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Australians going through divorce or separation will be able to access a fixed-fee service in the future, through an innovation being launched by leading law firm Slater and Gordon.
The fixed fee service, which will be offered in Victoria from next week and then rolled out nationally, will bring an end to open-ended costs for family law matters.
Slater and Gordon will be the first national law firm to offer a fixed fee service covering every stage of a family law matter up to and including court proceedings in Australia.
Slater and Gordon National Practice Group Leader Ian Shann said fixed fees would help address one of the great uncertainties confronting people dealing with relationship breakdown.
“Times are emotionally and financially tough when there’s a break-up. Our fixed fee offering means that we can give people an assurance about what they will pay for our services at all stages of a family law matter -covering them from the beginning to end,” Mr Shann said.
“Our clients who chose our fixed fee service will know what they have agreed to before any work starts. They will be paying for the agreed value of the work we do and an outcome, not the time it takes.”
Mr Shann said the financial certainty of fixed fees would also contribute to a more level playing field in family law matters, reducing the advantage of better-resourced partners.
“Until the 1970s, almost everyone living together in a relationship was married and the divorce rate was less than 10 per cent. Nowadays the divorce rate is over 40 per cent and almost two million Australians live in de facto relationships, many of them same-sex relationships.”
Slater and Gordon Managing Director Andrew Grech said the introduction of a fixed fee service would mean that more people would be able to access legal services.
“Legal costs are of great concern to people who need family law advice and we are pleased that we have been able to develop a model that will see the end of open-ended time based billing system in this area,” Mr Grech said.
Mr Grech said the firm had spent the past 12 months developing the fixed fees arrangement.
“We have devoted significant resources, research and business support to our family law practice over the past 12 months to develop this initiative and get it off the ground,” Mr Grech said.
“It’s the result of a lot of work not just from our family law lawyers, but also from IT staff and our business services team.”
The introduction of a fixed fee service for family law will be supported by one of the largest advertising campaigns undertaken by the law firm. It follows Slater and Gordon’s introduction of the No Win – No Fee agreement in the 1990s which changed the way that personal injury cases were offered in Australia. It also follows the launch of RECOVER in May this year to help people pursue claims against negligent advisors.