Who is Dialogue First?

We are a small enterprise that has spent the last few years developing a common sense way to help separating families reach agreement at the most difficult of times. After all, how do you tell one lawyer from another when every law firm website says the same? It’s also worth pointing out that any recommendation will likely reach you via someone who’s separated just the once. Dialogue First is an unashamed attempt to change all this so that the support you get is affordable, effective and if you have a family, child-centred.

Dialogue First wasn’t my idea. How do I know it’s really in my interests?

We understand very well why this matters but you are at no disadvantage having heard about us via your separating/former partner. Dialogue First as an organisation is entirely impartial. But the Dialogue First lawyer we introduce you to is not. They are regulated to act in your best interests and have a duty care to you and only you. It is their job to make sure that Lawyer-Supported Mediation delivers on your future needs and should this not materialise in the course of the service, they will tell you as much.

So what’s different about Dialogue First?

Dialogue First has developed a service called Lawyer-Supported Mediation. In the course of our research, we observed that the two professionals needed to help families reach agreement were totally non-aligned, even competing with each other. We refer here to family mediators and family lawyers. Mediators are expert agreement makers and specialise in helping people communicate when it’s most difficult. They’re very good at it too: agreement can be reached in just a few sessions and at far less cost than using only lawyers. But to make informed decisions at mediation, it’s essential you also feel supported and are making informed decisions about your family’s future. This is why we integrate fixed fee legal advice in support of family mediation. Your Dialogue First lawyer is there to ensure that what you agree at mediation is within the parameters of what they think a court will award. As part of your fixed legal fee, they will also translate aspects of your mediated agreement (e.g finances) into a binding order for the court to approve. Lawyer-Supported Mediation is the first service of its kind to combine the very best of what lawyers and mediators have to offer.

How much will it cost?

Firstly, we can say with some confidence that your costs for Dialogue First cannot spiral out of control. This is not the case when paying an hourly rate divorce lawyer to negotiate matters on your behalf or represent you at court. Because of the unique way in which our service is structured, we can fix the price of all the legal advice and support you need to use Lawyer-Supported Mediation. Costs start at £1400 (excl. Vat) and – as a matter of course – we will provide you with a fully tailored estimate based on your circumstances. Finally, if you have complex finances we can still offer fix legal fees for using Lawyer-Supported Mediation.

Do I have to pay all the fees up front?

Not at all. The payment structure for Lawyer-Supported Mediation has been designed firmly with your pocket in mind. As such, you’ll be asked to pay your fixed legal fee in three equal tranches: before, during and following the conclusion of family mediation. And when it comes to mediation, you pay your share of costs on a per session basis. We do this to guard against you being unfairly penalised in the event of your separating/former partner withdrawing or family mediation breaking down before agreement is reached.

How successful is Dialogue First?

Family mediation works: government statistics show that of the thousands of couples that chose mediation between April 2013 and March 2014, over three quarters (79%) went on to reach agreement. Is it our firm position that in general terms mediation should be pursued with legal advice to ensure decision-making at mediation is informed. This is why the government provides access to free legal advice once mediation is underway for anyone who is eligible for legal aid. We are making this model available to people not eligible for legal aid in a bid to make family law services more affordable. By being the first service to formally combine the complementary strengths of both lawyer and mediator, we hope to emulate the government data quoted above.

What if Dialogue First fails?

Family mediation is a voluntary process and can be withdrawn from at anytime. Should this happen participating lawyers can be retained to pursue a full range of options, including recourse to the courts. It is now a requirement that anyone seeking to take action against their former partner must first consider mediation before being allowed to file their application with the court. Finally, any time spent at mediation may have brought deal breaker issues into sharper focus allowing for more efficient intervention by lawyers thereafter.

Can I choose my own lawyer from those participating?

If you do have a particular preference, please discuss this with us and arrangements may be able to be made.

How does Dialogue First make its money?

We charge users of our service an administration fee when instructing a Dialogue First lawyer for Lawyer-Supported Mediation. Details of this fee – and when it is due – are fully disclosed in the full cost estimate provided to you following your free legal consultation with a Dialogue First lawyer. More information is available in our Standard Terms.