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Posts Tagged ‘legal life’

Happy 2nd Birthday! Pink and Proud

Wow – Pink Tape is 2 years old. I confess I didn’t really think this far ahead when I made my first blog entry and landed on the name Pink Tape. I didn’t really think ahead at all – it seemed like a good idea at the time. But it’s been fun, and moderately successful, and long may the Pink Tape wind on and on.

complete with pinstripes, pink tape and post its

complete with pinstripes, pink tape and post its

2 years ago things were a lot different: for family law; for me. The ‘Secret courts’ were all the talk – now we have open justice, perhaps soon to be open reporting. The Baby P scandal had yet to break – now we have social work and CAFCASS collapse as a result of the fallout.

Some things were ever thus: proposals to slash legal aid for family practitioners were afoot, there were hotspots of CAFCASS delay and the bar had not really found its way to the blogosphere (perish the thought of embracing technology).

At home, I was just pregnant (or just about to be).  And working in London. And whilst my short period of maternity leave was perfect opportunity for blogging about the job I was taking a pause from, the return to work in Bristol coupled with the ever increasing mobility and ever increasing volume levels of a 15 month old present an ever increasing challenge to making time in my life for the blog (both this one and the Family Law Week blog).

To those who poo-pooed the idea and to my nameless but very learned friend who suggested it was downright unprofessional and demeaning for a member of the bar to be involved with such trash as a blog, 3000 hits a month respectfully submit that you were wrong and that there is something of value in between Heat Magazine (to which you compared this blog) and a legal looseleaf. Clever is good. Clever and interesting is better. And successful is good. But successful and happy is better.

But enough of bitching about the past (although I do feel better for having got that off my chest), what is the future for Pink Tape? Well, I’m always happy to hear suggestions for the direction of the blog, you may like to comment on this post. But in general terms: here’s to another two years at least. It may not go on for ever, but I think I have a clue who may be inheriting the Pink Tape mantle when I hang up my keyboard and blog my last…as you can see from the picture he is earnestly in training already.

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The Fruits of Labour

Sigh….So many things I wanted to blog about this weekend and so little time…I have been alternating between watching my amazing boy walk a little bit further and a little bit further (we’re up to six steps in a row before the inevitable face plant), doing a mini ground force on my garden with some very generous friends and their spades, and preparing for a trial starting tomorrow. Sometimes you have to make time for some non-legal stuff, and getting back in touch with the important stuff in life, and the raw earth is crucial to maintaining my judgment and perspective on law and on the job, to my emotional strength and to my sense of a self apart from the dysfunction and unhappiness of others that fills up so much of my working week. I can’t articulate it but there is something significant and reassuring about the fact that whatever hideous scenario faces me at work this week, however unpleasant the minutaie of the lives I come across this week, my sunflowers will all the while be steadily growing taller, the loganberries will be gradually ripening, the tomatoes will be turning to fruit one by one, and the apples on the tree will be getting fatter and fatter. I don’t have the time I would like to spend on expanding this thought now, as put-off prep of tomorrow’s cross examination awaits. Although I am up late preparing for work as a result of the time out I have had this weekend doing other things I will be a better advocate tomorrow for having spent time watching things grow: all of my children.

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No time for bloggin’

Just a little note before I rush off…it has been a busy couple of weeks and I foresee that I will not have much time for posting certainly next week at least. It’s one of the features of the job that your diary fills with clumps of work, and my diary is chockablock with hearings and other work commitments for as far as the eye can see.

In the immortal words of Schwarzenneger: ‘Ail be back’…

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Slipping out of the habit

It’s so easy to slip out of the habit of blogging regularly. It comes easily for months on end and then, a lapse of a week or so and you lose all momentum…busy with lots of other things at the moment (juggling family and court work becomes more challenging when an evil tummy bug is doing the rounds and the childminder is on hols) so no substantive post today, but will be posting soon. I haven’t forgotten you all. Keep checking back.

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately (something I hate to do when it’s not billable, but – sigh – needs must) about what I would do with my life if I was forced to abandon the bar as a result of the legal aid cuts. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not there yet – it cost me £30k, three years and a nearly nervous breakdown to get here after all – and I love it to bits – but I think many of us are wondering if we will still be doing this in 5 years time – so what else can we poor misfits turn our hands to?

