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Posts Tagged ‘solicitors’

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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In June I posted a short entry on the family law week blog about some research commissioned by solicitors Mischcon De Reya into the impact of the Children Act 1989 on children who had been involved in proceedings in the 20 years since its implementation. My source was a press release from the solicitors’ firm, summarising the research findings. I noted that the research itself had not yet been published, and that I would post a link to the full research when it was published. In fact I never had time to chase this up but it is now clear that the research behind the press release has not been published.

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Last week a further press release was issued stating that Mischon De Reya had commissioned a ‘landmark’ study of 4,000 people (in fact the figure of 4,000 is made up of the original survey of 2,000 former subject children plus a subsequent and separate survey of 2,000 parents) which produced some ‘staggering’ results. The story made it onto Today programme, where Mischon De Reya were given a 3 minute slot during which the contents of the press release were rehearsed. The press release contained a summary of the findings of the research (although the findings set out related only to the to the second ‘adult’ survey and therefore the percentage figures were of a smaller sample than was at first glance apparent). By lunch time the press release had reached the judiciary – I know this because the judge in my hearing quoted it as ‘new research’ and handed me a copy.

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The findings set out in the press release are, to adopt the author’s own terminology ‘staggering’. I won’t bother to set them out in this post, you can find the press release regurgitated almost verbatim by the BBC here. My initial reaction to these findings was to wonder what on earth the participants were asked and in what context in order to elicit the responses attributed to them – surely the ‘staggering 20% of separated parents’ who ‘admitted that they had actively set out to make their partners experience ‘as unpleasant as possible’ regardless of the effect this had on their children’s feelings‘ had not been asked ‘Have you actively set out to make your partner’s experience a unpleasant as possible regardless of the effect this had on your children’s feelings?’ – but if not, what were they asked and how were these statistical results reached? The Government itself responded to the survey with the (fair) comment that the study appeared to include those involved in Children Act proceedings over a very long period, partially prior to the implementation of recent innovations, and that it may therefore be out of date.

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I think that it is legitimate to want to probe these assertions and the studies’ methodology in order to form a view about how reliable they are or what value they have in helping us to formulate policy. And rather than simply report the press release as I did in June, I wanted to be able to report and comment on this research in rather more depth.

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So I sent a request to Mischon De Reya’s PR department asking for a copy of the study that had been trailed so extensively. For my trouble I was sent a copy of the press release along with the following – enlightening – response from Sean at Consolidated PR [my italics]: ‘Many thanks for the interest shown with regard to Mishcon de Reya’s story out yesterday. I have attached the press release which contains all the findings from the research conducted as part of the campaign.’ Focus Sean: I didn’t ask about the story, and I’m not interested in the campaign. I asked about the research.

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It’s not just the bar who are unhappy about the proposed changes to the family legal aid scheme. The penny is beginning to drop for solicitors too, as is evident from this article in the Gazette.

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The Consultation Paper on Reforming the Family Barrister Fees Scheme has been published today.

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Commenting on the consultation, Lucy Theis QC, Chair of the Family Law Bar Association, said: 

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‘The protection of children is a concern to all of us. A robust legal aid system is vital to prevent damage to children – who are among the most vulnerable members of our society.  There is often no second chance when children are at risk of harm. 

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‘As Mr Justice Ryder stated this week, we are “at a crossroads in family justice”.  The publicly-funded family bar has prided itself on giving those with no voice the representation they need – yet the LSC seems determined to place the family justice system under yet more pressure.  

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‘We have a duty to protect the vulnerable; removing a child from its natural parents has rightly been described as one of the most draconian orders a court can make. The proposed severe cuts in funding for family barristers will deny those going through our court system the expertise they have the right to expect. These are the very people with most to lose and the very people for which legal aid was originally devised to protect.  The LSC risks undermining the system which they have the duty to administer. 

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The Bar Council’s recently published Discussion Paper on Legal Aid addresses these issues in a coherent way, which we hope will prompt sensible debate on this crucial issue. 

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‘The proposed cuts will make it financially unsustainable for experienced family barristers to continue to do this work and this important area of the law will fail to attract talented new entrants. This haemorrhage of talent and experience will be at the expense of the most vulnerable in society. This haemorrhage will be made worse if the Government seeks to implement ill-conceived plans to drive costs down further by the introduction of a single fee and competitive tendering.’

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Wow. Rock on Mr Justice Coleridge! Coleridge J opened the Resolution Conference last week with a speech that is considerably less diplomatic than many a judicial utterance. He says early on in the speech: “I have not discussed this talk with the President let alone shown him a copy in advance. (I did not want to do so for fear that he might ask me to tone it down a bit). And just at the moment I am not in the mood for toning things down”. Perhaps if he had run it past the Pres it might never have seen the light of day, but I’m glad that it did.

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Accordingly, the text of Coleridge J’s speech to Resolution last week can be found here in full: resolution-press080404. If you want to read some commentary you can visit the Laws of Love blog which beat me to it. All I need say is that everything Coleridge says rings true with my experience, is entirely sensible and ought to be (IS) self evident, particularly the short-sightedness of underfunding the family justice system and treating it like a poor relation.

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Oh how true…This post from the Maryland Divorce Legal Crier blog is no less relevant for being from across the pond. It paints an all too familiar picture of the cringeworthy correspondence files I often get sent with my briefs. It makes me want to weep! Its easy enough to get drawn into a pointless bun fight but really guys – get a grip!!

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