Unintended Consequences

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?

4 thoughts on “Unintended Consequences

  1. An admirer of incisive comment

    Yes I was told that was happening in lesser populated parts of Wales since the PLO came in.

  2. Another inevitable consequence of the adversarial system, and one which is likely to be particularly problematic in more sparsely populated areas. I found the same difficulty trying to pursue a case in Scotland in 2003.

  3. Provincial Solicitor

    Yes, I suspect that this will become more of a problem. We are spoiled as we have seven or so local firms with Children Panel Solicitors.

    Without wishing to spark a ‘fat cat’ debate I wonder how many firms ‘out of area’ will want to take on the work? I do not know the distances in the situation you speak of but, of course, come October we will only receive a modicum of travel time recompense if the journey is 25 miles or more each way…

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