‘We, as family lawyers, represent people who are at a crossroad in their life. Often a lot hangs in the balance and it is usually among the most stressful times in a person’s life,’ says associate family lawyer Antony Wilkinson from Southgate Solicitors. ‘Clarity of communication at this time will not only help clients understand the process and alleviate stress but it may also help keep cases on track. Every client is different, and it is important to quickly establish the most effective methods of communication to help best support them – be it in person, written communication or over the phone.’

‘Working with clients when a case relies on external elements which are difficult to understand, such as a drug and alcohol test result, have added communication challenges,’ he adds. 

‘Many thousands of drug and alcohol tests are instructed by courts every year in support of divorce or child custody cases. For many cases where a test is required, clients are at their most vulnerable and so clear and concise communication is imperative to ensure the client is put at ease, understands the process, understands the results and ultimately that the case is kept on track.’

Antony, who specialises in public law matters providing advice and assistance in care proceedings, child protection, child arrangement orders and injunctions, continues: ‘Most family lawyers will have experienced a client not showing up for a drug or alcohol test appointment in their time. I have heard a range of reasons for no-shows in the past – religion, vanity, or that a client simply feels they have given enough samples over a course of time – but the fear of the collection and test process is a factor we hear all too often. 

‘A no-show can throw cases off course and delay proceedings but refusing a drug or alcohol test completely can have potentially catastrophic implications for families. While the vast majority of clients want to prove that they have kept clean from drugs or alcohol, those who do refuse a test put themselves in a precarious position. Courts can draw an adverse inference where a test has not been carried out, which could ultimately mean that children will be removed from families due to this lack of cooperation.’

‘We do all we can to communicate what clients can expect when a sample is collected and sent off and to ensure clients feel comfortable. We also rely on the testing laboratories to make appointments quickly as time is of the essence with drug and alcohol testing. The quicker a laboratory can collect a client’s sample, the better.’

Antony offers the following tips to help the testing process run as smoothly as possible:

  1. Select suppliers which have proven experience of working with vulnerable clients and who know how to liaise with family law clients. Remember they will play a significant role in putting your client at ease.
  2. Ensure sample collection appointments are made quickly with the testing laboratory and that timings are clearly communicated. A laboratory can often make the appointment directly with the donor. 
  3. The earlier the laboratory can send a collector, the better, as it will reduce the time that a client will spend dwelling on the appointment. 
  4. Explain the process of drug and alcohol testing and what it will involve. Resources such as a series of client care guides from Cansford Laboratories which can be sent to clients in advance: cansfordlabs.co.uk/client-care-guides/
  5. Don’t be afraid to remind clients when appointments are imminent. 
  6. Discuss any test results, and the potential implications of the results, with the client. Be sure to share a level of detail which is appropriate for your client.

More broadly, understanding your clients, listening to them intently and working out the best communication methods for those individuals will lead to better client care and a more intuitive working relationship with fewer bumps along the road. 

Cansford is the UK’s fastest drug and alcohol testing service; results are guaranteed within 3 days. Our Cardiff-based laboratory is accredited to UKAS ISO17025: 2017. We do everything in our power to make the process clear, simple, and stress-free for you and your clients. Free information guides for your clients about drug and alcohol testing are available at www.cansfordlabs.co.uk