession planning helps you understand who may be leaving and allows for strategic skill replacement, whether through internal transfers or external hires. In times of downsizing, retaining key skills through cross-departmental moves prevents talent loss. Adjusting recruitment processes to focus on quality over quantity is essential, safeguarding against low-quality hires and ensuring resilient teams.

2. Consider training and professional development

While the influx of specialist legal talent onto the job market could prove tempting especially during a skills shortage, it can be a costly strategy. Instead, investing in developing existing teams is often more sustainable. Focus on enhancing soft skills, digital capabilities, and leadership within your current teams. This approach not only maximizes resources but ensures a cohesive team with a deep understanding of your company’s culture and goals.

3. Double down on retention

With smaller teams managing increased workloads, maintaining a strong, committed workforce is crucial. A focus on employee wellbeing and creating a positive work environment prevents burnout and preserves morale, reducing the risk of team members seeking alternative career paths. As competition for top talent intensifies, retention becomes a safeguard against poaching and ensures continuity in your teams, important for both your business and your clients.

Clayton Legal has over 20 years’ experience helping clients attract and retain legal talent across practice areas that include Property, Personal Injury, Family, Criminal, and Costs law as well as Legal IT and Civil and Commercial Litigation.

If you are building your legal team, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

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Posted By

Lynn Sedgwick

Managing Director

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Exploring the Possibilities of Further Family Law Reforms Post No-Fault Divorce Legislation

  • March 6, 2024

It’s been nearly two years since no-fault divorce legislation came into effect in England and Wales. Despite the legislation aiming to streamline proceedings for divorcing couples, according to the Law Society the average time for divorce increased to around 38 weeks post-reform, with a significant backlog of custody and family law cases tying up the courts. So, what further family law reforms are on the table, and how will any future changes impact firms working in Family and Private law?

Upcoming Government Family Law Reforms

Following on from no-fault divorce legislation, the government’s primary concern in family law reforms has continued to be with creating processes that reduce conflict in cases – such as improving access to early legal advice, providing vouchers for mediation, co-parenting classes and improving safeguards for victims of domestic violence – with the aim of supporting the wellbeing of children in separating families.

Following the outcome of the Private Family Law Early Resolution Consultation published in January a number of pilot schemes in England and Wales are being extended in advance of a national rollout with the hope that many cases will be resolved before reaching court. There is also an extension of an ongoing pilot scheme allowing journalists to report on family court proceedings designed to increase transparency in the family court system.

What Isn’t Included in the Plans?

Welcome though these changes are, there is still unfinished business when it comes to family law reforms, particularly legislation surrounding financial settlements in divorce cases and the legality of pre and post-nuptial agreements. Not to mention the legal protections afforded for cohabiting couples in the event of relationship breakdown.

Because there is little transparency around these issues, many clients approach legal separation with trepidation. The Law Commission is currently reviewing the laws around financial settlements however many feel that this process is too slow, and that any proposed changes will not go far enough. There have been calls from both Labour and Conservative MPs for the government to speed up reforms around financial settlements, albeit from different perspectives.

Baroness Deech has repeatedly pressed for pre and post-nuptial agreements to be made legal stating that ‘enacting pre-nuptial agreements into law would save cost, make mediation easier and significantly free up the courts.’

On the other side, Shadow Attorney General and MP, Emily Thornberry announced at last year’s Labour Party Conference that her party was committed to cohabitation reform to strengthen the protections available to those living together, particularly those couples where one partner earns significantly more than the other.

The Consequences of Further Family Law Reform for Firms

With the Law Commission currently reviewing the current legislation around financial settlements and the distinct possibility of a Labour government in the near future, it’s possible that we’re going to see continued family law reforms. But what could this mean for law firms, your Private and Family legal teams, and your recruitment strategy?

Putting tougher limits around the splitting of marital assets and reducing the extent to which outcomes are dependent on the discretion of judges could lead to a reduction in the number of large international divorce cases we have seen in the English courts. This may free up the time and resources of the family court system as could the stronger emphasis on mediation, as fewer cases reach court. Those that do make it to court will be easier to litigate and far less drawn out, resulting in lower legal costs for clients but greater competition for high-value cases from legal firms.

For Family and Private Law firms we could see:

  • A greater emphasis on providing pre-divorce legal advice and mediation services.
  • Smaller teams but with greater skill specialisation (eg. financial expertise, mediation techniques, child welfare etc.)
  • A need to widen the soft and non-legal skills available in your team to include media relations, conflict resolution, communication, and empathy.
  • Increased provision of training and development around domestic violence, child safeguarding and financial abuse.
  • A need to widen the soft and non-legal skills available in your team to include media relations, conflict resolution, communication, and empathy.
  • Increased provision of training and development around domestic violence, child safeguarding and financial abuse.
  • A need to tap into wider perspectives through Diversity and Inclusion initiatives.

