One lawyer, two clients - David Lister

Tamsin speaks to creator of "One lawyer, two clients", David Lister. "One lawyer, two clients" is a process of divorce where one lawyer works with both spouses to help them to divorce amicably.

David is a Partner at Ward Hadaway and was the first solicitor in England and Wales to represent both parties in a divorce. He won Partner of the Year at the Yorkshire Legal Awards in 2022, National Associate Solicitor of the Year in 2017 and was the youngest ever National Head of Family Law in his former role. He is a member of Resolution’s National Committee, Chairman of a Rape and Sexual Abuse Counselling Service and a Governor of Roundhay School in Leeds. David also owns a busy Italian restaurant with his wife and together they have a two year old daughter and a beagle.

Tamsin is a Chartered Financial Planner with over 20 years experience. She works with couples and individuals who are at the end of a relationship and want agree how to divide their assets FAIRLY without a fight.

You can contact Tamsin at or arrange a free initial meeting using She is also part of the team running Facebook group Separation, Divorce and Dissolution UK

Tamsin Caine MSc., FPFS
Chartered Financial Planner
Smart Divorce Ltd

P.S. I am the co-author of “My Divorce Handbook – It’s What You Do Next That Counts”, written by divorce specialists and lawyers writing about their area of expertise to help walk you through the divorce process. You can buy it by scanning the QR code…

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(The transcript has been created by an AI, apologies for any mistakes)

Tamsin Caine 0:06
Hello, and welcome to the Smart Divorce Podcast. I'm Tamsin Caine and I will be your host during this our series 6 of the podcast. We're delighted that you're joining us again, and hope that you really enjoy today's episode. During series 6 we'll be speaking to other divorce professionals who help in perhaps some of the more unusual ways. So we will be speaking to lawyers who deal with international divorce. We will be speaking child inclusive mediation to name a few. I really hope that you enjoy today's episode. Let's jump right in. Hello, and welcome to the Smart Divorce podcast. I am very happy to be joined today by David Lester. Hi, David, how you doing?

David Lister 0:58
I'm very well. Thank you. How are you?

Tamsin Caine 1:00
Excellent. I'm good. Thank you. And David is a partner and head of family law at Ward had way he won the family law solicitor of the Year Award at Jordans National Family Law awards was nominated partner of the air at the 2022 Modern Law awards. And the Yorkshire legal awards is believed to be the first Leicester in the UK to have represented both husband and wife in divorce. And that's what we're going to be talking about today, which is very, very exciting. So give us a bit of background and David about about why why working in divorce is so important to me.

David Lister 1:41
So I had a very unusual or very difficult experience of early family life in many senses, my parents separated when I was 18 months old. And my mum went through a series of abusive relationships that culminated in her struggling with alcoholism. And my father went in a different direction, became addicted to heroin. And I, as a consequence, saw a lot of difficulty and a lot of pain when I was growing up. And what that meant was when I finished my law degree, and I got the opportunity to choose the kind of law that that I wanted to do. family felt like a natural fit. Because I've seen it all before. I'd seen, you know, bruises not just physical ones, but you know, all the things that come with family breakdown and all the the aftermath of that and how it can affect people longer term, but also how they can come back from that life can be better. And I make no criticism of my mother, for example, you know, she's she turned herself around really quickly. And she's become this matriarch of our family, and a wonderful mother and grandmother. So I've seen it come full circle, and it enables me to say to people who are at the beginning of that process, you can interview all right. And I can say that with conviction, knowing that it that it's true. And I think that was that all, all that early experience really drove me towards somewhere or a field that I can show that I care that I understand. And I don't think I could do that if I was selling property for example.

Tamsin Caine 3:26
That makes sense. And I know that we use this phrase good divorce or or amicable divorce, and I know that you're keen on helping people to come out of out of the divorce in it in a good place. Tell me a little bit more about why that's so important to you.

