I've often noted, with a cynical sneer, those businesses who insist on calling themselves award winning. Lawyers, of course, are not immune to this form of vanity publishing. They hold their own private awards dinners at which they honour each other in sometimes abstruse and downright arcane categories. The Oscars for legal geeks, but without tributes to make up artists! I suppose that if I were awarded something by my industry peers, I'd suddenly lose my cynicism and take pride in the fact that members of my own profession held me in conspicuously high regard - but that hasn't happened yet. Shame.
However, this weekend I was honoured by the people who count far more than your professional peers - the sort of people who actually use the professional services of divorce lawyers. So if you look at the following link, you should find me fairly easily - I'm the one called jonathancj, obviously.
What's Wikivorce all about?
Wikivorce came about when its founder went online to look for information to help him with his own divorce and found himself having to put together fragments of information from a variety of sources. He decided that it would have been far more helpful if they had all been in one place and set himself the task of constructing that resource. Quite quickly it moved from being just an encyclopedia of information to a community of people talking about what they had learned from their own relationship failures and passing on useful information. The great benefit of this is that it has moved to being more of a tailored advice service, albeit informal in nature, rather than leaving it to individuals to try to apply generic information to their own specific circumstances. It does not hold itself out as giving legal advice but most of the members of the site have themselves experienced separation and can help with the emotional side of the separation as well as the practical side.
And why is it important?
At the awards dinner, the site founder highlighted the effects of the withdrawal of legal aid from family law. More and more people will be trying to negotiate quite a complex web of law and procedure without the aid of a specialist who is familiar with how it all fits together. Where on earth can they turn? How can they learn what to expect at a first hearing? Is mediation really a good idea? What is a hearing really like? Who can they ask these questions when they simply cannot afford to pay a solicitor to advise?
For so many questions, the internet is the first port of call now. You're thinking about a major purchase? Google product reviews. You have a technical question on any particular topic? Google it. Search for help with divorce and the first page of the results will bring up Wikivorce and you have access to a community of people happy to help and with first hand experience. No, it can't substitute for the direct help of your own solicitor. For the best level of help, you need someone like me. But if that's just not an affordable option, Wikivorce will stand in the gap. It remains the case that the helpful people online will often advise other users that they really need to get a solicitor - there's a limit to what they can do to help - but there's no doubt at all that people using the site will be much better prepared for the procedure than those who try to go it alone.
Blog Disclaimer: Nothing in www.austinkempfamilylaw.blogspot.com blog should be construed as legal advice. If you require legal advice upon any family law related matter then you should instruct a solicitor. Any links to other blogs or web sites are provided for convenience only and Austin Kemp Solicitors cannot accept any responsibility for the contents of such linked blogs/sites.