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They tell you at bar school not to worry if you don’t make it to practise at the bar, that being a qualified barrister will equip you with numerous ‘key transferable skills’ useful in some ‘other’ life. Leaving aside for one moment the obvious self-serving nature of such a remark coming from an industry which charges outrageously over-inflated fees to far more students than can ever hope to succeed, what are my key skills and to where do they transfer on civvy street?

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For one thing I’m a terrible people manager. I tried it once and oscillated from nice-but-ignored-by-cheerful-subordinates to shouty-and-ignored-by-sullen-subordinates. Far better to manage oneself, to be a self sufficient unit of one. Delegate nothing: control everything. So team work and staff management is out then.

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The Family Law Bar Association has recently begun to publish press releases and consultation responses to its website here. The website is due to be relaunched soon in its entirety but this is a helpful interim measure.

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It wasn’t a good start. They concluded the presentation ten minutes before the advertised start time meaning that I missed it even though I was early. That was the second session and I had missed the first part entirely as I had been stuck at court on just the kind of case that will be in future be paid less than £200 (before expenses) for a hard day’s slog (10 hrs incl prep & travel) and nothing to show for it but a twix for lunch on the way back to the car.

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As far as therapeutic rants go I had a good bash at it, but it was not terribly satisfying. Every whinge resulted in one of a limited number of responses centreing on the assertion that no less money was being spent on advocacy overall under the new proposals (although the LSC representative on our table candidly admitted being completely unable to understand or explain the figures which formed the basis of the calculations – like the rest of us there then), that he was just here to put the proposals to us and to find out from us how we would like to divide the ‘limited advocacy cake’, that he would feed back our concerns. It was about as therapeutic as banging my head against a wall but with less observable result. Our LSC facilitator wrote notes on his feedback sheet, over-condensing and over-summarising and selecting the easy bits of our heated debate into bite sized morsels of one or two words that will be utterly meaningless even if they are not completely ignored by whoever is tasked with compiling or digesting them.

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As far as it goes, if this was intended to be an exercise in attempting to get the bar and solicitors to fight like children over the last slice of birthday cake we all behaved very well, pointing out that the fat kid under the table had been allowed to take a whole big slice all to himself and the LSC had not even noticed or tried to get it back off him (exorbitant experts fees which the LSC acknowledge are a big source of overspend but inexplicably do not form part of the current proposals could be redistributed into advocacy). All the solicitors on my table agreed that the fees proposed to be paid for advocacy were an insult and simply inadequate (as one rightly pointed out in some cases less than £10 p/h for prep). They all also agreed that they could not and would not want to do all advocacy in house.

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Unsurprisingly Mr Facilitator confirmed that the feedback on the proposals had been universally negative and views very strongly felt. In particular the ‘one size fits all’ approach had been much criticised.

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Well, I’ve said my piece. I told the man from the LSC I’ll be off if this carries on. The blithe response was that that was okay, because the LSC didn’t really much mind if some family barristers gave up practising as they were pretty confident that some of us would still be too desperate to do it (I paraphrase, but not much). I protested the folly of this line of thinking along with others on my table but I might as well have been talking to a piece of actual cake (looks nice, no good at making decisions). I don’t have the energy to rehearse the reasons why the interests of justice are not served by this – I expended a good deal of energy on articulating it this afternoon only to see it reduced to a scrawled ‘barristers will leave’ on the feedback sheet. What a pile of CAKE.

One thing that is definitely not up for discussion is whether or not the proposals will adversely affect the family bar – that much is evidently a brute fact. I am beginning to think that the effect on the family bar is not the side effect but the point of the exercise, and that the crude rationale for these reforms is that since (from the LSC’s perspective) the family bar always find a way to burn a hole in the LSC’s pocket it would be cheaper to just do away with them altogether. But at what wider cost? If the long term effect for families wouldn’t be so god awful it would almost be worth just sitting back and watching them work it out for themselves. So I will continue to do my bit to make them see sense…I will be filling in my consultation response very shortly.

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See my previous posts about the funding reforms here.

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