David Lister 3:47
Again, in my early career, you know, my nickname was Litigious Lister or the Yorkshire Terrier. I was always in caught bagging my fists on tables and in you know, shouting the arms. And as I've grown older and matured, I've realised that that's not the way to deal with it. And yeah, you get a name for yourself for being a bit of a bulldog. But does it actually help, you know, solicitors we have a code that we have to subscribe to. And part of that is acting in their best interests. And for a long time, I thought best interests when getting the most money or getting the most time with their children. But then if they become a terrible person as a result of experience or a broken person as a result of what you've done or contribute to. Are you acting in their best interests? Or are you acting in the interest of your firm and your target? And that's what that's what made me change my outlook in more recent years. So it was in around about 2019 that I went to my current boss and said no fault divorce is coming into play. If we're going to end up with a system where people don't have to blame one another anymore, how about we create a model that enables people to use the same solicitor. And at that time barristers were tinkering with it. Obviously, mediators were able to mediate, but without giving legal advice. And my concern, not just for clients, but for solicitors as well was that we would end up being marooned on this island where we couldn't do either. So took about 18 years to do that, sorry, 18 months to develop. In September of last year, we launched a process at my old firm, which saw me able to act for both couples, and it was all sort of in compliance with the rules and the regulations. And I was really keen to make sure that it was a properly thought out product and process. And at that time, another firm did launch a similar product. But I don't know if I got there first. So the first case we dealt with, we dealt with it in seven weeks, we launched the court order on behalf of both parties. But I don't know if the other firm did it in six weeks. So when I say I think I'm the first divorce lawyer to do it, it could very well have been another lawyer. But in any event, I was definitely one of the first two. But it's it's changed how I perceive my job. And I absolutely love working with two parties. Because imagine this Imagine doing your job for 10 years, and never hearing the husband and a wife actually say a word to each other. I've been having those conversations between two people that loved each other and created children. And then to all of a sudden beyond a call with somebody that leads to his left or her left says, Well, what do you think about this to their other partner? And it just blew my mind? I thought, God, how easy is that? Rather than me writing a letter, and then approving it, then go to their lawyer lawyer repeating what I've said, and then inevitably misinterpreting how I've worded it because it suits them too. You get to say to them, Well, what do you think? And it just completely shifts the dynamic to the point where when you put the phone down at the end of the call, he's smiling, rather than grimacing. And the feedback that we've had from it has been phenomenal. You know, people have said, I can't believe that this hasn't been available sooner. I can't believe that people bother with two lawyers, why would they pay for two and they can pay for one. And it's just changed. And if I could do it all of the time, I would. And I get that there's a place for placement call, you know, where there's big domestic abuse, it's not appropriate, where the assets are incredibly complex, although it's arguable that it's still suitable for those cases. But sometimes you do need judicial intervention. And that's important. But there are very few cases for who this would not be a viable option. And I think since since I launched it, I think there are now eight or nine other firms that are doing it, which tells me it will continue to grow. And I think it guarantees you a good divorce, there's no way you can get it wrong if it's properly managed. And you both come to the table and you can't stay single but sensible head, acknowledging that it's a transaction, you'll be fine. And you don't have to go through any more a painful experience. And it already is.

Tamsin Caine 8:38
Yeah, no, it it does make complete sense. And I can I suppose I've done some work with couples myself, and because obviously I can act as a financial neutral for couples. And it strikes me that it's more tricky, where there's a power imbalance. So where you've got one partner who is the more financially able and educated as always looks after the finances, and also wants to overpower the other person. How do you manage those sorts of situations? Is that something you've come across?

