How it was then
Cath Karlin and Lesley Gordon have had parallel careers in the law. At the outset of their careers both were drawn to helping people transition through separation and divorce. Both started off in small legal aid practices in the mid 90’s.
At that time, court for family law cases was the norm and both Cath and Lesley spent a lot of time in court arguing over issues that should never have been in court in the first place. “Pretty much every family law case ended up in court at that time,” says Cath. “In fact I can remember as a young lawyer arguing the toss as to who would have custody of children, having never met the client I was appearing for and knowing very little about their circumstances. Although I was fairly young at the time, I could see the effect that the system was having on my clients and their children.”
The uncertainty, lack of court time to properly understand family dynamics, and the cost, both emotional and financial, together with the lack of support for families making this transition drew Cath and Lesley to other means of dispute resolution.
“There was very little training back then”, says Lesley. “We were all versed in the black letter law but very few of us had had training in the whole raft of other skills required by a family lawyer.” Many of us recognised that we were ill equipped to deal with emotional clients and had very little knowledge of how to limit the negative impact of separation and divorce on both adults and their children.”
How it is now
Both Cath and Lesley were drawn to Collaborative practice which is a form of dispute resolution where clients sign up not to go to court. “Without the threat of court hanging in the air, both sides have time to talk through the issues that are important to them.” says Cath. “The lawyers work together in the interest of the family and the welfare of any children is the paramount consideration. Above all, people have a chance to be heard and are given time and space to move at their own pace.”
“Divorce and separation can be a traumatic time for people, but with the right support and guidance and the right process option, it can be much less painful.” says Lesley. “Most people only separate or divorce once and quite naturally look to lawyers for the roadmap. You tend to find that if cases start off badly, it is difficult to get them back on the rails.”
Getting it right at the start
“We are passionate about giving clients proper direction at the outset” says Cath. “In fact, as part of our holistic approach, we like to see clients early, often at the outset of their relationships to talk about pre nuptial and co habitation agreements. We find that if clients take early preventative advice, it is much easier and cheaper to untangle their affairs at a later date, if the relationship ends.
The right ingredients produce the ideal recipe
It was through working together in many collaborative cases that a deepening trust and respect of one another was born. When the opportunity of working together at BTO Solicitors arose in late 2012, both Cath and Lesley jumped at the opportunity. “It seemed like the next logical step to join forces as we both work so well together” says Lesley. “We also share a common interest in clothes, make-up and fine wine which combined with a similar sense of humour, makes working together pretty harmonious” says Cath.
BTO Solicitors was especially attractive to Cath and Lesley as unlike most law firms, there is a fairly even split of men and women who are partners and owners of the firm. “The majority of the female partners are young working mothers and that is almost unique in big legal firms” says Lesley. “It’s great to find a firm that is so pro women and families and is a great platform on which we can develop our practice.”
A variety of flavours to suit your tastes
The family law team at BTO solicitors, based in Edinburgh and Glasgow, is now seven strong and all lawyers are trained in collaborative practice.
The team is committed to offering quality, good value and accessibility at times that suit the client. They offer a bespoke service based on the needs of the client. They often run special offers on fees and other innovations such as ‘divorce fee lending’ which is designed to alleviate the stress of worrying about fees. “We have done a lot to improve our clients’ experience of working with us” says Cath. “Whilst all members of our team have the same ethos, we have both male and female family lawyers and all have different personalities. We recognise that one size does not fit all and at such an important time in their private lives, clients need to feel at ease with their lawyer.”
Some added sprinkle
The team also works regularly with family consultants and independent financial advisors as they believe that these other professionals can provide invaluable expertise and reassurance for their clients.
“I have heard in some quarters that we are known as the ‘Ben and Jerry’ of family law” Lesley laughs.
That description is pretty accurate given the ground breaking ethical and holistic approach these ladies have adopted in resolving family law disputes. They really are a “Dough ble Whammy”!
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