Family law firm cuts divorce bills by offering in-house counselling service

A NICHE family law firm which hired a counsellor to help divorcing couples says the move is reducing clients’ fees.

Midlands firm Benussi & Co claims the time couples spend discussing the emotional problems of divorce with solicitors greatly increases their final bill.

The firm is one of the few UK firms to offer a divorce package which includes independent and confidential counselling.

Diane Benussi, who founded the firm, said it was more economical and effective for separating couples to discuss their emotional problems with a trained counsellor.

“If clients receive counselling they are better prepared to talk rationally about legal proceedings and their bills will be lower,” she said.

Benussi points out that solicitors must be objective when handling matrimonial action, and are not trained to deal with the emotional entanglements of divorce.

Under the firms’ scheme, clients are referred to trained counsellor Victoria Scurfield, who currently runs about five sessions a week.

They contact her independently and are seen confidentially at Benussi’s offices. The solicitor does not consult with the counsellor and does not even know which clients have attended counselling.

The Family Law Consortium has been offering an in-house counselling service since September 1995.

Partner David Hodson said: “A multi-disciplinary approach is the way forward for family law. Counselling helps lawyers to gain a better understanding of the dynamics of family relationships.”

Jane Leigh, secretary of the Law Society’s family law committee, said she was aware of a handful of law firms offering a similar service.

She welcomed the initiative and said the Law Society would support other firms which made the same moves.