David Lister 9:16
Yeah, it is. It is. And we have to be really careful. And again, I'm I'm doing some trading of the lawyers now around it. So they all have an initial and separate call with me, first of all, for me to just see where they had that but also see what their capabilities are not just I don't mean how clever they are. I mean, can they can they put across their thought process? Are they nervous or timid? Have they got a financial background or a background where they're used to being on Zoom calls for example, because some people for you and I this is normal now, isn't it but some people prefer to the room and I've never known anything different. So it was a case we had recently where the gentleman in the divorce was actually Financial Advisor. So he was very clear, but very savvy own business. So it was used to looking around the p&l. And he got it. She had been part time working, whilst raising children hadn't really been in the world of computers or anything like that for quite some time. And so what we did in that case was we made sure that we explained things to her in a way that made sense and gave her extra time to ask questions to get her head around certain figures that we were talking about, and I would husband sat very patiently whilst I did this, we're talking through every single number and say, Look, we're starting here. And we're going to do these things. And we end up here. That's how we get to, to the number that we're talking about, does that make sense? And we're given the option to go away and speak to somebody like yourself, for example, because they're able to have these external people involved. When you're in the court. If you want an expert to comment, you have to have the court's permission, usually, and that adds another layer of costs, and usually another layer of delay. But in these processes that are outside of the core, and there are many of them, we can bring somebody like you in to the joint call and say, we've got this question. And we just want you to explain because you're actually the expert, how we've arrived at this number, or how we might arrive at this number in a way that's tax efficient, or whatever. And it it just becomes a much more tea, much better team effort. And that for me, you can't put a price on that. It's great.

Tamsin Caine 11:43
No, absolutely. And I do think, let's be brutally honest, people are very cost conscious when they when they're getting divorced in most cases. And there are some who just want their day in court cost conscious because that it's not about cost. It's about making sure they've had their day in court. And as guests, we're never going to get over that in some way, shape or form of you. Have you met with anybody that you've kind of? No, you said before, you sort of feel that this is this should be available to everybody and all couples should be able to go down this route. Have you met with any couples where you've said that you thought this is not for them? This is not gonna work for them?

David Lister 12:26
Yeah, so I had a cheeky Chappie call me recently and say, I'm Mr. X, I've been in the army for several years, I've built up all these savings, because you don't spend your money when you're in the army. It's one of the perks of the job, I suppose. But this fantastic pension, and we've got X number of children and my wife's pregnant with our fifth. And we've agreed that she won't have anything and that she's just going to move out with the kids. And I said to him, that's not going to work. I said this, because your starting point is so vastly outside what a court would ever consider to be suitable, it's going to take me a long time to get you into the realms of reasonableness. It's going to take your wife a lot of effort to cope with the process with five children and one on the way and no financial means with which to put her point across. And I just don't think that this is the right thing for us. And I'll represent you, I won't tell you what you want to hear, because what you want is wrong. But it wouldn't be something that I would take on for both of you. And this reaction was a little bit, you know, coffee, coffee, and you know, he didn't end up instructing me in the end. But that's life, isn't it? If if some people want a Yes, man or woman don't go and find them. And there are plenty of lawyers out there who will take your money and tell you that you're right. But I'm not one of them. So when it comes to me, I always try and give them an honest appraisal. And I say look, you know, I either can't help you or I'm not the right person for you. And, and that tends to be it rather than the process itself not being suitable. It's more that people who aren't suitable for it deserves to be

Tamsin Caine 14:09
Yeah, absolutely. Completely see that think we quite often see this, you know, we talked before about this good divorce and this amicable divorce. And there are there are people kind of out there who are feeling like Well, I I didn't manage to have that. Do you find that you need both parties on board in order to make that work?

David Lister 14:33
Yeah, they've got to be and they've got we had a lovely meeting with a couple recently where the husband wasn't ready to have for divorce he would have happily finished it and unusually, they were sitting in the same room and I don't ordinarily support that. I I have made placement prior that needs to be in separate spaces, but they missed that. And I said okay, well as today is just me giving me Use some information, I'm happy for you to sit in the same room. But I do want you to be separate later. Because of course, you don't know if somebody's gripping somebody's best on the tape under the table or, you know, there's a gun at their head, literally would hope. So it's important to have that space. But this particular meeting, again, it was one of those moments where I've never seen it before. But he started to cry. And she hoped him and told her it was gonna be all right. And the court system doesn't give you the opportunity to observe that either. And actually, her being in the room with him, supported him through that in a way that I wasn't able to, because I wasn't there for him, I would have given him a hug, if you know, because I'm that kind of person. But you know, it for them. It was it was just doing it a bit differently. But it did it did work. So I think people need their own process and their own the the the flexibility of choice, don't they? You know, we've talked about quarterly, we've talked about, is it the right option for them. And whatever. The more items there are on the menu, I think the more people will choose what they want to take a bite out of rather than, you know, be set course menu. And sometimes you think, Well, I don't want sweet and sour chicken, I want chicken in black bean tonight. Because we're human or not when we want choice. And I think that giving us particularly separating couples who are going through this awful experience, taking back the part of taking back control is choosing isn't it, it's you have a choice. And by giving them those options, you put them on the pathway to feeling like they've got hold of the reins again. And for me, once somebody does feel that they've got a bit more control, they can steer a bit, they ease up and the tension eases up and they become a bit more amenable. And then their ex becomes a bit more amenable. And all of a sudden everybody's a bit like, oh yeah, I can see where you're coming from now. Whereas before when they're in that flat span, and they don't know what direction they're heading in. They've no control over it. So that when you get off the wall, sir, isn't it you have to just stand still for a bit before you can actually focus on the direction you want to walk in. And I think that divorce does that to people and just kind of want to give them that that route through the fog.

