I love home visits. I get to see the client or their loved ones in a familiar and informal setting, where they are relaxed and more able to give clear instructions. Many people feel as anxious about visiting a solicitor’s office as going to a hospital appointment and can get flustered when faced with a suit-wearing professional spouting legal jargon at them in a boardroom setting.
However, there are times (not often, thankfully) when, as a lawyer, you can get caught between warring family members who either genuinely do not understand what you are trying to explain, or simply don’t want to listen and their default response is to become aggressive or abusive.
As representatives of Executors / Administrators of estates, we are often seen as the head above the parapet at which relatives take aim; abusive telephone calls, heated arguments, even threats of violence are, unfortunately, becoming a risk and many lawyers may refuse to make home visits or see clients alone because of this.
While public servants post notices about having a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to abuse of staff, we lawyers have never felt this should be necessary and so we do not consider whether our personal safety is being threatened; especially if we’re visiting Ethel, who is 96 years old and a bit unsteady on her feet!
So, what can we do about it?
I would strongly recommend reading the “Personal Safety Advice” on the Suzie Lamplugh Trust website. Simple ploys, such as never putting anyone between you and a door, or making sure you tell colleagues where you are going and when you plan to be back, can act to reassure that systems are in place to protect us when out visiting clients.
I always ask about what systems are in place for chaperoning at home visits, especially in care homes. I let my colleagues know where and when I will be (and always telephone if I am going to be late back), but most importantly, I don’t feel pressured into making or continuing a home visit if my ‘spidey sense’ starts tingling.
So, let’s embrace home visits – it’s a great way to get to know our clients and to put them at ease, which may make our jobs go a lot more smoothly. But, in the words of the Sergeant from Hill Street Blues, “Let’s be careful out there!”
For more information about Wednesday and her work, please click HERE.