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22 SEP 2011

Young Lawyers - Kate Gomery: Is it OK to use the rich and famous as family law case studies?

Kate GomeryIn the age of social media, many individual solicitors, law firms and barristers regularly use Twitter, blogs and forums etc to exchange information and to raise their professional profile. At its best, social media has been and continues to be an amazing tool by which to exchange views and ideas  and to raise the profile of campaigns, for example the current Legal Aid proposals. It is wonderful that judgments and the thoughts and views of leading members of the profession are so immediately and readily accessible and open to debate by all.

However, as with anything that takes off in the way blogging and Twitter has in recent years, you are always bound to end up getting a whole lot of bad along with the good and, increasingly, I am noticing that there is an enormous amount of dross being circulated (often by people or organisations that should know better) under the banner of "family law". Much of my annoyance stems from inane articles that suggest, as if it has just been discovered, that "Divorce can be an upsetting experience!" or "Children may be affected when their parents don't get on!" You don't say.

My absolute pet-hate though, is using speculation in respect of the arrangements surrounding the relationships, marriage and divorce of the rich and famous to sell family law services (and in that regard, search engine optimisation has much to answer for). It strikes me as marketing of the most cynical kind to blog or tweet about  whether celebrity X has a pre-nuptial arrangement, or the facts behind the reason celebrity  Y is divorcing when those musings end with "and if you need family law advice, please contact our specialist lawyers on...."  The fact that X and Y may be in the public eye should not mean, in my opinion,  that their most personal family arrangements should be open to conjecture and guess work by family law professionals in order to market their services. On a linked point, highlighting the experiences of the rich and famous in their divorce proceedings can also give potential clients entirely unrealistic expectations as to what they themselves might achieve in any financial settlement.

Don't get me wrong, I'm (clearly!) not against the use of articles, such as this one, being used to promote professional profiles and highlight issues for debate  and discussion; my point is that there are just so many worthwhile and interesting issues and ways to discuss them, that using the kind of tittle-tattle which should be the preserve of gossip magazines for marketing of family law services, when that in itself undermines the essentially private nature of family proceedings, is unnecessarily intrusive to the individuals concerned as well as being patronising and possibly misleading  to potential clients.

Kate Gomery has recently qualified as a family law solicitor. She works at Heaney Watson in Liverpool where she is exposed to all types of family law work but particularly publicly funded family law cases. Prior to qualification Kate spent several years doing general crime and then serious fraud work.  She trained at Pannone in Manchester.

The views expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily those of Family Law or Jordan Publishing and should not be considered as legal advice.

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