Tamsin Caine 17:25
Yeah, I think that menu idea is really interesting, because there are there are more and more options available to not have to go to court to not assume that, that this process is all about going to court and having a having a battle which never liked the idea that divorce becomes a battle because as you said before, doesn't that's not going to end well. And it's going to take longer to come back around to have that better life afterwards.

David Lister 17:56
You mentioned costs earlier than just now about court. I think the average, I think the average court time if you litigate your divorce is between 18 and 24 months. And I think there was some statistics released in 2017, or 18. And if you looked at those in accordance with the growth rates over time, I think I worked it out that the average spend per person on a divorce, litigated divorce was about 18,000 pounds, which is just a phenomenal amount of money from somebody that grew up by a counsellor say, you know, the multiple benefits, that's a huge amount of money. That couple the thought too, about earlier where the husband was a financial advisor, their costs overall, they their costs that they shared, were 4000 pounds plus fat. And plus plus their court fees, they had a business valuation done that cost them 1800 pounds plus VAT. So they weren't even in the realms of spending a quarter I think of the overall fees that you would spend if you went through court. And that was sorted out in less than six months. So a third of the average time. And it only took six months because we had the valuation done. That took a couple of months. So shave that out of the process. You're talking weeks to get the staff to, towards you know, a bit of certainty. And that again, people when people talk about acting in people's best interests, if you can get if you can shorten some somebody's if they were poorly, for example, and you're a doctor, you would be wanting to give them medication to bet that illness go away. You wouldn't be giving them something to prolong the illness, would you? And we do it if you think about it like that, if we're if we're sending them to court with when we know that we're prolonging that pain. Actually, if we can shorten it that surely is acting in their best interest. So I think it's about lawyers shifting their mindset and not associating Getting them the most money with their best interests. I want my clients to be able to sit next to each other at their child's wedding or graduation or whatever, or God forbid if their children are in the hospital, I want them to both be able to sit at the side of their hospital bed, and not grimace when they see the sight of one another. And I think that, you know, shouldn't be most lawyers aides in most cases where it's where it's appropriate,

Tamsin Caine 20:24
have say We talk all the time on this podcast about keeping the children if you've got children of the marriage, front and centre and being able to go and watch their dance show together, being able to go and watch the rugby match together, being able to go to parents evenings together, because what happens if you can, is only one of you gets to go. And then how does the other one have a clue about what's going on, if you're sharing care for the, for the children, that just makes life really, really difficult. So

David Lister 20:55
I remember, I remember when I graduated from law school, and it was the first time that my parents had ever attended anything jointly in my entire education, they split up when I was 18 months old, they never came to anything together for my whole education. And they through gritted teeth agreed to come to my graduation together, and my grandparents came as well, on my dad's side, and I remember having to run from one corner of the hall to the other, to see my grandma and grandpa and my dad to then go into that with mumble five minutes, who was by herself to make sure she was okay to run back and make sure my Granny got a drink, to run back to home to church. It was the most miserable day. And I remember I was flying on holiday with my friends that evening. So I actually went and jumped in a taxi, from my graduation in my suit wore and went straight to the airport. And it was only at that moment that I actually got a chance to start to celebrate the fact that I got a law degree because that that whole process was miserable. And when I graduated from the LPC, I said to my mom and dad, you can call but I'm not having any of that nonsense, this time, we're going to go out for a meal, and you're going to talk to each other and you're going to be friends, and you're going to smile for the pictures together. And you're going to get a second chance to do it. And they did and it was a much more pleasant day. But in life, you don't always get that second chance to do it, do you. So, again, from my own personal experiences of that I can say to clients, you do not want your children to feel how I felt on that day. And that that changes my approach for the better.

