Domestic Abuse - What to expect during your Fixed Fee Interview

By Victoria Aked, Family Lawyer

When I am asked what the best part of being a family law solicitor is, my answer is always, “the first meeting”.

At this stage I know very little about the client or their situation.  (I think) I know the reason for their visit to me and I know that it is often the case that after listening to them speak for several minutes, the advice I was going to give them has changed as more details regarding their matter have come to light.  I anticipate that the client will be nervous and they probably have a list of questions they want to ensure get answered.

During the interview if there have been incidents of domestic abuse the client will often become upset, cry - and then apologise to me for showing emotion.  It should go without saying that there is no need to apologise, but I appreciate that we are conditioned to do so as we perceive we are inconveniencing the other person by displaying our emotions.  

When I have listened to the client and asked enough questions to help me understand their circumstances, I present them with the options they have.  Not every option will be favourable to the client and not every outcome they wish to achieve may be achieved at all. 

The “best part” for me comes when I see the change in the client’s overall demeanour, from the start of the interview to the end.  There is a palpable sense of relief from clients when they have sat down and shared their concerns, we have talked through their options and discussed how we intend to proceed in resolving their matter. There is no feeling like it… but enough about me - I know you will have questions of your own about how to proceed.

When a client makes an enquiry with us at Heringtons, either through our website, by telephone or by coming into one of our offices, we will take some initial details from them to ensure they meet with the right person to deal with their matter. If the matter involves children or domestic abuse, I will meet with them for the Fixed Fee Interview. 

What information do you need from me before we meet?

Before the Fixed Fee Interview, we will conduct a check to ensure we are able to act for you and that there will not be any conflicts of interest going forward.  We do this by taking the name and address of the other party in the matter and checking our system to ensure there is nothing stopping us acting for you.  The information given to us, both prior to the Interview and the matters discussed during the Interview, is completely confidential. We will also ask you to provide ID documents so we can ensure we know who you are and to ensure we comply with legal regulations to which we are subject to.  At this stage, once we know we are able to advise you, an appointment can be made on a day and time during the week that is convenient for them.

How much is a Fixed Fee Interview and how long does it last for?

Our Fixed Fee Interview is £255 and usually lasts up to an hour.

Can I bring a family member or friend to my Fixed Fee Interview?

Many clients ask this and the answer is “yes”.  Whether it is for support or they think they might forget the important questions they mean to ask, it is fine to bring someone else with to the Interview.**

What questions will I be asked at the Interview?

During the Interview I will build upon the details that you provided previously, and ask about the issues you are facing and what you are looking for as an outcome to resolve these issues. From there, I will discuss the options available, provide guidance on the timescale in which it is likely that the matter will be resolved and an estimation of my fees to deal with the matter. 

How much will it cost for my family matter to be progressed?

I always provide my clients with a minimum and maximum range of my fees so they may anticipate what to expect, to budget accordingly if they need to and so that there is absolute transparency from the outset.

At the end of the Interview, I will ensure all of the questions you had have been answered.  I know at this stage there has been a lot of information shared and that you may require some time to digest and reflect upon what has been discussed.

Am I obligated to go forward with my matter?

The Fixed Fee Interview is an opportunity to discuss the matter and get legal advice as to how to deal with the issues going forward.  There is no obligation at the end of the Interview to instruct me if you do not want to.  I ensure you will have my contact details if you wish to get back in contact and take steps to instruct me to act on your behalf.

What can a family lawyer do for me?

One of the most crucial issues I discuss with clients, where there have been issues of domestic abuse, is that the hurt, anger, trauma, shame etc. does not end at the point where the legal matters have been resolved and in some cases, where the “scales of justice” have fallen in their favour.  I am qualified to guide, advise and represent clients to achieve the best outcome I can in matters involving divorce, children and their safety, for example, but I am not qualified to help them address and work through all of the other unresolved issues that may be faced by them and their children.  For this I suggest, and can direct clients to, therapists, counsellors and the countless services aimed at assisting those in need following an abusive relationship.

Contact Victoria if you wish to discuss any issues you have in matters involving domestic abuse.

** Until government restrictions allow, anticipated 21 June 2021, we will only invite the client in to attend the Fixed Fee Interview to comply with Covid-19 safeguarding measures.

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