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IFAs – Worth their weight in gold?!

I’m sure if you’re an IFA you’ll readily agree with that statement.  I’ve been finding out in recent times for myself just how true that can be, although not so much because of personal need but because of a professional one.

I’m a Collaborative Family Lawyer and Mediator and whilst it’s always been the case that I’ve had good connections with members of the IFA profession, it’s their work in the collaborative process that’s been particularly valuable to me and my clients.

I wonder how many people are aware of the varied role that a collaboratively trained IFA can play in a divorce or separation case?

As you may gather from the name, the collaborative process is about ‘collaborating’ in order to reach an agreement.  We don’t go to Court at all and no one behaves in an adversarial and challenging manner – well, they’re not supposed to or the process breaks down!  The IFA brings all their knowledge and experience into the room which the solicitors and lay clients can then benefit from whilst having their discussions.

I suppose you can all imagine that an IFA would have a role in advising about financial products however in collaborative work the role appears to me to be much broader than that.  The IFAs that do get involved have had special training so that they understand the collaborative process.  I will invite an IFA into a case, with permission from the lay client, and they join in with the meetings and get involved in looking at the overall issues that affect both parties, not just one.

When I have dealt with meetings with a collaboratively trained IFA in the room, it’s been my experience that the financial issues become much more manageable.  Information that we need about products and issues, can be dealt with quickly.  We don’t have to keep stopping and starting to get information and it’s much easier having another person in the room to ask questions of and get guidance from, than it is wading through lengthy reports or financial product documents.  I may be a lawyer, but some of that stuff fazes even me, let alone the lay client.  It makes life a lot easier having the IFA in the room and willing to have a conversation with everyone about the finances.

An added bonus, is the IFAs role as a ‘neutral’.  In my meetings, I like to involve the IFA in the bit where we generate ideas and look at settlement options.  You don’t have to be a lawyer to have a discussion about what seems like a good idea and whether or not it can work.  Having someone in the room with a financial background and who is there to work for both lay clients can really take the sting out of the situation.

What’s really great about collaborative work, is that when you have help from the IFA in this way, time and money is saved for the people paying the legal bills.  It’s a very refreshing way to work as a lawyer and I think the IFAs might quite like it too!  Fortunately for me, the ones I know always seem quite happy to roll their sleeves up and get stuck in.  And perhaps what may seem strange from what seems like a very ‘legal’ forum, is that it feels like a win/win scenario when solutions are found by working together, rather than against one another.

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