Tamsin Caine 22:36
Absolutely. I had a similar experience at my wedding with my parents. Both my parents were there. They're horrendous in the same room together. You know, they're divorced. I was 12. So quite a bit older than you in your state. But yeah, they they just celebrate, you know, however many years on a lot of years on. And there's, you know, they're still in that same place that can't spend time together. And you don't want that for your kids. You don't want kids ever to have to go through that. I'm worried about this really exciting celebration that we're about to have. Because I don't want my parents in the same room together. It's It's an awful thing to have to go through. So totally with you talk me through an ad, you said that your process begins with a phone call with each person separately. Could you talk me through the how the rest of the process would work?

David Lister 23:25
Yeah,yeah, of course. So they have the quote unquote, definitely one person that gets in touch initially and say the read about this, I think it's suitable for us. And then I'll speak to them. But really importantly, I won't give them any advice, because it's important if they do go through the process that everybody gets the advice together. So I'll fix the first person just to gather a little bit of information and say, what does the picture look like, but don't give me anything that's too kind of, in your favour. I just wanted very gentle picture. 15 minutes, usually it lasts 20 minutes, maybe. And I reassure them that when if I decide that it's suitable for them, I'll tell them about the process in more detail later. And then arrange a call with the other party. And again, I reassure them, I say, Look, your partner's told me nothing that's too saucy. She's literally or he's literally told me that you live in a house that you've got two children that you both employed, and that you both think a divorce might be suitable for you. And that that's pretty much it. What do you think so I'll suspend those out. And then I'll send them both an email that says I've had a chat with you both. I've explained to you my function is to be neutral and not to be on anybody's side. So in the circumstances that you told me to proceed, I will be both of your solicitor. And here is the Participation Agreement similarly to what is used in the collaborative process, which is, but it's not as restrictive as the collaborative process. You don't have to sack your lawyer at the end of it if things don't work out. So it's got the rules in it, which basically stay We are going to behave, we are going to be respectful, we are going to be honest and upfront. And all these things are quite a lengthy document, actually. But they sign up to that. And then we have a first meeting. And in that meeting, I will get the full picture from them both. And quite often, in most cases, you may laugh when you think about this, because I know it's true to my marriage. There's always one person that's really good with paperwork and numbers. And always one person that goes I don't know what they what, days Wednesday. So I won't tell you which one I have in my relationship. But that so usually one person sets the scene and then I'll just set check with the other person. Is that right? Is that your understanding? And we'll start creating that picture. And then what I'll do is I'll talk to them about the law. Quite often people aren't interested in the law, actually, they just want to know what they're going to get at the end of it. But we haven't played the law to them. So I'll talk to them about the concept of needs, for example, being largely dictatorial in the separation process. So I'll explain that the umbrella of needs is quite far reaching. And usually there are three pockets of need that sits underneath it. And those needs comprise of housing needs, income needs, retirement needs. So how would you please put a roof over your head? How much need to put food at the fridge and fuel in the car? And what do you need to look after, when you cease look after yourself when you've stopped working? I'll explain that process to them. And I'll explain that's how we will be looking to separate the assets using that as a as a sort of anchor. And then I'll explain to them that they've got some homework to do, I'll say right, you're going to get a form from one of my juniors in my team, they will help you both complete it together. And they will then prepare plan on the page of your, your your assets, that schedule of assets. And then we'll meet for a second time to work through that shedule. So you might have both given different figures for a property value, for example. So we'll discuss that in our second call. Or one of you might have given some information that's causing the other to think that doesn't quite make sense to me. Can you explain it? And it might be dealt with in that meeting, that second meeting, or it might be that we adjourn off as your to the court to get some answers or some evaluation, for example. And then once everybody is satisfied that that schedule of assets is how it should look. And that may include some experts involvement in may not, then we'll come together for a third time. And then I'll explain to them what I consider to be the parameters for settlement, what a judge would do. And when I talk about judges, I don't mean that they're going to end up in front of one. But it's always helpful for them to have in their mind, if we don't agree, what would the judge do? What's my best day in court? What's my worst day in court. And usually, they're not that far outside of the brackets. And then, so they've had that. So they've had meeting one, telling them the process meeting to gathering the information and assessing it meeting three, reviewing the parameters for settlement. And then usually a fourth step is then coming back to the table saying I thought about what you said, I'd quite like the outcome to look like this. And the other party might say, well, I'd quite like it to look like that. And so that fourth session is about bridging that gap between them. And we've had 100% success rate. So far, nobody has got to the process have not reached an agreement. And then we draft a court order, and we send it off to court to be approved with our name on behalf of both parties. And the orders are being approved, which tells us the judges are happy for us to do it. So all in all, it's a really neat process. And the beauty of it is they can set the pace. So if they say, well, we want to meet at 12 o'clock on Wednesday, and we want pink waves the biscuits. You know, they get to choose, you don't get that if you go to court, the court says well, I've only got a slot in November, that two o'clock like to leave it. And I had a really unfortunate case last year to give you an example of just how restrictive that can be. A gentleman briefed a barrister whose fee was 25,000 pounds. The court moved the hearing to a date when that barrister wasn't available, but the client still had to pay because that was that they'd already done all the work. So we've got yet to pay 25,000 pounds for a hearing for a barrister who then wasn't available and had to pay another 25,000 pounds for a different barrister. And that barrister did nothing wrong. They've done all the work, they were entitled to charge their fee, it was in accordance with their terms. The client understood that. But it was deeply unfortunate that it happened and it only happened because of the court system being so under resourced. So it was it you know, stuff like that, that don't happen in this process because you choose the pace who's involved. And if you have to do something, nobody loses out because they say okay, well we'll do next week instead,

