Two unconnected pieces of info for you:
Firstly, the Bar Standards Board has approved barristers forming LDPs. Big changes ahead I think. Thanks to the LAG blog for this.
Secondly, PM on Radio 4 briefly covered the CAFCASS Crisis today – tomorrow they will run another slot with comment from Guardians. On Radio 4 tomorrow (Weds) between 5 and 6pm.
I have to post a link to this story reported today in The Times about the LSC refusing to fund new cases being taken on by solicitors. Yet another bit falls off the wagon. The whole system is falling to pieces.
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‘Scoop’ to Family Law Week - it seems that (whisper it) the message may be beginning to get through – the proposed scheme might need a leetle tweaking. Nice of them to acknowledge that after we’ve all submitted our responses to the consultation but before the close of play (midnight tonight). If they’d admitted that before we could have saved our energy for responding to the revised proposals which will now inevitably follow. I wonder what next…
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Although most of the professional press have failed to grasp the concept of ‘embargo’ I, out of politeness, have waited until today to post about this report, which in essence tells you everything that you could hope to know about the family bar. You can already read about the report in the Gazette and Times as posted yesterday. Also see the interview with Desmond Browne QC (Chairman of the Bar) on Today on Saturday.
It’s a long document (200 odd pages) and I’m not going to cover it all here. But here are some of the key items for me, some of it not detailed in articles published so far.
Press coverage this week is likely to include The Guardian (today) and Times on Thursday. I will post links when available.
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Posted in cases, public funding, tagged advocacy, barristers, cases, family justice system, family law, human rights, legal aid, legal life, public funding, the bar on February 11, 2009 |
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I want to publicise the disastrous proposals to swipe legal aid in family cases. Not just because it will hurt my pocket, but because it is going to have long term and serious consequences for the families who most need the help of the family justice system, which I do not think government, the LSC, lawyers or the public at large fully appreciate. I cannot stress enough for the skeptics out there amongst you that this post is about access to justice and the promotion of family life, not just about fat cat lawyers. PLEASE read the whole of this post (sorry it is long) and let anyone you can know what you think. Please respond to the consultation even if you are not a lawyer.
The family justice system is already under considerable pressure (an understatement – it is already fraying at the edges if not coming apart at the seams):
- CAFCASS are underfunded and taking up to 8 months to prepare reports. They have inadequate resources to undertake their core work let alone to facilitate the newly implemented contact activities and enforcement orders.
- Court budgets are being cut. There are not enough judges to deal with cases promptly because they cannot be paid (e.g. 2 months to list an urgent contested interim residence hearing because the local court had overspent 44 judge days).
- Solicitors are demoralised as they have been absorbing cuts in their pay for years and for many this work is no longer viable and they are closing their doors to publicly funded clients.
- Public funding is more and more tightly controlled and there is already an increase in litigants in person which itself puts added strain on the system (more court time, less negotiation and consensual resolution)
- Social workers are demoralised and local authorities are fire fighting. Resource limitations mean they are often reluctant to provide support and assistance to families or the courts
The reason that the system still functions at all is that those who remain are extraordinarily committed and work really hard to find creative solutions to the difficulties in the system. We spend a considerable proprortion of our time finding the least unsatisfactory interim solutions to tide parties over until the court can actually deal with their urgent problem. It’s prejudicial and unfair to parties and damaging for children.
It is still the general view that family barristers do ok and that – by virtue of the fact that we are barristers – we are paid very highly. This is not actually the case. In any event I don’t want to complain about what we are paid – I want to let people know just how much our pay is going to be cut and what consequences will trickle through the system as a result of that and a thousand other tiny cuts. (more…)
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Hmm – this post seems to have been waylaid in my ‘drafts’ folder for reasons of PEBCAK.
In Short – see my comments on episode 1, episode 2 and episode 3: more of the same. The final episode can be summarised thus: more shots of people being called to the bar in oak panelled rooms, plus (just incase you’d missed the point being delicately made in episodes 1, 2 and 3) the addition of gratuitous shots of tourists looking impressed at Temple Church in order to demonstrate how ancient yet interesting we barristers are (shamelessly borrowing pop-kudos from the be-corduroyed Da Vinci Code). Some interesting footage of criminal practice (very interesting actually but there are a few of us that do other things). Oh, and a demonstration of how needlessly unpleasant tenancy application processes can be – poor Kakoly Pande. Glad she got in – clearly a determined and plucky individual which are important attributes at the bar – but I think I’d have almost felt like telling them where to stick their tenancy after that sadistic experience.
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I don’t feel massively inspired to post about episode three – I watched it. And I think the most elegant way to sum up my response would be ‘meh’ (look it up, it’s in the dictionary now apparently). But perhaps that’s not sufficiently informative to make a very interesting blog post so I’ll plug on…
This week’s episode showed us a little more of the grim reality of pupillage and the insanity of starting out at the criminal bar. I wonder how many of the non-lawyers amongst the viewers will have worked out that the poor pupil sent off to Margate (of all places) for a shocking £50 will have netted about £15 for her day’s work? I’m thankful to say that from a practise base in the West Country I shall rarely have to travel to Margate again and if I do I shall claim the ‘extraordinarily grey and depressing seaside town’ SIP as an uplift.
There was in fact a very heavy emphasis on crime in this episode (much like Bar Council circulars) – and very interesting it was too to see the criminal bar at work. I was rather surprised at the way in which the CPS barrister conducted the various conferences in the course of her murder trial but I’m probably not best placed to comment on that since I know less than Andrew Sachs about criminal practise (naaathing) (Geeklawyer has no such qualms). I found the erosion of the independent criminal bar by the increasing use of employed counsel by the CPS extremely depressing – as Geeklawyer says this episode really only touched the surface of why this is such a VERY bad thing for the interests of justice and the promotion of the best quality advocacy.
Unaccountably, my own mother snored through half of the show and spent the other 50% snorting and giggling at the sight of grown ups in wigs. It’s not like she hasn’t seen it before, after all she came and got slightly inebriated on call night and watched me cavorting around the house in my brand new wig… ‘Are they ALL that extrovert?’ she said (referring in particular to DIckie Bond’s oppo defence counsel). Mum, ‘they’ are ME. Even my other half said ‘Is that what it’s really like in the robing room’?. Well, apart from the Thespy asides to camera – pretty much. Although in the county court there’s probably a little less testosterone.
Oh, and will somebody sort out that shocking disparity in robing rooms at the Old Bailey? It looked like the poor ‘ladies’ (poor delicate souls) had been thrust in a windowless dungeon. It really gave a terrible impression. I know it’s probably left as it is due to constraints of cost and an old building, but there really is no need for robing room apartheid any more – at any rate I’d have thought that some bean counter would by now have worked out you only need one robing room for all counsel and used the other room for something else. I think there is probably a similar separation of robing in the RCJ but I’ve never yet ventured in there on account of the fact that straying off the beaten track in the RCJ is a dangerous thing, and many an unwary counsel has gone in search of the bear garden never to return (well oi woodunt start from yur)…
I won’t say I’m awaiting episode four with baited breath, but as Brucey would say ‘I’ve started so I’ll finish’.
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