All of which might need you to rethink your talent attraction and retention strategies and target key skills to better support your long-term growth.

Clayton Legal has over 20 years’ experience helping clients attract and retain legal talent across practice areas that include Property, Personal Injury, Family, Criminal, and Costs law as well as Legal IT and Civil and Commercial Litigation.

If you are building your legal team, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

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Is Digital Conveyancing the Future of Property Transactions?

  • February 8, 2024

The paths of residential and commercial property transactions in the UK are at a moment of divergence. While residential transactions are declining, commercial property transactions seem stable, even on the rise. Yet property lawyers are reporting shrinking caseloads, with some firms handling 25% fewer cases in 2023. Improving the conveyancing process, particularly through the implementation of digital conveyancing could create a better, faster conveyancing market that encourages buyers and sellers to take the plunge.

The Current State of Real Estate in the UK

Figures from HMRC show that December 2023 saw the fourth consecutive month-on-month drop in the number of residential transactions, marking a 20% decline from December the previous year. Yet at the same time, commercial property transactions are increasing, albeit slowly.

Many commentators are predicting a smoother, less fractious property market in 2024 that won’t be marked by the mini boom and bust cycles we’ve seen since 2020. However, what’s stopping the market from taking off is the continued sluggishness of property transactions. The average time for conveyancing on a residential property is around 22 weeks and for commercial property can be slower  – a long way from the ideal transaction time of 8-12 weeks.

These long conveyancing times are a major contributor to the national fall through rate on property purchases of 34%.

Is Digital Conveyancing the Solution?

Property transactions, far more than property prices, are a great indicator of the health of the market. Making property transactions faster and easier has the potential to encourage both sellers and buyers and creating a more stable property market in the long-term. So, how can we achieve better and faster conveyancing and a system that works for both buyers and sellers?

One oft cited solution is digital conveyancing. Digital conveyancing involves implementing electronic transactions for the transfer of legal documents and funds and making land search details such as tenure, title, and lease length accessible instantly. Digitalisation would:

  • Make the current conveyancing system more streamlined and transparent
  • Go a long way to achieving faster conveyancing times
  • Reduce the likelihood of error and the need for extensive checks and land searches
  • Make the system more accessible and make long-distance transactions easier

Countries such as Norway have achieved great success with digital conveyancing systems, in some cases reducing transaction times to a matter of days. However, making such a system possible in England could prove more difficult. Bringing conveyancing solicitors, the land registry and real estate agents into alignment would require robust data security measures, compliance regulation and technology implementation. It is also likely to be costly.

It seems unlikely that the government will agree to the high-level conveyancing rule changes that would make wholesale digitalisation of the system possible. Meaning that without industry-wide desire for reform the technology is likely to be implemented patchily, with some sectors such as commercial real estate more reluctant to embrace change.

Another possible solution is providing buyers with more upfront information regarding property, in the form of a return to home information packs (HIPs), Scotland’s home reports or even Buying and Selling Property Information (BASPI) questionnaires. Transaction times when HIPs were introduced were around 12 weeks and Scotland has seen a 60% reduction in fall throughs since adopting home reports. And, consumers are happy to pay for this information, with 65% willing to pay £300 for information that would speed up their transaction times.

What Should You Be Doing to Prepare for Digital Conveyancing?

As we’ve heard recently, a stable market means many conveyancing firms are looking to drive recruitment. But how can you make sure your latest recruitment drive considers the future of conveyancing?

  1. Attracting the right talent:
    Your hiring strategy should be focused on building and maintaining a talent pipeline that sustains your business long term. Focus on developing a strong, online employer brand that appeals to candidates, improving the candidate experience to make applying for roles smooth and seamless, and creating job descriptions that reflect the attributes and skills you need.
  2. Hiring for digital skills:
    Speaking of skills, when evaluating candidates be sure to consider their digital skills and abilities alongside their other competencies. Digital literacy will be increasingly important for the legal profession with or without the digitalisation of conveyancing. Skills-based hiring can also be used to pinpoint other key competencies like communication which are key in creating better and faster conveyancing.
  3. Retaining critical knowledge:
    Embracing the future of conveyancing will be impossible if business critical knowledge is lost. Improving employee retention not only keeps that knowledge in-house but allows you to pass that on to new employees though mentorship and professional development schemes.

Clayton Legal has over 20 years’ experience helping clients attract and retain legal talent across practice areas that include Property, Personal Injury, Family, Criminal, and Costs law as well as Legal IT and Civil and Commercial Litigation.

If you are building your legal team, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

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