Tamsin Caine 30:02
yeah, yeah, it sounds sounds like a sensible thing to do to me, as long as both parties are able to communicate with one another and kind of they're not my, as you say they're not kind of a million miles apart, it just seems looking at outside looking in that, that that will make far more sense. You only need to watch and I know, it's fiction. But you only need to watch Marriage Story.

David Lister 30:28
Oh I know. Well, I've we've all met lawyers like those two is that you know, the ones who look just very half hearted and just kind of let things drift and act as a letterbox. So the other one who, whatever you say that, you know, they'll interpret it with a poison pen. And I seen it this week. And I laugh to myself because I send the letter and I know exactly what I mean. But I say to the client, I can't word it any differently. But I can tell you the response I'm going to get is that x, y and Zed and then be in the clients have a laugh about it. Because to say, we do that so that we're going to react, and again, creating that environment where you can laugh about it, rather than the client getting these nasty letters and going. I can't believe they've said that about me that's not true. And I'll say, Well, I told you they were going to say that we know it's not true, we know that they're doing that just to drive up their client costs, they want to get to the courtroom door, the banker settle. It's not my way of doing it. I don't agree with it. But some people do do that. And when you're in a profession that is target driven, driven by chargeable time, it's difficult to get away from that sometimes isn't it, which is why I prefer to operate on a fixed fee basis, because it gives the client certainty and the client can have faith that no matter how much time I spend on, it's not going to cost them any more. And I've likened it to sort of other professions where they do fixed fees and come under fire from other lawyers in likening ourselves to builders and whatnot. But at the end of the day, if you can't scope out what a job is going to involve, you know, when you've usually got two degrees and 10 years experience, there's something wrong isn't the same? So I'd always be wary of the kind of lawyers that say, Well, I can't really tell you how much it's going to cost it very It depends. Well, it depends. Yeah, but it largely depends on your approach as much as anything. So I think we've got a sense check ourselves a little bit. Consumers are not stupid. They know how it works. Now, they can find out the information they want. If we don't get to the point where we're giving them certainty on costs, Sue, they'll not users, they'll use the use of businesses that are deregulated, but aren't so that aren't regulated that will that can give them a fixed price, because that's what they want.

