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Posts Tagged ‘legal myths’

In November 07 the Bar Standards Board published the results of a piece of commissioned MORI research on Perceptions of Barristers. Somewhat shamefully I have failed to comment on it before now and it was only when a review of the report appeared in this month’s Counsel magazine that I have been galvanised into action and finally looked at the detail of the report.

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There are some interesting findings, and some stark mismatches between what we barristers think of ourselves, what we think other people think of us and what other people actually think of us! In very broad terms the views of the general public appear to be less negative than we expect them to be, for example 47% of barristers believe that the public think barristers are out of touch whereas only 16% of the public think this. However whilst 56% of barristers believe the public think barristers are a trusted and highly regarded profession when in fact only around three in ten members of the public feel this. 80% of barristers expect the public to think barristers are well paid, whilst in fact only 60% of the public think that. And only 27% of us believe we are well paid.

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Whilst this report plainly covers some of the issues touched upon in this blog and in the comments arising from various posts – around the integrity of the bar, the effectiveness of the family court system and the levels of service provided to clients sadly, like so much material published about the Bar, this is really a piece of work about the criminal bar. Although a large sample of the general public were sampled (some of whom no doubt have had a brush with a family barrister), 100% of the lay clients sampled for the purposes of the qualitative element of the survey were either prisoners, acquitted defendants or ‘commercial’ clients. There were no lay clients interviewed who had been involved in the family justice system, and so I would say these results are likely to be unreliable in terms of perceptions of the bar both overall and specifically the family bar. Aside from the criminal justice system it is through the family court system that most people encournter us and the criminal bar is simply a different kettle of fish. (more…)

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Actually I quite like them. They are very useful. I am married to one and he has been put to work cleaning the house as I type…But I have discovered that these men types are not all as loveable as him upstairs:

I came across a rather unpleasant cluster of websites today whose focus is on the divers ways in which women and feminism are evil / destructive / conspiring with the communists to bring about the apocalypse etc…Your run of the mill women-hating rot? Well, they made me shudder.

Starting at what men are saying about women which is wholly and unapologetically misogynist (perhaps its not considered rude in Oz), I follow blogroll links to the UK based end of men (which includes the very measured claim that feminism destroys not just the family but also destroys whole populations – see ‘why feminism is a fraud’ Nov 8 and the About page which develops the argument from feminists=men-haters to a government conspiracy to global depopulation enslavement and (dun dun DUUUN) THE END OF MANKIND! Crikey. This blog also expresses some incredulity at the suggestion that a father who punched two social workers (one heavily pregnant and one holding his four month old baby) before snatching his child and going on the run (the baby was under a care order) should get a prison sentence. Clearly he should have got a pat on the back and a lollipop for the kid.), and fembot hunter (‘Applying logic, facts and accountability to the mindless droning of the feminist hate movement’ – apparently) and ukmensaid (which purports to demystify the UK law around divorce and children and tells you what lawyers won’t – (lawyers won’t tell you it because much of it is simply inaccurate and mis-states the law or misinterprets data. For example I’m unlikely to write an article on a piece of legislation that doesn’t exist viz ‘Children Act 1991’). (more…)

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Il y a rien de va va voom

Why are celebrity divorces always reported with the same meaningless and inaccurate catchphrases? As if it weren’t bad enough to see constant references to ‘writs’ (whatever they are) and ‘restraining orders’ (actually, these exist but what is usually meant is non-molestation order – viz reports today about a certain DJ breaching what was probably a non-mol) in the press – as if that weren’t enough, today the evening freeby papers all report the ‘£25million’ divorce case in which Henry was accused of ‘unreasonable behaviour’ and that his wife was granted a ‘quickie divorce’.

Of course whilst there might be £25m in the pot there won’t be a ‘£25m record settlement’ as one rag put it (or I’ll eat my hat), maybe a £12.5m settlement or something less. And, anyone without knowledge of how divorce works of course is likely to assume that Henry has been guilty of some terrible conduct in order for his poor wife to be granted a ‘quickie’, something apparently only celebrity divorcees can obtain.

All that this tosh splashed all over the front page means is that a bog standard divorce petition has been presented to the court and that because both parties want to get the matter over and done with Henry has not contested the petition. In the absence of adultery one of them had to allege unreasonable behaviour and since its the Wife who often wants to get a move on with the finances its often her who ‘goes first’ with her petition for divorce to get the ball rolling. Thats all a quickie divorce is – one where you don’t fight hammer and tongs about who was the biggest idiot. It leaves you with energy to fight about the finances (or if you’re sensible energy to get on with your life once you’ve agreed them). It must be really irritating to be the ‘accused’ in these stupid reports when you’ve agreed for practical reasons to let the petition to proceed. 

So basically, the ‘story’ boils down to this: Thierry Henry and his wife have agreed to get divorced in the usual way. They have to sort out their finances, and we think he’s worth £25m but we have no idea what she’ll get because they haven’t got anywhere with that part of it yet.

The pronouncement of a Decree Nisi, which is what happened today, is such a non-event – we already knew they were getting divorced for goodness sake. Isn’t there enough other rubbish to report in the interlude whilst we’re waiting for some news on the financial side of it? Couldn’t we have something more interesting on the front page? (just a big picture of Thierry Henry without words would do for me, but perhaps that wouldn’t have the right appeal). AND, whilst I’m being petty – Claire Merry has NOT been granted a quickie divorce, she’s been granted a NISI. She won’t be divorced until she gets her Decree Absolute.

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i’m going to eat worms

Call me naive but I hadn’t appreciated just how many people hate lawyers. more specifically barristers. More specifically family barristers. I mean I knew we weren’t all that popular (not helped by stupid headlines about ‘fat cat legal aid lawyers’ etc). And I knew a lot of people (most of my friends included) are pretty clueless about what we do (my friends imagine me peppering every sentence with M’Lud and being involved in all sorts of high drama in the courtroom, producing last minute killer evidence from a secret compartment in my bra and asking brilliant questions that instantaneously cause the baddy (only baddies) to break down in a pool of tears and confess all). There are few who understand us, and that was part of the reason for starting this blog.

As far as I can tell most of my clients think I’m alright. They are often frustrated with the system and some expect miracles (which I’m not always able to perform), but I don’t leave court every day thinking the world hates me. I leave court most days thinking I’ve done the best I could do, and on a really good day I leave court thinking I’ve really made a difference.

But I’m surprised at how much the responses to some of the posts on this blog unsettle me. If the people who have posted comments on this blog are representative then the bar has a serious image problem. And the family bar has a catastrophe on its hands. How can the public perception of us be so very different from the world I inhabit every day, where people try really hard to patch up other people’s often unfixable problems and to get families working again? Where has it gone wrong?

I think its quite likely that the posts I’ve got are not truly representative of the public’s view of us. That is to say, those with strong negative views are far more likely to be bothered to comment on a blog like this than those who have no axe to grind. The unhappiest are often the loudest. But I can’t ignore the fact that there are enough of ’em out there who feel strongly enough to pebble dash this blog with invective to warrant some serious thought.

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common law wife

so let me start you off with one which looks like it has a short life span…

no such thing as a common law wife. not that you’d know it. and now it looks as if the law commission are recommending that the collective hallucination of this imaginary woman should be made flesh (and given property rights)

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