Individuals experiencing a legal separation and/or divorce go through a unique and personal transition process which can often result in the need for social supports. The degree to which one requires these supports depends on the nature of the relationship with one’s former partner, whether there are children or pets involved, whether there has been a history of high conflict or violence, the reasons for the relationship coming to an end (an affair for instance, as opposed to a mutual agreement), the length of the relationship, the roles each partner played within the marriage, finances, one’s own level of resilience and ability to cope with stressors and much more.
Lawyers are not equipped to deal with the social concerns of the client which can influence the direction of a legal file, particularly when emotions run high. Clients dealing with change and transition can sometimes find themselves overwhelmed with grief and have difficulty seeking out their own third party supports. Sometimes they are unaware or cannot identify what they might need in terms of support. Other times they may not even be aware of programs or services within the community that are available to them.
At Resolve Legal Group, we recognize that clients make better legal decisions for their family and cope better with their legal matters when they have appropriate social supports in place to assist them through their legal process. We are also aware that the costs for services can be overwhelming for many clients who are also burdened with legal fees. That’s why we wanted to offer clients a holistic, client-centred approach to their legal file by providing clients with a social support strategy and implementation in addition to their legal strategy and implementation. To achieve this, we at Resolve Legal Group, developed a new position to our legal and support staff team which we call the role of a dedicated “Client Support Coordinator” who can help you connect with the social supports you need, all at no additional cost to you.
The responsibilities of a Client Support Coordinator are threefold:
The Client Support Coordinator is the first contact the client has with the firm. The Client Support Coordinator asks a series of questions to identify what the client’s legal and social support needs are. These intake questions have been developed and vetted with the assistance of a registered psychologist. The Client Support Coordinator then matches the client with the lawyer that they feel would be the best match for the client given the lawyer’s case load and experience in the legal area in which the client requires assistance. The Client Support Coordinator enters all of the new client’s data into a central database, performs a “conflicts” check and then drafts a report to be given to the assigned lawyer and held as a permanent record on the file. The report consists of the legal issues identified, and some suggested social supports that the client may require throughout their legal process.
- Ongoing Social Support Outreach:
After the initial consultation with the lawyer, if the firm is retained, the Client Support Coordinator and lawyer discuss a social support plan or strategy report, as noted within the file (this sometimes includes a psychologist if and when the team believes one might be required). If the lawyer agrees with the suggested plan, the Client Support Coordinator then arranges to meet or discuss the plan or suggestions with the client. The client chooses which services, if any, they would like, and the Client Support Coordinator arranges those supports for the client. The Client Support Coordinator also follows up with the client throughout their matter to ensure the social supports are addressing their needs effectively and to determine if further or alternate assistance might be required. Conversations and “next steps” are documented within the physical file so that the lawyer is aware of the collateral supports that are in place for a client.
The Client Support Coordinator is also identified to the client as a point of direct contact should the client require any assistance during their matter and/or if they have any non-legal questions or concerns about their file. Our firm has spent a great deal of time creating and maintaining relationships with reputable community organisations that offer the supports our clients need. Such organizations include The Calgary Counselling Centre, Money Mentors, Families First Supervisory Services, Peer Support for Abused Women, Chinook College, Boys and Girls Clubs, and many more.
- Quality Control:
There is an internal standard of care expected of lawyers and staff employed by Resolve Legal Group. This standard of care is outlined in a document provided with each client’s retainer package. This information is discussed with the client during the initial client interview. The Client Support Coordinator follows up with clients from time to time to ensure that these standards are adhered to and to act as a liaison between the client and their lawyer if any concerns arise. The Client Support Coordinator acts as an ombudsman on behalf of the clients and keeps records and reports of any complaints which are then either shared with an individual lawyer, brought to the general attention of the entire team at staff meetings and/or shared with the firm’s HR staff for employee reviews. The purpose of this is to ensure clients legal needs are also being met.
Clients are also encouraged to provide regular feedback throughout their file and to complete a standard client satisfaction exiting survey at the end of their matter so that we can constantly improve our services from the client perspective.
We constantly strive to provide exemplary legal services in an inviting, safe and personable environment. Our goal is to provide effective legal strategies, coupled with appropriate supports to assist our clients in a cost effective, holistic manner that empowers our clients to make sound legal decisions. Our focus is to help restructure the family systems in transition in the healthiest way possible rather than break them apart.
In addition to the unique role of our Client Support Coordinator, and the extra attention to client care and quality controls, we also have specified internal standards of practice to which we expect all our lawyers to adhere for the benefit of our clients. We regularly schedule team meetings to discuss and collaborate on files, regularly schedule “lunch and learn” internal training sessions where guest speakers are brought in to mentor and teach our lawyers and staff about topics that concern our files, and we invest in our employees’ ongoing professional development by setting aside an annual education budget dedicated for this purpose. We also ensure that each junior lawyer at the firm is paired with a more senior lawyer for ongoing mentorship and learning opportunities.
At Resolve Legal Group we also believe that our professional standing gives us an obligation to give back to our community. Under our volunteer policy, employees are given paid time off work to encourage volunteering with other community organizations. We have a pro bono policy that requires each lawyer to assist on a pro bono matter at least once per year to do our part providing access to justice. We teach public legal seminars through Chinook College and “Saturday Legal Coffee Breaks” seminars at a nominal fee, the proceeds of which are then donated to the Calgary Counselling Centre as a third-party fundraising initiative. Our firm also sponsors, produces, and hosts an online radio talk show, entitled “Your Family Matters,” on Tenacious Living Radio (tlrstation.com) in which we interview experts on a variety of topics that affect family law clients.
In addition to supporting our clients and our community, we also have policies in place to provide support to our own staff and lawyers. We offer flexible hours and a flexible and supportive work environment to prevent both staff and lawyers from burning out or other health issues related to stress. Our philosophy is that when our team members are supported, our team is in a better position to support the needs of our clients. We also partake in the Law Society of Alberta’s Justicia Project to ensure that we have firm policies in place that support diversity and retention of female lawyers.
Clients dealing with change and transition can sometimes find themselves overwhelmed with grief and have difficulty seeking out their own third party supports