Tamsin Caine 32:53
Yeah, no, absolutely great. And that's really interesting that you work on a fixed fee, because I've have worked with so many clients, who will ring me because I work on a fixed fee, rather than ringing their lawyer, who's who they really need to talk to. Because they don't want to be charged 220 quid for an email because they don't want to be charged with the phone call. They don't want me to talk to their lawyer, because then they know I won't charge them any extra, but it's costing them money for me speak to their lawyer from their lawyer. And it's, it's tying your hands behind your back whilst you're trying to do the best for the client. And it's it's very difficult makes complete sense to me. Yeah, that kind of makes me

Unknown Speaker 33:35
I think some people think when you mentioned fixed fee, it means change. It does. I've just agreed a fixed price of 36,000 pounds with somebody. And I've costed their file out, but spent an hour costing out every single step. And I've built in a contingency. And I've assessed the type of client that I've got. So they are a needy client. And I've talked to them about that I've said to them openly, you are needing And so whereas normal client might say to me, I don't need to speak to you this month, I know that you're going to want to speak to me every week. And so whereas a normal case, it might castex because of your personality type. And what you tell me you want I am putting a premium on this because you are going to have more of my time. I think some of those really struggle with conversations like that with clients that it's like a taboo subject costs. And what then happens is to build them at the end of the month and then the client complaints. Whereas if you have that conversation at the beginning and you say look, what do you want from me What are you going to need from me and I will then work like that. But it's only like you know when you go to the supermarket, you can buy Tesco Value sausages and it doesn't come in a nice package and it's usually a bit squashed in pence or you can go and you can buy Tesco finest and you pay a bit more but the packaging is a bit nicer on the side. Since you're a bit thicker it tastes when you go to the butchers. And you can say I want that sausage, and I want that sausage, and I want you, and I'm paying the premium for it. Six back to the same, you can have that conversation with clients, do you want it cheap and dirty? Do you want it a little bit different? Or do you want me to be at your beck and call 24 hours day because I will be but you've got to pay for it. And it's, it's again, it's that kind of thing. We're used to being able to, you know, when you go on, I always liken it to different, different customer experience. But you know, when you go on a car comparison website, or car insurance, and you get that table that says what's included for the price? Yeah, six ticks and red crosses. That's how consumers are used to purchasing services these days. And the law is no different to that. So I think it's that that kind of makes me think we've got to catch up. And this process that we've created with the fixed pricing in the one lawyer model, I think goes great lengths to set the scene. And I'm really pleased that other lawyers are following suit, because it because it only benefits the client.

Tamsin Caine 36:09
Yeah, absolutely. How? Because I'm guessing that lots of people don't know about this service at the moment and don't realise that the only there is an option to have one my for the for the both of them? How, how can that arise? Talking to me is going to help. But how can we spread the word that this is available that this is an option to clients?

David Lister 36:36
If people aren't you, people who come into contact with couples where they are thinking about separation, it's about catching them at that early stage and not letting them fall into the trap of the traditional model. Once you've got your own lawyer in place, that's it, then you end up pitted against each other. In many cases, some lawyers are really, really good at being collaborative picking up the phone to the other lawyer. But again, there's a lot of catching up to do in terms of that. So it's about getting them, you know, mortgage providers, you know, people will contact their mortgage provider and say, we're thinking about the mortgage, because we're splitting up and my ex wants to buy me out. They can capture the people at the beginning and say, Well, if you think about it, let's work together with this person. They can help we can all get on a call together, we can all discuss it. I think that for me is the key. And then it's just about getting the message out there. Like you say talking to people on podcasts giving examples, I think people really like to see worked case studies that we've just released one, recently talking about a specific case that showed people how long it lasted, who was involved, what the costs were, what are the issues were so people would look at it and go, that's quite like my situation, actually, we've we've got similar problems. And it will, it will gain traction, it's already gaining traction much more quickly than I anticipated. And also firms with credibility offering it. So there are other firms that are offering it that are very, very good firms. And you know that those firms have real qualities, they are pushing it, it means it's worth pushing, they wouldn't put their neck on the line to champion a process like this if it wasn't good and viable. So I think that's the other thing. People that have got some clout getting behind it and not being afraid. Some people will say, Well, it's the turkeys voting for Christmas. But it's not. It's just if you think it, I think there's something like 50% of people who get divorced, don't go near a lawyer, and are usually I think the percent, the reasons for that will be cost. And I don't want I don't want to have a fight. So you're pitching to that other half of the market and also a large proportion of the proportion of the market that if they could use one lawyer, they would my old firm, we did a survey, and I think something like 78% of people said, if we could have had one lawyer and not two we would have and I think that was a survey of about 2000 people, so not a small sample.

