Things are busy here.
I don’t have time to say anything terribly considered or even very interesting, but I just place this marker down that the workloads for all of us are not reducing (judges, lawyers, social workers, court staff…), and things are really tough out there.
9am hearings, lunchtime hearings, 4pm or even 4.30pm hearings – even in non urgent cases – are becoming normalised in the family court. This should not be happening. I challenge it when I can – for my own sake and that of colleagues – but our commitment to our clients and our cases sometimes makes this a hard line to hold. I do not pretend that I have not agreed on occasion, in particular cases. I’m not a militant or a purist, but I am really worried.
I know judges only started doing this out of necessity themselves, but I can feel us sliding ever faster down a very slippery slope, and my digging my heels in is no longer enough to counter the momentum that has begun to gather. 8am starts, 6pm finishes even on a non-trial day – and hours and hours of prep before and after. How did we get to this? When are we supposed to eat, sleep and breathe? When are we supposed to percolate? I need percolation time to be my best barristery self, to brew those eureka moments.
Once again, I hope and pray that someone up there (senior person not heavenly being) will find a way to make it stop. Not just for the sake of the lawyers, but for the judges too. They are not imposing such listings for fun, but the once unthinkable has very quickly become normalised. And they will all be burnt out too, if we aren’t careful. As if ‘lack of availability of judges’ is not a big enough problem already…At a time when we are standing out care final hearings for want of a judge and some parts of the country are taking half a year to get a Cafcass report working longer hours is not actually the solution it might seem to be.
Not long ago when I protested in a meeting about the idea of early or late listing, a colleague helpfully countered by saying ‘Well I do what is necessary to protect the needs of my client’, the implication apparently being that anyone who doesn’t agree doesn’t give a sh*t. Solidarity is in short supply these days, but we have to have each other’s backs. We must politely resist when we can to protect ourselves, our colleagues (especially the more junior, who may often have care responsibilities for little ones) and to protect the integrity of the system – for the benefit of all our clients. It’s not selfish. It’s essential.
As we say here at familoo towers every morning before school : Have fun, work hard, try your best, be kind. But don’t give in to extended operating hours by stealth. (ok, we don’t say that last bit, but you get my drift)
Oh, and just like that – I seem to have written a blog post! Huzzah.