I had an interesting chat the other day with a child’s solicitor about one of the unintended consequences of the public law outline, with its emphasis on pre-proceedings assessment and meetings. Children’s solicitors are really a niche within a niche. However, now that parents are able to instruct solicitors prior to the issue of proceedings in order to participate in the pre-proceedings meetings (and hence are doing so prior to the appointment of Guardian’s or the instruction of children’s solicitors), children’s solicitors are often finding that they are conflicted out of acting for a child because they have already given pre-proceedings advice to one of the parents (and there may well be more than two parents in a case with multiple children). So for example in Gloucester where there are only (I think) three remaining firms undertaking public law children work, the parents have usually made a beeline for the firms nearest to them, meaning that by the time a Guardian is appointed they have to instruct solicitors further afield. This accounts for solicitors in Hereford and Worcester currently undertaking a lot more Gloucester work than they used to and means that solicitors who pride themselves on being specialists in acting for children are ending up doing a really rather different type of work as a result of a quirk in the system.
Is this happening anywhere else?