Tamsin Caine 39:03
Yeah I think it's I think it's great idea. I think that having spoken to us today now understanding more about what you do. It's a feels like a bit of a no brainer. And you know, for those clients that it's appropriate for. Is there anything that I haven't asked that I should have asked that you're dying to tell me about?

David Lister 39:26
No, no. I think the only thing that I was keen to explain really is where this is not me selling your services, but where you guys could come in. One of the things that I do with people at the beginning, I don't, I don't necessarily always the people outside of separating together process I've just talked about one of the things that I do is I try and work out a plan with them. Rather than talking to them about the law. I'll say let's go on Rightmove and look at a house that you think you'd like to move into 12 months And I know that you do forecasts to look forward and say to people, okay, well, if you end up with this, you'll be able to get to that point. And for me, I think you can't underestimate the importance of that. Because giving somebody those stepping stones and saying them, close your eyes, imagine where you want to be. And I go even further, I say what countries don't, you know, because I want them to put themselves in that new life and that new world. But it's, if you don't have a target to aim towards, there's no point in firing your arrows, because you're just firing it into the empty space. So if you can give them those stepping stones to say, Well, if you get this module, you can get that yellow sofa or you can get that red car. And that is, rather than talking about what section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act, which we all know, but it's very dull. People that opportunity to think about what does life look like for me, with help from somebody like you, which actually puts some science behind it, because we can do the theory of what you actually can do the numbers that that to me is that is a really useful adults. And if they're saving money, using one lawyer, or they're saving money, being sensible and not going through court, then they've got the spare cash to be able to pay somebody like you at the beginning, rather than waiting till the end. And then you say, Oh, I actually should have had that pension instead of that one. It's that kind of thing that that really helps. So I wouldn't underestimate your own value add a parting shot.

Tamsin Caine 41:40
Oh, thank you. No, that's massively appreciate it dying thing understanding what what that what the way you've said you've agreed to separate your assets, what that actually means in the context of your life and your lifestyle is its its clarity and peace of mind. And I think I think you're absolutely right. I don't think that that can be underestimated at all. Thank you so much for joining me today. But I'm really really enjoyed our conversation. If listeners and viewers want to get ahold of you, we'll put all your contact details in the show notes. And I'm sure you'd be happy for people to contact you if they're interested in

David Lister 42:23
My mobile's always on I always say to people, I'm not a nine to five lawyer, much to my wife's upset I take calls, mornings. In fact, I took a call from a client when she was having our first baby and in labour so you can get a usually anytime that you can't, I'll ring you back.

Tamsin Caine 42:41
That's amazing. David, thank you so much for joining us. I hope you enjoyed the episode of the Smart Divorce podcast. If you would like to get in touch please have a look in the show notes for our details or go onto the website Also if you are listening on Apple podcasts or on Spotify and you wouldn't mind leaving us a lovely five star review. That would be fantastic. I know that lots of our listeners are finding this is incredibly helpful in their journey through separation divorce and dissolving a civil partnership. Also, if you would like some further support, we do have Facebook group now. It's called 'Separation divorce and dissolution UK.' Please do go on to Facebook, search up the group and we'd be delighted to have you join us. The one thing I would say is do please answer their membership questions. Okay, have a great day and take care!

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