Too boring even for you…

House rules by Kimberly.K on Flickr creative commons - thanks!

Nothing is too boring for a lawyer… we are language-geeks of the highest order who thrive on complexity. Family lawyers of course are a funny breed, we bury our law deep beneath human emotion and the messiness of dysfunctional and broken relationships, and thrive too on the complexity of humans.

Today the grown ups in Familoo Towers have taken 9 and 11 to task about kindness and the lack thereof on occasion as observed by us… We have four rules in our house (if only the FPR were so blessedly simple) :

  1. Have fun
  2. Work hard
  3. Try your best
  4. Be kind

Rule number four has been a challenge of late, with a few verbal sticks and stones being hurled and a few sullen faces being pointedly displayed. So one task on return from work today was to reinforce the central importance of kindness. Challenging 11 to think about how it would feel if he was on the receiving end seemed to register, but we will see. Kindness can be the hardest thing.

I reckon those four rules are a pretty good code to live by for grown ups too, including family lawyers. I’ve been working on number 1 this last week, not least because without a bit of number 1, number 3 is like spinning your bike pedals when the chain’s fallen off. Life works when you apply all four rules in harmony.

Anyway, enough with the Zen rules of lawyer wellbeing and productivity maintenance…some of you I know think that me rabbiting on about transparency, or about journalists coming to court is not contributing to your fulfilment of any of the four rules – being neither fun nor helping you in any practical way with the working hard and doing your best bits. After all, the statistical probability of a journalist or a legal blogger turn up to one of your hearings is lower than my chances of winning Strictly. So who cares?

This, I fear, may explain in part why there are remaining places on the lawyers workshop I’m running in June on this very topic (for the Transparency Project, hosted by St John’s Chambers and sponsored by Bloomsbury Professional Family Law). Not only are you thinking ‘it won’t happen to me’, but ‘it’ (that transparency guff) just isn’t a priority when you are busy, busy, busy and have to focus your CPD on stuff that crops up regularly. I get that.

Well, yes and no. Because the thing is, whilst journalists are never likely to be swarming around family courts in great numbers, they aren’t going away either. And the President’s recently announced transparency review may well mean in due course that the environment is more favourable to legal bloggers and journalists coming to court more often.

And because doing your best means that you are ready when the day unexpectedly comes for you to advise your client or make representations to the judge about that journalist or blogger and what they can and can’t report. It doesn’t come up often, but it’s damned handy and reassuring to know where to go to refresh your knowledge on the day it does come and bite you on the butt-ocks.

The lawyers in the case I attended recently under the legal blogging pilot thought that their hearing was ‘too boring’ for me to attend! Ha! Challenge accepted… And indeed it wasn’t too boring at all. It was fascinating – so much so that I made an on the spot application for reporting restrictions to be relaxed. You can read about that here : Legal blogging by consent, because the judge did give me permission to publish my account. As it happens limited input was required from lawyers because I explicitly wanted to work by consent, but that may not always be so – and the question is would you be ready for it if I popped up like an annoying bloggy geek at the back of your hearing undeterred by your protestations of boringness? Or if a journalist appeared and wanted to report even in the knowledge one party (maybe your client) objected? Or if your client wanted advice about going to the newspapers?

So, in summary you should book on this workshop for the following reasons :

  1. You will have fun*
  2. You already work hard but…
  3. this will help you do your best for your clients and avoid #awks
  4. You will hurt my feelz if you don’t come. So be kind and book NOW!!!

Actually, in all seriousness I hope this workshop will fulfill rule 4 in a more meaningful way than that – as my cackhanded parenting lecture to 11 rather neatly illustrates, kindness comes from our ability to think about the feelings and perspectives of others. One of the more surprising things I have taken from my experiences attending hearings under the legal blogging pilot is just how much there is to be learnt from seeing things from a different perspective, and from listening to the sound of other people’s voices for a change. You notice things at the back of court that lawyers facing the judge simply miss (judges don’t miss it by the way). You come to understand a lot more about the invisible barriers for journalists that dis-incentivise them coming to court at all, let alone to ask for permission to see documents or report details of a hearing (all things which at least enable better, more accurate and more in depth reporting even if they do not guarantee it). We can grow as individuals if we do so and grow as professionals as well. I hope that the workshop will be both interesting to legal geeks, and to those who are thoughtful about the complexity of humans of all sorts and statuses.

Journalists and legal bloggers attending family courts –

A Workshop for lawyers

25 June 2019, Bristol



*no refunds if you don’t…


Feature pic : House rules by Kimberly.K on Flickr creative commons – thanks!

Harnessing transparency in the family courts as a power for good?

On 27 September Louise Tickle and I will be running a training day for Resolution :

Harnessing transparency in the family courts as a power for good?

A specialist professional development day for family law professionals examining the dilemmas and benefits of more openness in family court proceedings. The workshop is designed and delivered by Lucy Reed, family barrister and chair of the Transparency Project and Louise Tickle, award-winning journalist writing on family law.

The workshop will use a combination of presentation, worked examples, group work and discussion, and suitable for any family law practitioner working in the family courts in England & Wales, particularly children practitioners.

The workshop aims to illustrate the challenges facing different practitioners – family lawyers, social workers and journalists – as they try to balance privacy and transparency.

In addition to exploring the pros and cons of greater openness in family law, this workshop will aim to foster a better grasp of the pressures facing family lawyers, social workers and journalists as each profession grapples with what transparency means for them. The tension between privacy and the need for accountability and openness is always difficult to manage and fact specific – this course will encourage practitioners to be open, creative and responsive to those competing issues when they arise.

The session will cover the following areas:

  • Transparency in family cases: what is it and do we want more of it?
  • Balancing human rights: freedom of expression v private and family life.
  • Open and honest? The risks and rewards of greater transparency in care proceedings and family court hearings.
  • A journalist comes to court…
  • Ethics and transparency
  • How transparency could help family law professionals do their job better

By the end of the day, participants will have:

  • A deeper understanding of what greater transparency in the family courts could look like.
  • Examined the balance between competing human rights: freedom of expression, right to a fair trial and the right to private and family life, when it comes to opening-up family court procedures and outcomes to greater scrutiny.
  • Considered the potential risks and rewards of greater transparency in care proceedings and family court hearings for all parties such as children and families, professionals, public authorities, the court system, the public and press.
  • Feel more confident in dealing with transparency issues when they arise in your practice.

If you are interested in attending further details of cost and how to book can be found on the Resolution site.