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Posts Tagged ‘representation’

Want some free CPD? Its approaching the CPD year end for solicitors (Oct) and not all that far off for barristers (Dec)… Well, lucky readers of Pink Tape may now sample the wares of CPDcast for free using the code below. CPDcast tell me that:

‘CPDcast is an online CPD provider to the legal profession, helping solicitors, barristers and legal executives get their points and keep up to date. Their library contains over 400 titles in 25 practice areas, divided into pithy 30 minute legal podcasts.

To get your free podcast just select the one you’d like to listen to for free. Then when you get to the payment screen put in the following voucher code “pinktape2010” which will discount the price to 0.

This voucher code can be used to listen to any one podcast on our site and is valid until the end of this calendar year.’

Feedback on the CPD they provide could be helpfully posted in comments on this post.

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There are a growing number of quasi-legal services out there for litigants in person involved in family proceedings, and it is no surprise that many of them are advertised via the internet. I come across them increasingly frequently and they come in varying degrees of professionalism: from the ramshackle campaigning group with a few seasoned volunteers who act as McKenzies to the more savvy and commercially minded outfit with a slick website and a price tag.

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Today I came across this one: Family Law Decisions. It’s a professional looking and streamlined website and I have no reason to think they do not match up to the promises set out there, or that they mislead in any way. But there are key differences between what you can expect from a non-legal support service of this kind and from a lawyer or law firm.

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Services like these tread very close to the dividing line between non-legal advice and support on the one hand, and legal advice and representation on the other. There are risks in my view, of obtaining legal services from non-lawyers. And when one scrutinises this and other similar services this is at heart what is offered. First hand experience does not necessarily equip one to provide impartial and legally sound advice. Emotional over-involvement can make for poor judgment: empathy is intoxicating for both client and adviser.

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No surprise that the Law Society has picked up on the existence of the ‘Solicitors from Hell’ website, which it says is ‘not a credible source of reliable information about solicitors’. The only surprise is how its taken this long, but apparently as a result of some recent media attention (none that I have seen) the Law Society is now recommending that individual firms referred to on that website should consider whether or not they have grounds to pursue an action for defamation.

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The Law Society is also seeking counsel’s opinion as to whether the site’s modus operandi – removing references to firms in exchange for payment – amounts to extortion.

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I sense there will be more on this story in due course…

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…It’s your duty to be cutey-full.

Binary Law thinks small is beautiful, but I wonder how many small legal aid firms are feeling the same? Small is vulnerable I think.

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Yet another facet of the system is creaking under the caseload: I am reliably informed that the Official Solicitor has written to family law practitioners to inform them that his staff is unable to accept new instructions to act as a guardian ad litem or litigation friend without some delay.

In recent months there has been a marked increase in the number of public law children cases in which the Official Solicitor has been asked to act. The steady increase in Official Solicitor’s family litigation case load shows no sign of having reached a plateau.

In the letter the Official Solicitor reiterates that his staff should be used as last resort and that practitioners should ascertain from their clients if all other options for representation have been exhausted before seeking to make an application to his office.

If all alternative avenues have been exhausted, then the Official Solicitor is asking practitioners for specific information and an indexed file to assist with the decision making process. This is a much more detailed request than hitherto and is more specific than the questionnaire that has existed for a number of years.

In the letter, the Official Solicitor states: “New cases have been and will be placed on the Official Solicitor’s ‘waiting list’ when this office has received a formal invitation from the court by way of sealed order and the capacity evidence is viewed by this office as satisfactory. They will be ‘accepted’ only when the acceptance criteria are satisfied and there is a case manager who can manage the case. Save in exceptional circumstances, they will be accepted in strict chronological order starting with the earliest on the list”.

This of course is a factor particularly in care cases where one of the parents is mentally unwell or unable to understand the proceedings, which causes delay to the already slow process of deciding outcomes for children in foster care.

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I had a particularly taxing day at court recently. My opponent solicitor and I did not – ahem – gel. My attempts to engage in negotiation met with much dramatic huffing and flinging about of the word ‘nonsense’, escalating to swearing and door slamming of a most juvenile kind. You know constructive dialogue is at an end when your professional conduct is impugned simply for disagreeing with the other side’s position. And when I’ve volunteered to draft an order that by rights should have been drafted by the other side, criticising my handwriting is likely to result in a biro-in-eyeball incident (I counted to ten, the urge passed). He didn’t do his client any favours – although she probably thinks he put on a grand performance – he was so busy with the amateur dramatics and bullyboy tactics that he completely failed to appreciate the significance of the information I was trying to give him.

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But most lawyers do at least maintain a certain sense of decorum, and we can agree to disagree on our client’s respective positions, and operate courteously even in the face of the most divergent of instructions. I cite as one example the case of Arkell v Pressdram. Brilliant.

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The Legal Services Board have today lifted the restrictions on barristers accepting instructions directly from members of the public in family work.  Previously under the Public Access Scheme barristers who, like me, had completed Public Access Training were prohibited from advising or representing clients in family matters (except in very very limited circumstances) or in immigration or criminal cases.

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Although barristers are still not permitted to conduct litigation, and although many family cases will remain unsuitable for the instruction of a barrister without a solicitor being involved, in the right case a client may be able to significantly reduce her legal costs by instruction of a barrister direct.

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You can find detailed information on the changes and how they are likely to operate in practice in the revised Guidance material here on the LSB website. The Guidance indicates that cases involving children are likely to be unsuitable for this kind of instruction, but whilst no doubt this is correct there will be instances where it will work perfectly well, for example perhaps where a litigant in person wishes to continue representing himself in respect of a children matter but wishes to obtain a one off written opinion or guidance about the future of the case or how he should go about things, which may well be cheaper than retaining a solicitor or even simply asking them for ad hoc advice.

I am in a minority of family barristers qualified to offer these new services to date, and I expect to be dusting off my Public Access File in the coming months…

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